The Fate of the Furious
The Fate of the Furious takes the over-the-top franchise in a new direction, stumbling occasionally, but still injecting enough high-octane action to please its target audience.
The Fate of the Furious is the eighth installment in the never-ending Fast & Furious franchise, written by series staple Chris Morgan and directed by a newcomer to the series, F. Gary Gray. The Fate of the Furious attempts to steer the franchise into a new direction, but stumbles as its writing focuses less on the core family theme and more on the big-budget spectacle set pieces. Actors like Charlize Theron and Scott Eastwood are added to the ever-stacked cast, while last outings baddie Jason Statham is given an even more prominent role and honestly steals the film. The Fate of the Furious is off-balanced, fatty and full of sugar, but damn if it isn’t an entertaining thrill ride.
The Fate of the Furious finds the “team” (which now includes Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson and Nathalie Emmanuel) going up against a new enemy known simply as Cipher (Charlize Theron) and their hardest foe yet; Dom (Vin Diesel). Why Dom has decided to betray the team is an initial mystery that is revealed rather early on.
The team is forced to team-up with Furious 7‘s big baddie Deckard (Jason Statham), while under the direction of Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) and his new associate Little Nobody (Scott Eastwood).
The Fast & Furious is no stranger to bringing in endless amounts of people to fatten the roster, which makes The Fate of the Furious’ new talent feel very welcomed, especially with the large absence of the late Paul Walker and his on-screen wife, played by Jordana Brewster.
The Fate of the Furious starts with a bang, filled with tightly-clothed women, exotic locations and fast cars, all of which set up Dom’s rogue story rather quickly, which leaves the rest of the two hour and sixteen minute film open for the usual comedic shenanigans and car-themed action.
Those looking for a return to roots car-racing film will be disappointed; the Fast & Furious franchise has drifted into heist territory ever since Fast Five revitalized the dried up B-series and turned it into a bonafide money-maker for Universal and a constant stream of popcorn entertainment for movie-lovers.
Unfortunately, each sequel since then has managed to be less memorable, with Fast & Furious 6 being a completely over-blown over-the-top action film that never quite found its footing, while Furious 7 stepped up its game and paid proper tribute to Paul Walker.
What The Fate of the Furious does is something slightly different and more bold. It attempts to steer the franchise into a new direction, hinting at the idea of a new trilogy at the very least, which would focus on the team’s hunt for cyber-terrorists like Cipher, with the continued help of the Nobody’s and hopefully Deckard.
The theme of family and the strong bond that it holds for the first time in the entire franchise feels slightly artificial in The Fate of the Furious, with the film’s “plot twist” pretty much all but forcing that notion on you, instead of letting you feel it through the characters and the decisions they make.
Vin Diesel‘s Dom has never been the greatest cinematic character, but one that worked with the balance of Paul Walker‘s Brian. Dom and Brian worked together like peanut butter and jelly and without Brian you’re simply left with the one-note tough guy that doesn’t exactly have enough chemistry to carry a franchise or lead a team.
Luckily, the series picked up Dwayne Johnson some time ago, but even he can only go so far when it comes to being a brute with a sense of humor.
Paul Walker‘s absence is largely felt, but The Fate of the Furious continues to speed on, while it attempts to plant the seeds of what is to come.
One of the brightest spots of The Fate of the Furious is Jason Statham‘s involvement. He worked aces as the determined bad ass in Furious 7 and now he brings that same unstoppable charm to the “good side” as an ally with a mutual interest. Watching Statham and Johnson bounce disses off of each other is hilarious and fulfilling and watching Statham use his hand-to-hand combat knowledge against bad guys gives the team a little more credibility when they’re out of their cars and forced to do battle.
Charlize Theron is a good enough villain to shake up the team’s normal problems, expanding their dilemma from a simple dictator trying to takeover a country to an all-out cyber-terrorist trying to destroy the world.
The stakes definitely haven’t been much higher, but honesty how much higher can they go?
I know we’ve teased the idea of the team going to space, but at this point that seems like the only real natural progression.
Director F. Gary Gray struggles with putting his stamp on this wild and colorful series. The Fate of the Furious may feature some epic action sequences and special effects that will blow your mind, but was I the only one that felt like the entire film looked a little drab and ugly? Close-up handheld shots looked unfocused and unappealing, while the bigger moments felt well-constructed, but never magical.
Furious 7 director James Wan managed to bring a sense of spacial awareness and creativity to his shot selections and overall directing, while Fast 3, 4, 5 and 6 director Justin Lin continuously kept upping his game with each new outing, yet F. Gary Gray‘s film looks like a very standard presentation that features no amazing camerawork.
I’m starting to wonder how much of these films are shot by actual director’s and how much are forced upon by the studio to retain a certain look and style, with only minor room for variance and creativity? The Fate of the Furious looks and feels like a very standard Fast & Furious film.
There’s still a lot to enjoy with The Fate of the Furious. The action is next-level silly and the situations that these characters get into are beyond comical. This truly is a superhero series, with more unbelievable situations than anything Marvel has ever put out and that’s not a knock on the franchise at all.
I generally love these films and consider them to be strong examples of how to do franchise filmmaking well, while Michael Bay‘s Transformers series is how not to do franchise filmmaking at all.
The characters are what truly makes these films work and The Fate of the Furious has no shortage of characters. Charlize Theron and Scott Eastwood give the film new blood, while the returning cast continues to strengthen their on-screen bond and friendship. Including strong actors like Kurt Russell and Jason Statham definitely help cover up the one-note abilities of Vin Diesel‘s Dom and to a much lesser extent, Ludacris and Tyrese Gibson.
The Fate of the Furious leaves plenty of room for improvement in future installments, while also hopefully allowing for series writer Chris Morgan a bit more time to string everything together, but as is; it’s one of those middle-of-the-road entries that I enjoyed, but didn’t immediately fall in love with.
Perhaps future re-watches will help cement it in my rankings, but right now here is my order from best to worst:
Fast Five, Furious 7, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fate of the Furious, Fast & Furious 6, The Fast and the Furious, Fast & Furious. (5, 7, 3, 2, 8, 6, 1, 4).