This isn’t going to be the longest post for two reasons: 1) I made a bet with a friend and am only eating leaves for the entirety of today [this was my breakfast] and am therefore weak in mind, body, and spirit, and 2) this is a very straightforward assessment that two other other writers have already broken ground on already. Let me take a single step back, though, and remind you of what happens in a week’s time and why I’m writing this.
Furious 7 comes out.
I know I used my love of comic books to springboard my post on Flash Boys, the novel Aaron Sorkin refuses to write a screenplay for because “there aren’t any Asian movie stars”, but here we are again. Well, sort of. See, comic books only reach so large an audience. Comic book movies, on the other hand? They find themselves as two out of the top five highest grossing movies of last year [four of the top ten]. Everyone wants to get in on that business, to the point where a shared universe of larger-than-life characters was one of the goals of the truly awful Dracula Untold. Here’s the thing Universal, you already own The Fast and Furious [referred to as FF from this point on] franchise which has been going hard since the early aughts.
Remember at the end of Iron Man when Tony Stark meets Nick Fury for the first time and your nerdy friend gripped your arm so hard you thought they would snap it and whispered directly into your ear that “it’s happening“? The FF movies have been pulling that same move for years without the help of a narrative that’s been ongoing since the 60s. Every one of their reveals is builds on the preceding films,and the fact that they’ve managed to make this viewer drop his jaw is worth mentioning in and of itself.
But really, enough about continuity. At this point I should pass the reins to Marc Bernardin, who wrote the very accurately titled “Fast Five is the superheroes-assemble movie you’ve been waiting for (Sorry, Avengers)” four years ago. And I quote:
“In each of these films, the characters can do things in cars that defy both logic and the laws of physics. And when outside of their garishly colored vehicles, they prove impossible to kill by conventional means: bullets never find their targets, explosions merely singe their clothes, jumps from preposterous heights simply piss them off.
In other words, there is no functional difference between these guys and most of the Marvel Universe. They are, for all intents and purposes, superheroes.”
Continuity, check. Larger-than-life characters, check. What do these films really offer that Kevin Feige and the rest of the crew over at Marvel Studios hasn’t already? Again, Bernardin, if you would be so kind:
“And I challenge you to find another studio film with this diverse a cast that isn’t in some way about race or, at the very least, hits you over the head with its diversity. The F&F flicks are full-to-bursting with blacks, Hispanics, all kinds of Asians, a Pacific Islander or two, and a crazy-quilt of ethnic blends and no one takes notice of it. In fact, there’s really only one white dude in the whole damned saga who isn’t a villain.”
That’s right, while Marvel has up to this point had three franchises starring White dudes named Chris over at Universal their FF has been perfectly content to have one, and I repeat, one, role in their very large casts be taken up by a member of that particular demographic. Also I can’t not mention that they portrayed an Asian male as a sexually attractive human being which is not really done in the entertainment industry.
To draw things back to comic books, which I don’t even necessarily think we have to at this point, Brett White in his column In Your Face Jam breaks down some very specific parallels between FF and one his personal favourite titles, X-Force–
“Both ‘X-Force’ and ‘Fast & Furious’ are about evolution. They both started out as one thing — the teen-drama series ‘New Mutants’ and a ‘Romeo & Juliet’ with cars series — and morphed into a more extreme version of themselves.”
He also goes on to draw further comparisons between their over-the-top completely bonkers action scenes, their diversity as just mentioned, and their focus on “familial bonds based on shared experience and mutual respect.” These are bombastic high octane series, but they’re fundamentally optimistic works-
-which is more rare than you might think, especially given that the first building block in DC/Warner Bros. shared universe took their most hope-inspiring intellectual property and turned him into, well . . . that’s a post from another time. As cheesy as lines like the one above may seem, and they are that, they’re part of the reason that the FF movies attract the audiences they do. Bad things happen, but the franchise refuses to let its characters and narratives dwell on them.
I would’ve been enamoured with The Fast and the Furious based on their seeming commitment to diversity alone, and everything else is just a little something extra on a cake that is already mostly frosting. This movie appeals to me as a lover of comic books, representation in media, and one incredibly enormous man lifting up an even bigger man to be elbowed in the face by another incredibly enormous man.
They’re the real deal, and I couldn’t recommend them more.
Oh, also they’re funny. I mean, c’mon.
I’m going to go eat another salad now.
And here I thought I was the only one critically analyzing the Fast franchise. 😉
Not sure if you saw this one, but I talk about Fast Five here. (One caveat before reading: I pick it apart in the article, but I did actually enjoy the movie):