Coming up with a sequel is no easy feat, let alone coming up with an entire franchise. There are cases where sequels are much anticipated and add a lot to the overall story in a franchise (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Logan come to mind). However, there are also sequels which totally ruin things, with films such as The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 leaving us feel mocked for having waited for the final film in the series.
Then, there’s the Fast and Furious franchise, which has now reached its 8th installment. The franchise began to explode after the 5th film. With each new sequel in the franchise, new characters have been added, each adding their own piece to the puzzle, but it is ultimately the strong chemistry between Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker which glues everything together. However, before the completion of Furious 7, actor Paul Walker tragically passed away in an accident, leaving the fate of future installments in doubt. The newly released 8th film, aptly-titled The Fate of the Furious, is the first to not feature Paul Walker (who passed away right before the 7th film was completed). Furious 7 managed to pay tribute to the fallen actor and utilize every last bit of Paul Walker’s character (which was respectfully ended in that film), so can the 8th film capture the magic without him?
Well, fate cannot be changed, but Vin Diesel and crew are still furious. While that may make some happy, it may leave others equally, if not more furious.
The Fast & Furious franchise has always been about action and stunts, albeit bordering on being crazy and illogical at times. With every film, the action gets crazier and more intense. In Fast Five, there was the jaw-dropping scene where Dominic Toretto and co pulled out a safe from a bank with their cars and dragged it through the streets of Rio De Janeiro. Furious 7 had that reckless yet ridiculous car jump between the Burj Khalifa towers in Dubai. Fate of the Furious keeps up with the trend of featuring crazy action scenes, with more mind-boggling scenes jam-packed into this installment. One of the biggest highlights in the film is the entire act in New York. In one part, the film’s villain, Cipher hacks into every single possible hackable car (is that even possible?) and unleashes a sea of zombie cars flowing through the streets – a mind-blowing scene which really needs to be seen, while in another part, Dominic Toretto pulls off impossible moves to out-do his former team (as seen in the above screenshot).
And that brings us to the plot. In practically all the films before, Dominic Toretto has always been portrayed as this slick and super intelligent guy who can always out-smart any villain, with so many impossible plans and tricks up his sleeve. It got to a point where the predictability can cause fury really fast. However, this film features Dom seduced to the dark side by Cipher (wonderfully played by Charlize Theron), with his former crew being hired by Kurt Russell’s Mr Nobody to capture him and bring him to justice. It’s a breath of fresh air to see the series main hero suddenly become the bad guy for once, and the motivations for him turning against his crew was a very powerful and moving one. On top of that, Charlize Theron did a good job of making Cipher the perfect villain in the series – you really feel the cold character and intensity of her threats which force Dom to join her side. Previous films (except Furious 7) have had poorly done villains, so having not one but two strong characters (Dom and Cipher) as the bad guys really propel the story forward would no doubt leave both Dom’s crew and the audience furious.
Dom’s motivation for joining Cipher’s side was also quite well-done and was a welcome surprise. In no way did anybody expect Dom to actually have a child with Elena (from the 5th-7th film), so to have his child’s fate hanging brings out a human side of Dom which we’ve never seen in previous films. We really get to see him struggle with being alone and coping with an uncertain fate rather furiously, yet not wanting to be alone, which is very powerful in this film.
Speaking of character, character development is also nicely done in Fate of the Furious. Many characters are well fleshed out in this film, but fate seems to have big plans for Deckard Shaw (amazingly played by Jason Statham, first introduced in the post-credit scene of Fast and Furious 6). His motivations in the previous film were explained to the point where his character is technically redeemed, and the final showdown which features him taking on Cipher’s jet is a standout. Jason Statham has always done his own stunts, and they really shine here in Fate of the Furious. Plus, his one-liners and chemistry with the rest of the characters are undeniable. It almost feels like fate, in fact.
However, despite the many good points that Fate of the Furious has, it is fate that everything in life has its ups and downs, and the film isn’t without its shortcomings. Aside from the motivations as to why Dom turned against his own crew, everything in this film is rather formulaic. Race scene on the streets involving Dom and some random gangster who later becomes important? Check. Impossible stunts? Check. Crazy plot twist? Check. Crazy, sneaky plan that you wonder when Dom planned them? Check. Dom always wins? Check. New character who joins and bonds quickly with the crew? Check. No bruises or wounds after crazy action? Check. The film had the chance to break new ground and be different, but alas, it furiously chose to stick to the same formula which defines the series, for better or for worse. Also, after how badly Dom betrayed his family/crew, his acceptance back into the crew near the end of the film just felt so fast that it makes viewers furious as to how one can be forgiven a bit too easily.
All in all, Fate of the Furious is an enjoyable film. The action scenes, while crazy and mind-boggling, are definitely enjoyable, and the characters and scenes are memorable. However, fate can’t change the fact that the formulaic nature of the series drives viewers crazy and leaves them furiously wondering why didn’t the producers rewrite that fate.