Even in today’s era where franchises are king, it’s rare to see one stretch to eight movies. And back in 2001 when Paul Walker and Vin Diesel first teamed up to deliver the Point Break meets Need for Speed movie ‘The Fast and The Furious’, it would have been a safe bet that they weren’t sitting on a franchise gold mine. Yet now we stand, sixteen years later, and the Fate of the Furious has hit cinemas to one of the biggest international opening weekends ever. Even though Paul Walker has unfortunately passed away, the movie franchise remains beloved. But after so many movies, has the series started to lose its legs?
The big story behind The Fate of The Furious is that Dominic Toretto, the head of the family, has turned his back on them, seemingly going rogue and teaming up with the terrorist Cypher. Now the team has to come together and stop one of their own. It’s a simple enough premise, although one that was genuinely shocking when it was shown in the first trailer. We’ve seen elements of it back in Fast 6 with Letty, but that was treated as more of a secondary plot while the focus was still just stopping the bad guys. This time around Dom’s betrayal is front and centre, and far more interwoven with the save the world narrative that takes the cast to shiny new destinations.
As the eighth instalment in the franchise, you know exactly what you’re getting into with this movie: big dumb fun action, and you should know by now if it’s your cup of tea or not. The last few movie have consistently hit their mark in this area, and the series clearly wants to step away from its early street racing past but feels obliged to include a token scene. In Fate of the Furious they chuck it in at the start (along with the gratuitous female slow panning shots) almost to check it off the list and move on. The movie then settles into the heist/car warfare formula that has served it well for the rest of the movie, delivering a healthy mix of humour and the kind of action you’d roll your eyes at if you weren’t already on board with the franchise’s premise.
Nothing here will really surprise you action wise, especially since most of the big scenes were hinted at in the marketing campaign. The Submarine chase is the highlight here, and while it is fun and bombastic it doesn’t quite capture the visual awe of some of the stunts they’ve already accomplished. The New York scene is fine, but it isn’t until halfway through that it really gets interesting, and the build up to the tension felt like it dragged a little longer than it needed to, given what was actually going on. That being said though, it still delivers what you want coming into these movies, and it really only suffers because of how ridiculous the series has already been willing to get when it comes to entertaining us with impossible car stunts.
Where the action works though is, surprisingly, through the story. With Dominic Toretto with the bad guys, the stakes are higher for the family since they’re fighting one of their own, and although the whole family angle has been beaten like a dead horse by the franchise it works for ramping up the action. The best of this though isn’t inside of a car, but towards the end of the movie in a scene that might not have the explosions and chaos of a typical Fast and Furious scene, but nailed the tone and fun that you’d expect from the series.
The Rock spends most of his time in this movie channelling his old wrestling days, talking trash to anyone who looks at him sideways, and it is an absolute sight to behold. The tension and back and forth banter between he and Statham carries the movie through the necessary setup to the crux of the film. Given he was sidelined through much of the seventh film, seeing The Rock back at the forefront is great. Statham too is a highlight, seeing him interact with the very people he was at war with a movie ago is fun, and the sheer movie absurdity of that premise (given what happened previously) helps set the scene for things to come. Statham’s charm also helps ease the character into a more likeable role, which could have easily been botched in lesser hands.
There was a big hole to fill in the family with the passing of Paul Walker, but the return of Nathalie Emmanuel’s Megan Ramsay, as well as Statham’s involvement, helps to keep the dynamic both fresh and fun. Everyone else is basically cut and pasted from their previous movies, so when Tyrese Gibson’s on screen you get the same Roman Pearce you’ve always gotten, and same for Ludcaris’ Tej. Vin Diesel gets a bit more to work with character wise this time around, which is understandable given his turn is the main focus of the plot, but given his character has barely changed in the seven films prior it is nice to see some progression here.
Charlize Theron delivers one of the more memorable villains of the franchise. She feels genuinely evil, and doesn’t accomplish it just by blowing stuff up like previous villains have done. It’s still a cheesy role, but within the universe they’ve established it works well, and there’s enough investment into Dom’s story that everything she says carries a little more weight than it would have otherwise. There’s also Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood), who gets assigned to the family to watch over them and keep them on course. He’s fine as a secondary character, but his inclusion into the action and the family comes off a little forced, and almost feels like they included him because without Paul Walker the team was missing a generic handsome white guy
Ultimately Fate of the Furious doesn’t reach the pinnacle the franchise attained back in Fast Five, instead falling somewhere around the middle of the pack. Despite this, it still manages to be a fun and wild ride, giving us the most growth in Dom’s character yet and also managing to be one of the funnier movies in the franchise. You should know by now if you’re on board with the family or think it’s lowest common denominator drivel, and this movie isn’t going to be the one to change your mind. But if you’re into the series – and I am – it’s another fun addition to the story with ridiculous and well choreographed action that lets you leave your brain at the door and have a good time.