For the past 16 years, the Fast franchise has occupied somewhat of a strange zone in the movie world. While successful, the series didn’t truly reach blockbuster status until Fast Five, which made more than $600 million worldwide. Coincidentally – or perhaps not – that was also the film in which Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson joined in on the fun, elevating the series beyond its somewhat low-level roots.
But in bringing in such a massive personality, the producers set themselves down a road that led them to The Fate of the Furious, the eighth film in the series that feels far removed from the simple street racing story of the original.
In fact, it’s become obvious that the producers feel they have to compete with the Marvel universe, as they’ve transitioned the characters into superhero proxies. In so doing, the action goes from being merely somewhat preposterous to completely ridiculous, leaving any semblance of believability choking on the cars’ exhaust.
Befitting this apparent desire to be a comic book movie, the story of Fate is merely a loose framework on which director F. Gary Gray and writer Chris Morgan can attach whatever absurd scenario their hearts desire. Dom (Vin Diesel) is roped into turning rogue by new character Cipher (Charlize Theron), an evil woman with vague genius-level computer skills and even hazier world domination ambitions.
The already established Fast family – Hobbs (Johnson), Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), and Deckard (Jason Statham) – are brought together by a federal agent by the name of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) to track Dom and Cipher down, because if you’re trying to copy The Avengers, why not just go all out?
Curiously, though, the action scenes for which the Fast series is known are somewhat lacking. The only two of note are one in which Cipher hacks into hundreds of cars’ computers to turn a downtown chase into utter chaos, and the final sequence in which, somehow, a tank and a submarine come into play. In both cases, the CGI is so poor that it feels like you’re watching a video game, with the stakes being absolutely nothing.
Complaining about a Fast movie being ludicrous is akin to spitting into the wind, as that’s what the series has hung its hat on from the beginning. But in this case, it’s not just the over-the-top action scenes that feel phony. For a series that has made much of its characters being a family, there’s very little that feels honest in this film. The absence of Paul Walker, who was memorably sent off in Furious 7 after dying midway through filming, is felt deeply here, and no amount of joking camaraderie makes up for that.
The fate of the Fast series is unknown, but with Nos. 9 and 10 already being planned, it’s clear it won’t end anytime soon. But for anyone who wants more than just car crashes, deaths, and one-liners, The Fate of the Furious is a non-starter.