Question Club: Is Fate of the Furious driving the franchise in the wrong direction?

Back in 2001, a moody, slick little $38 million action movie called The Fast and the Furious became a big hit, racking up more than $200 million in box office returns worldwide. A sequel was inevitable, but the series’s rapid expansion has been surprising, especially considering its unevenness and its gleeful, unabashed ridiculousness. From timeline-warping leaps to outsized stunts to its habit of converting villains to anti-hero buddies, the series has unabashedly embraced an over-the-top aesthetic where no twist is too ridiculous, if it’s played straight enough. What started out as a comparatively low-key, low-stakes action drama has turned into “the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but with cars.” The cast just keeps getting bigger, as the shoutouts and fan-service piles up, and the stunts have to get bigger as well. How do you top a team of cars parachuting out of a plane in Furious 7? Apparently by hacking a quarter of the cars in Manhattan into a fleet, aggressive remote-controlled army.

The eighth movie in the series, The Fate of the Furious, is as big as the world stage, and as gloriously, unapologetically dumb as its creators could make it. It’s also meant as a new start for the series, a recentering after the death of original series star Paul Walker, and the kickoff of a trilogy that continues its characters’ mutation from criminals in a soap opera melodrama to globetrotting, government-sanctioned action-heroes in a soap opera melodrama. In this edition of Question Club, we consider the series’s new and bigger look, and ask: has this gotten too fast or too furious for us yet?

Warning: Fate of the Furious spoilers ahead.

  Fast and Furious 6.

How do you feel about Vin Diesel taking over Paul Walker’s place as the series’s heart?

Chris: I fundamentally disagree with the notion that Vin Diesel is now the heart of this series. I liked Diesel in the original film, loved his return after he skipped the second entry (and most of the third), and overall appreciated the relationship his “outlaw with a heart of gold” shared with Paul Walker’s “cop with a lead foot.” But Fate of the Furious has me second-guessing Diesel’s significance within this series, and wondering if Walker quietly did the emotional heavy lifting for the duo.

Tasha: If he isn’t the heart, who is? Fate of the Furious revolves around Dominic Toretto’s decisions, his big action moves, his angst over making those moves, and his emotional torment over the kidnapping of his ex and the baby he didn’t know he had. The film is fundamentally about his emotions, and about everyone else’s emotions primarily as they relate to him. Diesel’s character isn’t just the hero here, he’s the focus of nearly every feeling in the movie. Jason Statham’s character, Deckard Shaw, is the only one with an agenda that doesn’t really tie into Diesel’s in some way.

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