The Fate of the Furious opened to a record-setting $532 million at the box office this weekend. That is an amazing amount of money for any movie, but it is really amazing when you think about the fact that this is the eighth movie in a franchise that started with a guy who owned a lunch counter and moonlighted as a thief of DVD players. It also means, just based on the statistics here, that you probably saw it. You almost had to have seen it. So many people saw it that we’re already nearing the point where you’ll be able to just talk about major plot points in public with any substantial fear of upsetting someone with a spoiler. You’re more likely to get someone coming up to you to say “Yo, the thing with Statham and the baby, though,” at which point you’ll high five on the street and become brothers. Again, just based on the statistics.
I saw it, too. You may not be surprised to learn that I — the person who wrote thousands of words about the franchise last week and has over 50 images on his computer of Vin Diesel giving a camera a thumbs up — have some thoughts about this movie. Thoughts and questions. Which I will share now.
We will discuss the baby. I promise. But first…
Did… did you expect to see Vin Diesel cry?
The thing people don’t talk about with the Fast & Furious movies is that, in the process of making everything bigger (the team, the explosions, the Rock’s neck muscles), they also tried to make the franchise’s heart bigger. Sometimes it works, which you would have noticed if you had seen me bawling my eyes out at the end of Furious 7. Sometimes, less so, like when a single tear rolled down Vin Diesel’s cheek when he was staring at his new, unnamed son. I get what they were going for, because you need quite an emotional turbo boost to sell an audience on “Dominic Toretto turns on his wife and Family to work for a cyberterrorist and maybe kills dozens of New Yorkers to put nuclear codes in her hands.” And I get that maybe Vin Diesel, in his executive producer role, wanted to give himself a little more Acting — capital A — to do. But it didn’t pack the same punch, even when Tormund from Game of Thrones killed Elena.
By the way, poor Elena. What did that lady ever to do anyone? She was living a nice quiet life with her boyfriend, secretly expecting their first child, then all of a sudden Letty comes back and Dom leaves her and she gets half blown up and then kidnapped by a blonde psycho and killed in a cell by a red-headed psycho. Tough run.
Why can’t every movie star The Rock and Jason Statham?
Babies aside — possibly including the baby — the biggest development in this movie was the revelation that The Rock and Jason Statham have amazing action movie chemistry. How could we not have not that until now? It seems so obvious in hindsight. Of course The Rock and Jason Statham would be great as an action team. Duh.
Statham’s character, Deckard Shaw, took an interesting left turn in this movie. In Furious 7 he was a hyper-violent, bazooka-toting lunatic. Here, he was kind of that but crossed with his character in Spy. (Have you seen Spy? My God. Go watch Spy. Comedy Statham is a revelation.) There was — I swear I saw this — a five-minute fight scene in which his character killed a dozen henchmen while holding a baby that was listening to The Chipmunks. Where did the music come from? Were those his headphones? Did he select the music specifically for this mission, so the baby wouldn’t get scared? If so, why a Chipmunks Christmas song? And if not, does that mean Jason Statham’s character already had The Chipmunks on his phone? I must know everything about this.
And The Rock’s character, Hobbs, is basically The Hulk now. He was kind of always The Hulk (see “cast, flexing out of”), but now it’s 100 percent. He shrugged off about six point-blank rubber bullets. He ripped off his prison shackles and threw someone against the wall sideways. At one point he was hammering away on his cell’s wall with his fists and I honestly think both he and I thought he would just punch through eventually. Couple that with the scene at the beginning where he was coaching his daughter’s soccer team, and The Rock is now officially the most interesting part of this whole franchise. Which makes that alleged beef with Vin Diesel prettyyyyyy awkward.
The solution here is to spinoff Hobbs and Shaw and give them a Netflix series about fighting crime from a series of exotic sports cars and speedboats, like a musclebound version of Miami Vice with substantially more throat punching.