The Fate of the Furious
Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Nathalie Emmanuel, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Jason Statham, Helen Mirren.
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Written by Chris Morgan, based on characters created by Gary Scott Thompson
Cinematography by Steven F. Windon
Where do you take a franchise that has traveled around the world, dropped cars out of planes, thrown cars out of the world’s tallest building, and showed the exposed bottom butt cheeks of women of nearly all cultures? You try to elevate it to keep it from going stale, even if that means alienating some fans. The Fate of the Furious, or F8 as it’s being marketed, is the eighth installment in the franchise and the first film post the death of Paul Walker. Since Fast and Furious, the fourth installment, the franchise has taken a more action-oriented approach with a bit of espionage, bank heist, and superhero film thrown in for good measure. Fast Five, which started the Furionnisance, now is starting to feel the weight of high expectations on its shoulders. The Fate of the Furious isn’t the worst film in the franchise, nor is it the best, the film rests somewhere comfortably in the middle.
Furious 8, as it’s also marketed as, requires a bit of knowledge of the series before going in — there isn’t any handholding. We jump right into the lives of Dom and Letty (Diesel, Rodriguez) in Cuba after their exhausting adventures through Europe, Abu Dhabi, and London. Life for them is tranquil, or whatever that means for these two. When a mysterious woman (Theron) appears to Dom, she blackmails him to complete a series of dirty deeds that pits him against Letty and the rest of his ‘familia.’
Like xXx: The Return of Xander Cage, there is a level of cheese that Furious 8 reaches that winks and nods at the audience. It’s like director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan is bumping elbows into our sides saying, “see how ridiculous we’re getting.” It works and Furious 8 provides some of the best action set pieces in the franchise to date. The sequence in Manhattan is one of my favorites in the series to date, providing variety in three action set pieces that feel like they came from three different action films. Everything comes to a close with a fantastic sequence across the frozen tundra of Russia involving nuclear missiles and a cold war-era submarine.
Dwayne Johnson, who was and still is the stand-out of the series since his debut in Fast Five, is great opposite Jason Statham, who share a large portion of screen time together.
Like the other films in the series, there are moments of levity, providing some lighter moments to ease the destruction and chaos that blanket the film.
So what’s the problem with the film? I did enjoy it but it felt like it was trying to one-up itself in a game of chicken. Fans of the series are to enjoy this and the series respects the fans by throwing in characters from films prior. However, pacing is a major issue. IMDb lists the film’s runtime at two hours, sixteen minutes and I felt every one of those minutes plopped down in my local theater. There’s a lot the franchise has to live up against. There are some scenes, not many mind you, that seem to take itself a bit too seriously. Gray and Morgan want to break up scenes of Johnson throwing prison guards across a prison like body pillows with much more serious, dire action. At times they work making Theron’s Cipher villainess one of the series most formidable, while other scenes come off as hokey.
Since Fast Five, the franchise has been touted as Universal’s answer to the growing superhero film trends. Morgan, including producers Diesel and Michael Fottrell, have capitalized on that, showing these characters performing feats only the likes of The Hulk and Thor could achieve. I can’t tell if embracing this more bogs the film down or makes them that much more enjoyable.
At the end of the day, Furious 8 is an adequate B film that panders to its audience. This eighth film is nothing special compared to the previous three films. With Paul Walker now completely absent from the franchise, there is that feeling that Vin Diesel headlining this franchise could spell the end of the series. Furious 8, at times, feels empty; Walker was the heart of the franchise. Walker was our introduction into the world of street racing in the first film, which was kept consistent throughout the series until his untimely death during the filming of the seventh film. What Fast and Furious and Fast Five did to revitalize the dying franchise, needs to be replicated to keep the series from becoming an empty hull of its former self.