When a franchise matures…
… or, why Furious 7 is making so much money in the box office.
I remember compairing The Fast and the Furious to Point Break, one of my favorite action movies in my teenage years. It had the cool open discussion of the gray area between good and bad, while Vin Diesel’s Dom did not wander so wander so far into the dark side as Patrick Swayze’s Bodhi did. It was a little too much new-gen and Paul Walker looked too forced into the role, something that didn’t bother with Keanu Reeves, since the surfer-dude role was something he was born to do.
But let’s not wander too far off topic here.
A couple of sequels later, the Fast and Furious franchise startet reminding me more of Lethal Weapon. Due to the long time since past and the complete disappearing act of Mel Gibson’s charisma in the last decade, not all will be reminded of this, but Lethal Weapon started as a neat buddy-cop-comedy, where they almost killed Gibson’s character in the first movie, and developed itself into a franchise with relatable characters and additional members to the family. This logic peaks at the end of the fourth movie, where even their captain, who gave them a hard time all the time, joins in for a friendly family photo:
we’re not friends, we’re family
The credits are then accompanied by photos of the years that passed since Riggs met Murtaugh, both becoming the guiding force behind each other’s life development. Oddly, this is mixed with production photos of all their years working with director Richard Donner, a time, it seems, of great fun and companionship on the set.
Is it fair to compare The Fast and the Furious with Lethal Weapon 1? No. They are two completely different kinds of animals. Paul Walker looked like a surfer dude developed in a lab by Abercrombie & Fitch, Vin Diesel looked like a big baby and, this being the epitome of my description of how childish and for millenials Fast 1 was, Michelle Rodriguez’ Letty Ortiz looked like a Barby doll, manufactured by a Latino who had more than his share ot tequila. It was childish, it was dumb, but it was fun enough to warrant a couple of sequels.
Skip two sequels and get to Fast 5. Family-building begins. Justin Lin starts a plan (in all fairness started with the fourth film) to abduct all of the isolated characters from movies past and bonding them into the group. Family-growth is exemplified by Jordana Brewster’s character being pregnant, providing what could well be the first touching moment of the whole franchise: Dom is ready to set all differences with Brian aside. Even a quarter-mile race is gifted as, according to Roman’s words, “a baby win”.
While Fast 5 is without a doubt the best movie of the franchise, this here argument started because I watched Furious 7 last week. If you haven’t been living under a rock over the past two years, you would know that Paul Walker, who plays Brian in the franchise, died in a tragic car accident. Ironies aside, there was seldom an offer of support by cast and crew members in recent memory with regards to celebrity tragedies. There was, of course, the open question of what would happen to Walker’s character in the movie, especially since the accident happen in a break between shoots, which had yet to be finalized.
The result is beautiful, and yet another example of how much the franchise has matured over the years. The fact that they show scenes from the first movies during the very touching homage at the end only exemplifies the issue of immaturity in the first part of the franchise. Never could such an homage have been so meaningful in the first movie… Neither the film, much less the audience were ready to take it in like it should. There was love, pain suffering… These characters and, as a logic consequence, the actors, had been through an enormous ordeal, on-set and -off and this bleeds through the screen to the audience. Regardless of your tastes in cinema, if you like action movies or this franchise at all, it is a unique experience that even more mature products fail to realize, simply because they lack the length of the Fast and Furious franchise.
Should the franchise be over with this installment? Probably. Will they do it? Definitely not. But still, the final homage opens a world of possibilities in turning Dominic Toretto into a full-blown action superstar, while letting Paul Walker and Brian Spillner rest in peace.
Nicely done, guys.