Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Fast and Furious: The Franchise So Far...

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Furious 7 is still topping the box office and is well on its way to becoming the highest grossing film of the year so far. If you don’t believe in cinematic comebacks, then look at this poor excuse of a racing film turned action franchise of a generation. It started at one end of the spectrum and has finished(?) at another.
There’s no denying that 2001’s the Fast and the Furious was a sleek and stylish film. There was plenty of high speed action and spectacular crashes. One of the main problems with this film though, and the rest of the franchise in general until number 5, was that they thought they could be gritty and realistic while maintaining their fairly thin plot and character development. To make a serious action movie you need to build it that way from the ground up, not make a generic and clichéd script before trying to add violence and bad language.  But it was still fairly successful at the box office, as you would expect as, because without some substantial takings with this instalment we wouldn’t have got another.
At the time though this may have been seen as a bad thing as the less said about 2 Fast 2 Furious the better. It felt a bit like a shameless cash-crab and in many ways it was, raking in another hefty profit for Universal. Many critics agreed that aside from the fast cars, Vin Diesel was the best thing about the first film, but he sits this one out and Paul Walker is left to wonder rather aimlessly without him. As well as this, compared to the (moderately) low budget but gritty sequences of the first and the mega budget, real stunts of the new ones and the first, the CGI car stunts on display here are laughable.  Once again the dialogue boils down to weird and unnatural trash talk, and a less serious tone that lacks as much fun as other instalments.
Tokyo Drift introduced us to a new generation of racers. This may have been some attempt at a shared universe franchise or just a reboot after the disappointing fan reaction to number 2. There’s some decent interaction between the younger cast, only one of which would become a major addition to the rest of the franchise. Tokyo Drift has a steadier and focussed style and was CGI free as well as a frantic and energetic pace but this improvement over 2 did not show at the box office, not even a Vin Diesel cameo as enough to tie it together with the rest of the series.
This attempt as a reboot did not pay off as immediately we were back to the old cast just as it looked like they had faded away for good. Diesel, Walker and most of the original cast, as well as one or two new faces from the sequels arrived to join in as well. The title annoyingly opts for Fast and Furious rather than putting a four in the title, something that has confused many people over the years when trying to google this film. For me there’s a real potential of matching grittiness with  a decent script. This is a darker and more serious instalment, examining the consequences of the characters actions in part one. The performances are also notably stronger and the plot is more complex, possibly over complex for this type though.
Fast Five is the instalment that people point to as the moment that this franchise became truly successful and loved. Abandoning their street race credentials for an emphasis on crime and heists, the gamble paid off big time. Huge profits were matched by bigger stunts and bigger men, introducing Dwayne Johnson as a worthy adversary (and later ally) for Diesel, so much so that he keeps coming back for them. As well as this Walker and Diesel share a much better relationship here, thy have a good time right from the off and their respect and admiration for one another is only undercut  by their constant attempts to be faster than one another. Each player has their moment and development, turning them from lesser side characters of inferior films to beloved team members. It’s a great example of big budget action done well.
Fast & Furious 6 was appropriately the 6th highest grossing film of that year, and with some good reason. This instalment’s villain may be rather underdeveloped compared to that of the Rock last time, but given that he’s still there to fight alongside the crew we can forgive it. There’s more focus on the relationship of the team itself with the reappearance of Diesel’s love interest and they have obviously found the right formula with Five, because here it is just copy and emphasise. For any other franchise that may be a disadvantage, but with the tone set in number five it was ideal for this kind of film. It may be devoid of tension but is undoubtedly awesome to watch, and honestly, in this kind of film with characters you actually care about you don’t want to be bogged down with drama.
My full review of number 7 is available on this blog. What are your thoughts on the Fast and Furious franchise , which is your favourite instalment and character from the series, leave a comment below to let me know and don’t forget to recommend Film Fanatic on google. 

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