So here’s the thing – When you are on the 8th film of your franchise, you must at least realize that you can only do so much with flying cars before you become a Michael Bay film. We already know the characters. We have been through their struggle and their journey together. After evolving through seven films including a standalone story (Tokyo Drift), the characters are long past their shelf-life. So, it becomes even more challenging to keep your audience invested in you in the same way as the very first film. Yet, you have to give it to FnF for introducing us to Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Connor and Letty Ortiz. Although the trio recruited more members like a fast-moving organization (“What do you do when you see the yellow traffic light ?” “I push my NOS button.” “Welcome, to the Team.”) and some fun characters like Roman Pearce, Tej Parker and Luke Hobbs were introduced, it was only the original trio who made an impression and became the symbol for the films. We became so used to seeing them together that, Paul Walker’s untimely demise during the shoot of Furious 7 was an immense blow to the team. Vin Diesel, who had become close to Walker’s family through the films and had come to know him as a friend, made a promise that the film would be finished and more would come to honour his death.
So here we are with the eighth film with more flying cars, an all-out ensemble cast and your typical run-of-the-mill action. Directed by F. Gary Gray who directed some of the better known films in Hollywood like The Italian Job, Law Abiding Citizen and the Oscar-nominated Straight Outta Compton, the story would seem like an oddity in his portfolio. Having a cast which is already loved helps to get a hold but you’re still left with the story and that’s where the it gets tricky. Dom and Letty now live a quiet life in Cuba, trying to stay away from the jumble but its not a FnF film until he makes a crashing entry right ? So the opening scene shows him throw all caution to the wind as he races through the streets of Havana in a run-down car ’cause, in his own words, “It doesn’t matter what’s under the hood. It depends on who’s behind the wheel.” Except it does matter what’s under the hood and it doesn’t matter how manly you make it sound, the better car will always win. Anyway, the mood is set and Dom comes out winning the un-winnable race, ending up a hero once again. However, there is a conspiracy at work in which Dom would soon be pulled into. Cipher, played by Charlize Theron, “accidentally” stumbles into Dom in Cuba and asks him to work for her in case he wanted to keep his family safe. Dom dismisses her empty threats and walks away hoping never to see her again. But this story is about ‘fate’, get it ? Cut to a heist scene where the team, recruited by Mr. Nobody (played by Kurt Russell) from Furious 7, is commissioned to capture a powerful EMP device for the US government from a secure facility in Russia. Through some ridiculous stunts, they are able to obtain the device but as they get away, Dom attacks Luke Hobbs (played by Dwayne Johnson) and escapes with the device himself. By the time the team reach the safe-house, they realize that Dom had somehow gone rogue !
The biggest appeal of the series, in my opinion, was the that it was never about saving the world, at least in the way it started. It was always about fighting small-time gangsters and drug-dealers and saving the people of the city. However, after 2013’s Fast and Furious 6, the missions became more and more large-scale and less grounded, taking away the heart of the franchise. Turning Dom against the team was an unexpected move but it felt unconvincing as this was very unlike his personality. The one thing that we have come to know about him through the multitude of films is that, Dom never breaks down and never gives up, whatever the situation. There is always a trick up his sleeve which makes him a magician with cars. However, the good thing that comes out of this plot is the introduction of the cyber mastermind Cipher, played by none other than Charlize Theron. Theron brings the cold, hardened, raw power of Furiosa from Mad Max : Fury Road and gives us one of the best antagonists the series has seen yet. Even with no background given for her, Theron makes her commanding presence felt even while sharing screen-space with Diesel. Her intensity and voice gives her a natural predatory tone which goes very well with her character. They should really have named it Fate of the Furiosa. Anyone ? No ? Moving on…
Let’s talk about the elephant in the room now. You must think that after all this rant about characters and stories and what not, what about the cars ? After all, that’s what we expect from an FnF film – a freakin’ adrenaline-inducing nitro-boosted car-race ! Well, the plot is so wound up about conspiracies and Dom gone crazy that none of the car scenes stand out. There is this one scene though where Cipher takes control of self-driving enabled cars in NYC and lets them loose, but it feels more like expensive CGI than some real sh*t going down. There is a fine line in shooting such scenes that should never be crossed.
- Keep CGI to the bare minimum. The audience will gasp only when they feel that this is extremely risky but can definitely be done. Give ’em too much impossibility and they would lose connect. No gasps !
- Show people more ! Car scenes are not only about cars. It’s also about the people behind the wheel. F8 makes this cardinal mistake in this scene which could have stood out.
- Last but not the least, avoid wide angle shots. We do not need to know the overview of a scene in one go. We love to be surprised. The original FnF films used this technique to effectively grab our attention. There were shots which were quick, changing and showed the drivers’ faces with extreme close-ups. That way you feel a part of that vehicle and feel the urgency.
Notice these points in the race scene below from the very first film which made it so exhilarating :
Also check out: Fast and Furious movies ranked from Worst to Best
Fate of the Furious ranks way below if compare it with the other films in the franchise. Except Cipher, there are no new characters that have been introduced. It’s the same old formula that has been juiced out so much that there’s nothing left to salvage unless a dramatic turn of events take place in the next one, if there’s a next one. Maybe another standalone film like the much-appraised Tokyo Drift with simple underdog characters stretched to their limits, would give it a much needed boost. Or maybe a Netflix series – If you are making so many films anyway, it only makes sense for you to make it an official web-series which can be renewed every season with new characters and new settings. That would be an interesting reprise. Think about it !
gobblpoint: If you’re up for some old-fashioned mindless action, this film would still disappoint you. It becomes slow at certain places and then picks up the pace with some mediocre action sequences. Fans of Charlize Theron, buck up for a good dose of Furiosa!
Disclaimer: The images in this post are the sole property of the makers of the franchise and are not owned by us in any form whatsoever.