The Fast and The Furious franchise returns in its eighth installment and with it, the pressure of continuing the legacy without its star lead Paul Walker. Paul Walker’s absence set up quite the emotional impact in the previous movie, so I was curious to see where the series could head next. To my surprise, the series seems to be heading in the right direction….ever so slightly.
We reunite with our beloved Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel (whose name sounds like a more fake name for a car movie protagonist than his actual character), on honeymoon with his wife Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Soon a mysterious woman appears and lures Dom to become a hired terrorist and begins betraying all those closest to him. It’s up to our revhead compadres, to figure what’s happened to the old Dom and to save the world from the end of civilization as we know it. Screw C.I.A, who else would you trust right?
The theme of family is prevalent throughout the entire Fast and Furious franchise and whilst this is an important conceptual torch to bear, it’s an aspect that needs to exist only in the background. We’ve seen the exact same situation in Fast 6 when Letty turned on family and by now it’s beating a dead horse. What makes a franchise everlasting is its ability to be memorable for different entries in the saga. Harry Potter comes to mind when you look back and can clearly differentiate how the early films were joyful introductions into the wizardry world to the last films which were darker in tones. Each film in the Fast and Furious feels the same in the story but just places them in different locations around the world. The time has come to expand or at least become self-aware of how ridiculous it is because ultimately that’s where it shines the most.
As the franchise grows, the one redeeming factor that has kept me watching the series is the power to grow situations further. In its early days, it was about street racing then drifting and then bank robberies. This has progressed to tank battles, leaping from the bridge to bridge in mid-air, having the world’s longest airplane chase and driving Lamborghini’s from a skyscraper into a skyscraper. You might laugh but this is what I fucking love. It’s so ridiculous that you can’t help but enjoy the spectacle and thankfully The Fate of The Furious continues this to greater lengths. You may have seen from the trailer that a submarine becomes involved with a chase and indeed the entire sequence is nonsensical fun. With each film, the budgets grow bigger and the chance to do things like having The Rock ski on ice whilst holding the car door at 100 miles per hour and diverting a torpedo into another vehicle becomes possible.
This is ultimately why I have given 3 stars and recommend seeing it on the big screen. The action sequences are mindless but great to watch. Comic relief characters such as Roman (Tyrese Gibson) can still work well in these situations and give for some genuine moments of laughter. Yes, he’s essentially playing the same character in all of his films but that’s why we love him.
This is why The Fast and Furious hasn’t really changed its formula because that’s why we love the series. But to be a truly great franchise, it must go beyond a simple formula and to be bold in its storytelling. I’m wishing for another ninth installment, in the hope they either venture into new themes or continue to up the level of ridiculousness and become the fun car movie it should be. But for now, it’s time to enjoy some submarine car chases.