Friday, April 14, 2017

The Fate of the Furious Review

The Fast and Furious franchise is a franchise that I got into back in 2011, right before the release of "Fast Five." That movie was getting quite a bit of pre-release hype and so I went back and watched the previous four before seeing "Fast Five," which I still think is the best one in the franchise, despite what I may have said in previous reviews after being hyped up with adrenaline upon leaving theaters. I'll get into my specific opinions of the previous movies a bit later, but the short version is that the first four range from bad to guilty pleasure street racing movies while five through seven took this franchise in a completely different direction, completely embracing the absurdity of what they put on screen while trying to one-up themselves with new and insane stunts and action sequences in each ensuing film. If you've never seen any movie in the franchise, I'd encourage you to throw in "Fast Five" just to see what you think instead of complaining as to why this franchise now has eight movies with a ninth and a tenth already on the schedule. If it's not your cup of tea, the eighth movie won't convert you, but if you find that you are enjoying yourself, then catch up on the franchise and get ready for another wild ride with a movie that is exactly what you want it to be.

They probably could've ended the franchise after "Furious 7" and that would've left us on a beautiful emotional high, but when you make $1.5 billion worldwide with the previous installment, the rules of business in Hollywood state that you find a way to make another movie, especially when you're part of a franchise where coming up with a new premise is pretty easy to do. I mean, it's not like these are deep, emotional, story-driven movies where making sequels has the potential of ruining the magic that the previous installments put into place. This is a very sequel-friendly franchise where all they have to do is come up with a simple premise then use a bit of creativity to decide what cool new crazy stunts they are going to pull off next while trying to figure out which new famous actors want to join in on the fun. This time we have zombie cars and submarines while adding Charlize Theron, Helen Mirren and Scott Eastwood to the party with a premise that consists of Vin Diesel going rogue which leads to his team trying to figure out what in the heck happened while trying to figure out how in the heck to stop him. Boom! There's our movie. Now if you don't mind some absurdity and you don't need your movie physics to make any sense, then strap in and enjoy!

As far as the specifics of our story, this is probably the most concise story since "Fast Five." They got a little carried away in "Fast & Furious 6" causing the story to get a bit more complex than they needed it to be. Meanwhile "Furious 7" was handicapped a bit with the death of Paul Walker, which caused them to have to re-write things a bit in order to complete the movie, a task they did quite well with all things considered, but left the story itself a bit scattered. "The Fate of the Furious" is essentially a mission to find Vin Diesel and stop what he's up to, which in turn is tied into the master plan of Charlize Theron's villain, which in turn is tied into Owen and Deckard Shaw, our two villainous brothers from six and seven. OK, that sounds a bit complex. But all that really means is that you probably shouldn't start your journey into this franchise with "The Fate of the Furious" as you might get lost without knowing what happens in "Fast & Furious 6" and "Furious 7" as they do a pretty good job at tying everything in, thus rewarding the fans who are familiar with the whole franchise, which I personally appreciated, especially since I spent the whole week prior re-watching all seven movies, thus I had everything fresh on my mind heading into this eighth film.

I will say this movie does start out pretty slow. After our obligatory street race to start out the movie, which was a pretty good street race if I might add, Charlize Theron approaches Dom (Vin Diesel) in Cuba while him and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) are on their honeymoon and shows him things. Then we go over to Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) who gets approached that things need to happen over in Berlin. Hobbs recruits Dom, who gets the rest of the team together to head over to Germany with Hobbs. It felt kind of forced and rushed, thus making me slightly nervous about the rest of the film. Then finally things got interesting with Dom betrayed the team and got away, blind-siding his whole team as he mysteriously chooses to follow Cipher (Charlize Theron). Then things get interesting as Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) is back to help them stop Cipher, but in doing so he cleverly arranges for Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to join with them through a series of events that I won't describe and we're off to the races. Once we finally get things set up, that's when the movie takes off and is super entertaining while also being surprisingly dark and emotional at times. I was invested in what was going on and I really bought Charlize Theron as a villain. She was a great addition.

There is an unfortunate thing that needs to be discussed, though. While much of this franchise is built on crazy stunts and action sequences that entertain the heck out of you, the glue that holds everything together is our team of characters that we've grown to love through all these years of movies. In "Fast & Furious 6" we said a final goodbye to Han and Giselle, two of our main side characters. Then in "Furious 7" we sadly had to say goodbye to Paul Walker, who was one of the two cornerstones of this franchise following his tragic death. In order to make for a smooth transition, we also had to say goodbye to Mia, Paul Walker's love interest in the movie as the two are now living a quiet life on their own in this fictional universe. So our great team of characters that is holding everything together is thinning out. With this eighth movie deciding to make Dom, our other major cornerstone, go rogue, we are left with a team full of side characters for the majority of this movie. Letty, Roman, Tej and Ramsey all do great, but the four of them can't carry this franchise on their own. The absence of Paul Walker is really felt in this movie and when Vin Diesel is not around on the good side, the movie feels really empty. It was like a family reunion with only a few members of the family.

Luckily we did have Dwayne Johnson for the entire film this time around, as he disappeared for much of "Furious 7." He added a lot to the franchise when he joined in "Fast Five" and they certainly need to make sure they keep him around to help maintain the success of this franchise. What really helped as well was Jason Statham. He played a pretty awesome villain in "Furious 7," and while I won't reveal any more details on why he is fighting on their side, they need to keep him with the team going forward. A Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham and Vin Diesel led team is a team I can get behind as we move forward with this franchise. No more Vin Diesel abandoning his team. And we could probably use another person or two to join up with this franchise. A good action star that everyone knows and loves. On that note, they probably regret killing off Gal Gadot in "Fast & Furious 6" now that she has been cast as Wonder Woman. Having her around would really help. Perhaps they can recruit someone like a Tom Cruise or an Arnold Schwarzenegger? Maybe Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone, Liam Neeson or Russell Crowe? Either to work for or against our team? Just a few ideas. If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. Let me know on social media or in the comments! Let's help Universal cast the next two movies!

That about does it with this review. If you love this franchise, especially the previous three movies, then "The Fate of the Furious" gives you exactly what you've come to expect and is thus a must see, but you were probably already planning on seeing it anyways and didn't really need my stamp of approval before going out. What I've left mostly out of this review is my specific thoughts on the action and crazy stunts they pull off. I do that on purpose because I want all of that to be a surprise for you if the trailers haven't already spoiled it for you. Just know that you're in for quite a treat which includes a third act that is absolutely insane and one of the best finales of the entire franchise. If I were to give grades to all of the movies, since I watched them all this past week, I would give "The Fast and the Furious" a 6/10, "2 Fast 2 Furious" a 5/10, "The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" a 4/10, "Fast & Furious" a 7/10, "Fast Five" a 9/10, "Fast & Furious 6" an 8/10 and "Furious 7" a 9/10. Concerning tie-breakers, I'll give "Fast Five" a slight edge over "Furious 7" as the best of the franchise. With all that in context, I will slide "The Fate of the Furious" right in below "Fast Five" and "Furious 7" and just ahead of "Fast & Furious 6," although with the same grade as the latter of an 8/10.


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