03 April 2015

The Long Furious Road to a Blockbuster: Furious Seven

Let's picture 2006 for a second. We were graced with a lot of terrible movies that year, but none were perhaps more laughable then a serious Fast and Furious downgrade called The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006). Seriously, when this is on your soundtrack, how can you expect any kind of good film. I have spoken at length about this franchise and my complete incredulity at its unlikely rise from a notch above Direct DVD Release to an A-List Commanding Blockbuster.
Wait, what?

I mention Tokyo Drift because it's generally seen as a low point for the series, but when you're reexamining the franchise it somehow morphs into one of the best. It's stupid, sure, but it's a hell of a lot less obnoxious than the first two films that came before it. Yes, despite the heavy presence of Far East Movement on the soundtrack (that track also gave us this cool jam by the way), the film actually deals with real fish-out-of-water friendship, drama, and revenge that transcends the epic Paul Walker / Vin Diesel will they/won't they bromance nearly every other film trades in, even with Lucas Black standing in for the poor man's Paul Walker.

The insane thing is that Tokyo Drift has become the linchpin in this multi-billion dollar franchise. See, the proper order of the film franchise is 1,2,4,5,6,3,7. Got that? Every resurgence we've seen in the past six years was all pre-Tokyo Drift. That makes Furious 7 (2015) a really exciting movie - it's the culmination of the past nine years of fast-driving car/heist movies. That's also something I never thought I'd type.

This is the seventh Fast and Furious movie, folks. That's so nuts. The Fast and the Furious (2001) was such a fringe movie that focused mostly on gearheads along with the kind of anti-authorianism at the turn of the century that also inspired everything from Jackass to xXx (2002). Around the time of Fast & Furious (2009, always pay attention to definite articles, folks) the franchise traded in its penchant for cars and nitrous for a more compelling crime thriller, and by Fast Five (2011) we had a full-blown heist on our hands that was simultaneously more palatable to the average viewer (No, I didn't give a shit about cars in 2001) at the expense of its rugged edge.

So, how can this franchise keep building on itself? It has undergone a pretty wild ascension, with each film since 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) arguably better than the last (Fast & Furious is notably divisive, some actually considering it weaker than Tokyo Drift, others loving it). It wins over other franchises by its brilliant combination of nostalgia, the sense of teaming up (I still posit that Fast Five's core conceit of getting all these characters from different movies together cannily preceded The Avengers [2012] doing the exact same thing), its absolute badassery, giant muscles, hot chicks, fast cars, and exceedingly ridiculous stunts. Through it all, though, it hammers home this concept of family, loyalty, friendship over professional obligations, and fighting for each other. Plus it has the most racially mixed cast ever. What other franchise can boast ???'s among half their cast. Plus "I'ma choke you!"

This the seventh Fast and Furious movie. I...I know I've said that already but I really want that to sink in. It's amazing. And there's no real reason why this shouldn't keep making a ton of money. It helps that these films have been really good instead of complete insane excuses for car races like the first couple installments were. Fast Five notably only had a single race, and that was just a bunch of stolen cop cars through Rio. Furious 7 will do splendid. Probably win the Academy Award for Best Picture next year. But let's talk about the uncertain future of this franchise.
2 Fast 2 Soon.

The elephant in the room of course, when bringing this up, is the untimely death of Paul Walker. You can still check out my Paul Walker / Nelson Mandela fan fiction at a site full of more prose topics. Fate or not, the franchise has finally brought Lucas Black back in the fold, who can be our poor man's Paul Walker once again. But really, did anyone tune in to these films because of Paul Walker? Remember that huge sequence in Fast & Furious 6 (2013) when Paul Walker risks everything to track down Braga in the United States and is gone for a huge chunk of the movie and then comes back and finds out everyone else found the information another way? It's just a huge waste of time, but that's only because there's nothing else for Brian to do. His law-straddling was interesting, and somehow sustained as the central plot of like, three movies.

I hate saying it, but he's totally unnecessary to this franchise. And I love Paul Walker, clearly. I wrote an entire fan fiction about him. But will there be an 8 Fast 8 Furious (2017)? The short answer is yes, but I'd rather not show you a link because it's full of casual Vin Diesel spoilers. At some point this becomes difficult - why clutch our seats when we know that they'll be back again in a few years doing the same shit? How many riffs on the same story can we tell? Why drill this brilliant franchise to exhaustion instead of going out on top with the heavily borrowed time you've already established? Hollywood, that's why. Who am I kidding, I'll turn out.

Furious 7 drops today.

Okay fine, let's rank 'em, best to worst:

1. Fast & Furious 6
2. Fast Five
3. The Fast and the Furious
4. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift
5. Fast & Furious
6. 2 Fast 2 Furious

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