The Fate of the Furious is easily in the Top Three.
Fate = F-8. Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
As the world’s newest — and also most fervent — Fast & Furious franchise fan, I’ve been looking forward to Fate for a while. Or more specifically, since March 25th when I watched The Fast and the Furious for the first time. As I’ve said, this series is at its best when it nails the ensemble character thing. It’s exactly what comic books do, which I’ll get into down the line.
And while Fate does skip past a few glaring character issues, it does so in order to have fun. Which is all you can ask from a movie like this.
In The Fate of the Furious (best title in the franchise), Dom and Letty are honeymooning in Cuba when Dom is approached by a mysterious blonde woman (Charlize Theron). We quickly learn that she has something on Dom, because he very quickly betrays his team and makes off with an EMP device, leaving Dobbs to take the rap and the team, especially Letty, confused.
Not long after, Dom swipes a briefcase containing nuclear launch codes. It looks like the usual team won’t be enough — they call upon their old rival, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to stop Dom and save the world.
Action is the best place to start with any Fast & Furious film, and this one delivers. A lot. I reckon director F. Gary Gray has brought us the best action in the series so far. Whether it’s a car v car race through the streets of Cuba, or 1,000 cars crashing their way through downtown New York, Gray delivers the action in a fresh way. In particular, the Cuban scenes at the beginning of the movie are vibrant and exciting. It reminds me of when Justin Lin first took the reins back on Tokyo Drift, and there was a palpable sense that something had elevated.
My favourite action scene, though, is the scene where Dobbs and Shaw escape from prison. It’s beautifully crafted. There’s a clear goal for each of them, and they move through their obstacles in inventive ways. Really top notch stuff.
The only eye-roller is the final action scene, where the team are racing a submarine across ice in Russia. It’s as silly as it sounds. While it’s done as well as it can be, but it really is a second attempt at the ridiculous plane finale from 6.
Fundamentally this series is about the characters, and this time they change things up in a good way. Putting Dom in the villain’s chair warps the dynamic of the team dramatically. First, it gives Vin Diesel something to do, as in the past few movies he’s increasingly become the least interesting member of the team. And it lets the other team members take a bit more of the limelight. I was finally a fan of Roman in this one. Tej is great as always. Letty was solid, and even Kurt Russell’s Frank Petty was more fun this time around.
But the real stars in this one are Dwayne Johnson as Hobbs and Jason Statham as Shaw. These two play off each other brilliantly, and deliver enough one-liners to fuel 100 action movies. As well as their personalities, their physicality lifts the action scenes to a whole new level. Again, with the assistance from Gray.
Of course, to include Statham as part of the team (which I’m very ok with) we have to sacrifice a bit of logic. It wasn’t that long ago that Shaw
a) killed Han
b) hospitalised Dobbs
c) caused destruction that likely killed a lot of people, and
d) oh yeah, tried to blow up Brian, Mia, their child, and Mia’s unborn baby.
That was in Furious 7, which I guess is two years previous? This might be the most forgiving and trusting group of people of all time. But fortunately, it’s one of those things that bugged me for about 19 seconds. Then Shaw and Dobbs exchange a couple of one-liners, and everything’s right with the world. There’s a super-fun action sequence towards the end of the movie featuring Jason Statham and a baby (yes, really) that makes all the logic holes worth it.
So, what are my thoughts about the franchise overall? Well as I’ve mentioned, I’m not a car guy. Which is what put me off watching it in the first place. I’ve got zero interest in car culture, street racing culture, or anything in between.
It would have been difficult to sustain the franchise based solely on that premise. Which I suppose is why it kept getting bigger and bigger with each iteration.
What that unintentionally did, though, is turn the movies into the best comic book franchise of all time. Not “superhero”. Yes, Agent Dobbs is now officially denting centimetre-thick steel with his fists and Shaw is practically scaling walls. But I say “comic book” because the movies play out that way. They’re these big, Avengers-style ensemble stories. Characters die, new characters are written in. Sometimes old characters come back. It’s self-referential, and it’s serialised. They have arch-nemeses now. And the bad guys even switch sides! The stories go to crazy places, but everything’s reset by the end.
What is Dom in this movie but Superman after being exposed to red kryptonite? What is Shaw but Catwoman begrudgingly joining the good guys for a mission or two? What is Dobbs but The Hulk?
And going right back to the first movie. What is that film but dinky young Peter Parker, in his home-made “Human Spider” outfit, giving his powers a spin for the first time?
Anyway. It’s worth pointing out that the first thing that got me interested in the franchise was the title for this movie. Fate. F-8. Ok, these movies might be smarter than they look, I’d better watch all of ’em. And they really are.
There will 100% be a Nine, so I won’t round all this off too strongly. Except for saying, as of this moment:
- Fast Five
- The Fate of the Furious
- The Fast and the Furious
- Furious 7
- The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
- Fast & Furious 6
- Fast & Furious
- 2 Fast 2 Furious
Now, who’s saying grace?