Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Fate of the Furious (Fast and Furious 8) (2017)

It seems I’ll be with the few thinking that the latest of the Fast and the Furious franchise has run out of steam and should call it a day. People are still buying it in droves. Furious 9 is now guaranteed and a Furious 10 will supposedly be the last of it all.

Spoiler warning.

Fate of theFurious or also known as the Furious 8 packed a wallop becoming the 30th movie to gross over $1 Billion according to Forbes, 81% of revenue coming from overseas.

Story wise this outing didn’t offer a twist. Trailers showed Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) going rogue but it never had a chance becoming emotionally compelling. 

The last man of the one-two punch (Paul Walker being the other) that started the franchise will never destroy the team. How then can I empathize with the pain of Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) or Luke Hobbs' (Dwayne Johnson) fury at being betrayed?

Also the identity of the mastermind was not left to imagination because she was in the trailer acting like she’s holding the strings. To what Cipher (Charlize Theron) attached her strings into was left out until half of the movie as if it emotionally mattered – Toretto’s formerly unknown son. 

A son should always matter yes, but for one hour I was being convinced how much of a bad ass Toretto was so how can I care that he’s just a desperate father? It didn’t help that Vin Diesel cannot convincingly cry. The tears looked like they were squeezed in there before the camera caught his face.

My mindset watching this movie was to run down the clock, wait for Toretto reconnect with Letty and the gang. It was a decent joyride running down the clock before the expected conclusion. Thing is looking at the clock wondering where the movie is based on current run time is never a good thing. The joyride had hiccups.

The biggest that comes to mind is that the Fast and the Furious franchise has gone way, way off the reservation. I remember a time when it was all about cars, pure and real, that even I who cannot drive would want to have one and the hot girl that supposedly should have come with the wheels.

Brian O’connor (Paul Walker) in that first movie went undercover to get a bunch of street racers jacking trucks. He joined the race to get an introduction and Toretto explained after winning, showing his driving prowess, how Brian lost

Everything was about cars and the ability to drive it at high speeds: cars versus a truck, stare and drive, drifting, cars versus a very long gas tanker.

Villains went from common street thugs to organized crime which by chance always had a car based dimension in their racket. Even when an SAS train villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) inexplicably hangs on the car theme (surely there are better ways a trained soldier can think of than driving car), the story always comes back to the ability of one driver to another.

In Furious 8 Cipher hacked and eventually remote controlled hundreds thousands of remote cars loose on New York.  That sequence was too sci-fi for me. Then some minutes after the remote car scene was Toretto’s first versus his own team. 

I was expecting a car chase and high speed maneuver across New York until every car – Bentley, Corvette Stingray, Subaru, Mercedes-AMG – started shooting grappling hooks which surprisingly none ended up inside Toretto’s chest.  Who puts grappling hooks in those types of cars? The scene had a Transformer feel to it because the cars not the drivers are doing everything.

And how far off the reservation can you be with cars versus submarines? C’mon! Toretto’s gang are drivers, street racers, car enthusiasts, who surprisingly brings among others a Lamborghini into the Russian winter wasteland. Even if you were to buy that only Letty and the gang can do the mission; that Nobody (Kurt Russell) doesn’t have the authority to authorize a Seal team for that mission, they should be all driving Hummers.

Let’s go to Toretto’s solution against Cipher. Again even if you were to buy all the perfect timing, the chess moves, unexpected help, how he all put it into place before he gets back at Cipher; I cannot imagine why a world class computer terrorist does not have countermeasures for a homing device within her secret plane.

Aside from plot issues there were character issues too. Toretto becoming a one man wrecking crew even against a submarine destroys the team dynamic that began in Rio Heist aka Fast Five. 

Sure there’s a team as much as Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) has an Impossible Mission Force but Hunt does everything and now Toretto is capable of beating everybody. Not to demean a fellow bald guy but I’d rather watch fully haired Tom Cruise with his action scenes if this is the direction we’re heading.

I wonder if Paul Walker was still alive would this dynamic still be played as it is? Furious 8 feels like it has three comic reliefs now in Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), and now Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood); like the story is grasping for ways to fill in a hole. 

We can argue that Toretto was far away from the team but character is missing someone to bounce off of like back in the day with Brian.

Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) is also a problem because what she brings to the story cancels out Tej who is a fellow hacker and the team’s tech guy. 

She always gets a shot as only a passenger in Tej’s car which is a departure from what the franchise was built on. Mia can drive, Letty can drive, and oh yeah Gisele can do bikes. 

And Cipher is attacking everyone remotely but Team Toretto’s hacker needs to be always on site. Does she have a special skill typing code in a car doing high speed maneuvers?

What is with the high school seduction dynamic with Ramsey, Tej, and Roman? Han (Sung Kang) and Gisele (Gal Gadot) were more direct to the point in their romance and lethal. I miss Gisele and her bike.

At the end of it all I understand the idea of family both for the characters and how fans have stood by the franchise for years. There are times when it does not matter how good or bad it plays out on screen as long as you see Toretto in his car, Hobbs being like a hulk, and Roman mouthing off; it’s all good.

Continuing that thought, I believe the love of family besides what is best for the character. I have always hated the idea that the Force Awakens made it look like nothing came out of The Return of the Jedi because I wanted my heroes to go into the sunset on a good note. Now it looks like they were never done.

Consider all that I have set plus the fact the hero has a son now (Brian has a son and he quit) and was kidnapped. Maybe it’s time the characters retire like Brian, be safe from all the harm, and you know quietly live out their lives raising a family.

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