Fast and Furious should really not be a thing anymore. Out of all the sacrilegious things you could say to an automotive enthusiast, that one line might set off a chain reaction that lands my head on a spike with the words “For Paul” scribbled across my bloodied forehead. It does hold some merit – you just need to see the latest movie, the Fate of the Furious, to know why.
The latest and eighth instalment in the massively successful Fast and Furious series is already a box office mega-hit, grossing $532 million USD globally in its opening weekend. There is no question that movie-goers definitely love watching Dom Toretto and his team of thieves-turned-good-guys on wheels, but that financial success has been the greatest catalyst in turning a movie about street racers into a convoluted thing that resembles GI Joe more than car culture.
On the surface, it doesn't seem like car culture really taken a backseat to the action – the last three movies had segments dedicated to highlighting the local car cultures in London, Dubai and now, Cuba. The cars were location specific, the street races tried to bring out the flavours of these distinct cultures while balancing the implausible vehicular action with the need to progress the story. However, as with any Fast and Furious movie after Tokyo Drift, the link between the real world and the on-screen portrayal of these different car cultures is stretched extremely thin.
The action scenes are admittedly top notch. The jail break scene with Deckard Shaw and Hobbs has many broken bones and parkour influenced fighting, which are a treat to watch. There's a scene where Dom has to get nuclear codes from the motorcade of a Russian diplomat, and that requires hacking into half the cars in New York and making a huge pile of them around the motorcade to trap them (you might be asking why Dom's blackmailer, master hacker Cipher, can't just hack into the limousine to stop it). Even the half hour long, downright ridiculous chase sequence between cars and submarine has some merit in terms of the sheer drama of the thing. You have to completely disconnect yourself from reality and your knowledge of physics to enjoy this movie, but you will be entertained if you do.
What of the story? As always, the argument against critics of the franchise has been the futility of looking for a story in these kind of movies. However, when the basic foundation of the characters in the movie are overturned, the audience is expected to stomach this change for the sake of the story. Dom goes on and about how important family is to him, but when the time comes, he doesn't think twice about shaking hands with Deckard Shaw, a man who killed Han and went after his family (and someone the gang spent an entire movie going after), for the sake of getting out of a bind. This tendency to do away with the core tenets of characters when convenient is one of the biggest gripes I have with the new Fast and Furious movies, and it reeks of sincerity taking a step back in the face of financial gain. At this rate, I wouldn't be surprised if the movie brought back Brian in the coming movies, with CGI talking the place of Paul Walker.
It's not like the franchise could not be wrapped up with the final scene of Furious 7, where Brian and Dom separate and go their own ways after a decade of friendship. It was a rare scene of emotional depth from these characters, weighed down even more by the tragic death of Paul Walker while filming the 7th movie. Those in the film were happy, content at being together and all was right with the F&F universe. Instead of ending on a high note and respecting the departed soul of Paul, who had given the series his whole career, the suits at the helm of the franchise decided to beat their cash-cow of a series and see how many more pennies dropped out of it. Because it serves no purpose in uniting automotive enthusiasts all over the world and is only a money making venture feeding off the wallets of fans of the series, Furious 8 is a disappointing attempt and it ensures that I personally have no intention of continuing to watch. However, purely as entertainment, its not a bad watch.