Review: The Fate of the Furious
Two years ago, I saw the first seven installments of the Fast and Furious franchise in one sitting. Having only seen the first and third films prior, I was given a, uh, crash course on the saga and 13 hours plus later, I was a firm believer. Watching a goofy, bombastic, but earnest franchise rise itself from the ashes of $5 Walmart DVD bins into a stellar, genuinely powerful saga in real time was astounding. Almost by sheer willpower and persistence, along with better scripts and set pieces, the films were launched into iconic superstardom.
Starting with Fast Five and continuing on even after Paul Walker’s tragic death that led to the restructuring of the somehow still-stellar Furious 7, being a die-hard Furious fan isn’t reserved to the car-obsessed or prepubescent anymore. The series is often praised for its visuals, action, and refreshingly diverse cast, and rightfully so. The world does need a franchise like The Fast and the Furious. What the world doesn’t need, however, is another genuinely bad entry to the series and unfortunately The Fate of the Furious is exactly that.
As a cynic-turned-fan of the franchise it’s painful to see the eighth film, written once again by Chris Morgan (his 6th Furious script), fall off the wagon so hard. No, these movies are not seen for their stellar dialogue or plots, but F8 reverts back to some very bizarre and antiquated old ways. The stakes are lower, the thrills are less intense, and when the action is the pinnacle reason your film is seen and it falls flat, you’ve got nothing to fall back on.
With new direction from F. Gary Gray, known more for his more grounded films such as Straight Outta Compton and The Italian Job, he tragically brings a lot of that attitude to this film. Oftentimes, the film’s shots and sequences are composed so matter-of-factly that the disorientation doesn’t come from incoherent set pieces, but are far too plainly served. This is plain to see during one big action sequence, a prison break scene with Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. The ridiculousness of their anger and following kicks and punches were more reminiscent of Arnold Schwarzenegger fighting dozens of Santa Clauses in Jingle All The Way than anything resembling a truly impactful sequence. Under fluorescent light, the blemishes of the franchise become clearer and clearer, with no meta-ironic fallback or even earnest do-goodery to fall back on.
The most earnest character, Vin Diesel’s otherwise stellar take as Dominic Toretto, has been brainwashed mysteriously by Charlize Theron’s boring turn as villain Cipher and it’s up to the Family to stop her boring cyber-terrorist plot. I won’t beat up this film more than necessary, but there are just way too many things that didn’t add up for me and not enough spectacle to overcompensate.
Unfortunately, though, I don’t think many lessons will be learned. The goodwill earned from the last few entries will not penetrate any misstep Fate might be. But if Dom Toretto has taught me anything, it’s to take life a quarter mile at a time. Wake me up when they’re in space.