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.
You know when I knew I was going to like this movie?
I’ll tell you. It was less than five minutes into it, when Letty held up a mysterious canister and announced “This is Cuban NOS,” which set off a sequence of events that ended with Vin Diesel winning a road race in a stripped down junker that was both on fire and going in reverse, and then bailing out as the car launched 30 feet into the air and splashed down in the Caribbean to the delight of hundreds of Cuban bystanders, all of whom had just been going about their days five minutes earlier and now were whooping and cheering after watching a flaming ball of victorious wreckage fly into the sea.
That’s when I knew I was going to like this movie.
Did you guys get almost a Michael Bay feel from it, for better and worse?
I don’t mean that as a complaint. Mostly. It’s just that some of the action scenes in the movie were so big (so big), and big in a much different way that the previous films. Yes, Furious 7 had cars parachuting out of planes and soaring between skyscrapers, and a huge chunk of Los Angeles was turned into rubble by a criminal whom our hero is now entrusting with his infant son, but this one featured a hacker who took over hundreds of cars in Manhattan and careened them around the streets and flung them out of a parking garage like a waterfall. Even the way it was shot. The quick-cutting smashbooms broken up by moments of quiet leading to bigger smashbooms. It wasn’t entirely unlike a sequence you’d see in a Transformers movie. Again, not really a complaint. It looked very cool. F. Gary Gray can direct the heck out of an action sequence. But it was… different.
Remember the show Fastlane?
One of the big developments in The Fate of the Furious was Mr. Nobody opening up a huge hanger filled with confiscated vehicles and turning them over to the crew for the purposes of bringing in Dom. Tyrese got an orange Lambo, Ludacris got a tank, etc. Which was fun.
It was also, as I pointed out when the trailer was released, the plot of the television show Fastlane, starring Bill Bellamy, Peter Facinelli and Tiffani Thiessen. That was the whole show, basically. Bill Bellamy and Kelly Kapowski bringing down drug lords while driving confiscated Ferraris. It was a good show and no one remembers it but me.
Now, am I saying maybe the Fast & Furious franchise stole the idea from Fastlane? No, of course not. All I’m saying is that putting Bill Bellamy and Tiffani Thiessen in the ninth movie would be a nice goodwill gesture.
Wanna know the most important part of that “Timothy Olyphant almost played the lead in the Fast & Furious movies” story?
See, you think it’s the thing where Timothy Olyphant almost played the lead in the Fast & Furious movies, but then you think about it and realize it also means Vin Diesel could have starred in Deadwood and Justified. Like, what if they just traded careers? It’s a lot to think about. Vin Diesel chasing Boyd Crowder through the hills of Kentucky and such, wearing a cowboy hat. Doesn’t really have much to do with our discussion here. I just wanted to bring it up.
Is Cipher even that great of a cyberterrorist?
Poking tiny holes in the logic of these films is a little like trying to throw a rock to the moon, in that you’ll tucker yourself out and everyone will get annoyed with your bullcrap really fast. (“You coming to the party?” “Can’t, gotta huck this rock at the moon.” “Jesus Christ, Daryl.”) I mean, a nuclear submarine exploded on a sheet of ice and a) Vin Diesel survived because his friends protected him from the nuclear fireball with their parked cars, and b) the ice remained strong and unmelt-y enough to hold said cars, one of which was a tank. You’re missing the point in a pretty big way if you start “Well, actually”-ing these movies on the science.
That said, something needs to be said about the tracker. Charlize Theron’s character is a brilliant anarchist hacker who flies on a million-dollar science plane and coordinates perfectly timed car waterfalls in Manhattan, but she was brought down by a blinking red tracker in Vin Diesel’s chain? Like, it was literally blinking and sending out a signal from the dead center of her top-secret stealth hacker plane and no one caught it?
Come on, Charlize Theron.
So what is the current status of The Family, heading into the ninth movie?
We have updates to the Family. The baby is new, obviously. Elena is gone, joining Han and Gisele in the Great Probable Beyond. Deckard is now a good guy, I guess, as is his brother Owen, kind of, which was weird because the last time we saw him he was in a coma inside a hospital that was exploding and now he’s flying like freaking Rocketman into the back of an airplane to liberate a baby. (I did love how breaking him out of a high-security prison was such a simple and obvious task that it required exactly zero screen time.) And Helen Mirren is there, too.
Perhaps a simple, easy to read chart will help.
Hmm, maybe not.
Also, please note that Keanu Reeves has a line on this graph, because while he has not been in a Fast & Furious movie, I am very, very sure he will be.
I really miss Paul Walker
Admittedly, this is not a question. More of a statement of fact. Still. This was the first full-on Fast & Furious movie without Paul Walker, Tokyo Drift not included because no one was in Tokyo Drift. It was… weird. Right? It was. For a couple reasons.
The first reason, clearly, is that the real Paul Walker passed away, and that’s sad. It’s sad when you think about it, and it’s sad when they mention his character in the movie, because it makes you think about it. But the other reason is that, by having his character in the franchise drive off into the sunset (again, tears), they’ve created a world where Brian O’Conner is alive and living with his family — a young child or two and a wife who is Dom’s sister — and Dom and the crew will never see these other people again. (Probably.)
And that’s fine for the big action scenes, because that’s what Brian wanted to get away from. (Or at least it makes sense. It did detract from the plot a bit because Brian was the only one who was really on Dom’s level as a leader within the crew, which runs the risk of making it all Dom and The Supremes going forward.) But it felt weird to see this big family barbecue on a New York rooftop, including a baby who is now Brian and Mia’s nephew, and is named after Brian, and not see them tipping back a Corona.
It’s gonna be a tricky situation going forward. They almost have to decide to never mention the character again, or always mention the character through some brief reference to imply that everyone’s happy and healthy somewhere far away from the action. Both options feel weird, as someone who has seen all the movies. Maybe it will get less weird over time. I’m not sure.
Oh, and speaking of tricky situations: Letty told Dom she wants to have a baby with him and then Dom came strolling in with a baby belonging to his murdered ex. So there’s that, too.
Where do we go from here?
My stock answer had always been “This franchise will end up in space,” but that appears to have been officially shot down, so now I have a new idea: We’re going to the future. Not in the franchise, like time travel. In real life. The year is 2035. We are on Fast & Furious 20. Everyone is old as heck. (Fun fact: Vin Diesel will be 68 years old in 2035.) Ludacris and Tyrese are still arguing, but in rocking chairs. And our new lead characters are … Dom’s son Brian and Brian’s son Jack, now in their late teens and early 20s and ready to pick up the family business. Which they have to do because… KEANU REEVES HAS STOLEN THE MOON.
Just let me have this, okay?