To date there are seven installments, and it should culminate with ten. The arguments of those responsible are very simple: if the public keeps wanting to see more installments, they will be made. Money is not a problem, as the saga has multiplied by three every dollar invested in its production, so it is also a very profitable franchise. I've seen all the films, but not the shorts, which I didn't know about until today.
How do you make so many installments of a movie that started out about street racing with tuner cars? They haven't done like the typical successful series, which are quite predictable in their basic structure, they have done something different each time, some with more success and others with less. The cars have been very present in each installment, yes, but we can now speak calmly of a saga of action films and adventures in general.
NOTE: The article is written in such a way that spoilers are as light as possible, I guarantee that if you haven't seen all the movies I won't spoil them for you.
It's been a while since the first movie, The Fast & The Furious, was released in June 2001. The two most mediatic characters of the saga were Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, and they have been working together until Walker died in a car accident. Between them there was more than a professional relationship, it is clear that they have been very good friends in real life.
In all the films of the saga we have as a common denominator the life of criminals, without necessarily talking about evil: they are anti-heroes. It could be said that being a good citizen is very trivialized... There is no lack of the "bad guy" and his gang of henchmen, who are not only criminals, but people we wouldn't want to have as neighbours, real sons of fruit.
Digging into the plot, the usual cultural elements appear, such as the struggle between good and evil, the importance of values (family, loyalty, justice...), stereotypical roles (the tough guy, the funny guy, the hunk, the "nigger"...), etc. Yes, we can say that the Fast & Furious saga is a cultural product with all its letters, another thing would be to say cultural (little) or culturist (of this there is something more).
The story does not close at any time, always has an open ending and makes a link with another installment in a coherent way. Moreover, the coherence of the script is far superior to that of the "Star Wars" saga, much to my regret. Maybe there's something I'm missing now, but I didn't get my hands up in my head because of script failures. There are some, but you have to be a little picky, that's not necessary in George Lucas's saga.
What's more, I have to applaud how well the seventh film was resolved, considering that Paul Walker died before filming was completed. I was very touched by the tact and delicacy with which his friends in fiction and in reality say their goodbyes to the character and the man. It was a moment where you can take a huge amount of respect for the crew behind it, and stop thinking about a film product only meant to fill their pockets.
The last installments are not at all recommendable for those who have a delicate coronary health.
A moviegoer can notice changes between the different installments, for example when we talk about different directors. We will appreciate a process of maturation in the saga, in which the aim is to keep the fan happy, but also to make a good film. If we see the films in the right order, we will see that the plot is well connected. Whether we then talk about more or less fantasy, spookiness and impossibilities, that's another matter.
Fast & Furious and the world of cars
Once you see all the films, it is clear that there are two categories that are clearly above the others: the "imports" (Japanese) and the "muscle cars" (American), from a point of view quite focused on the USA. If we look closely, the role played by Europeans is more discreet, with hardly any mention of brands or models. And if we talk about South Koreans, or more exotic manufacturers, they practically don't exist.
Fortunately, it is a saga little contaminated by the whims of marketing, there are much more striking examples in the cinema, without going very far, the "Transporter" saga. We are going to realize that for example the bad guys are more sympathetic to the European product than the good guys. Brands like Land Rover, Volkswagen or BMW have a more negative connotation than Dodge, Ford, Honda or Toyota. There is some embedded advertising ("product placement") but it's done in a way that it's not outrageous when it comes to cars.
They don't really like stock cars, they tend to be modified to the hilt, regardless of whether they're modern or classic cars. The little we see of series, obviating the extras, are very high-end cars. And well, for those of us who know about this, we are going to find some nonsense, but believe me, it is much more bleeding in the treatment they give to everything related to IT.
Are you losing? Nothing, downshift and full throttle
It seems that the gearboxes are infinite, because they don't stop downshifting and always have a reserve of power, even if it seems that they were already on fire. In a normal car, we over rev the engine if we do that. It's like if I'm in third gear at 140 at 6,500 RPM, and I want more power, nothing, I go down to second, pass the injection cut, and if it doesn't blow up, I keep going. Guys, don't try this at home.
These films have created a sort of audio-visual language of sporty driving that could be like that in real life. If every time I changed gear, the gearboxes, the dump valves or the exhaust sounded like that, the DGT would have already put me in jail and they would have thrown the key into the sea. I don't know if it squeaks more in manual or automatic gearboxes, what do you say about it?
The most knowledgeable in tuning issues are going to get sick of seeing prestigious brands of high performance components: AE Performance, HKS, Fox, Veilside... That aspect of the film is well done, at least in my opinion, my thing is more about stock cars than tuned ones. It's a delight for the senses, and thank goodness they don't exaggerate as much as in the first installments. When they put in the nitrous oxide, it felt like they were jumping into hyperspace.
Good cops, bad cops, good bad cops and really bad bad cops.
We'll find all of these and in abundance, it gets away from the easy association of who's the good guy and who's the bad guy, starting with the two main characters. The most consistent characters are the bad guys, you know they are from the first moment, until the end. And there are bad guys and bad guys, when one makes comparisons with Jason Statham, because all the other bad guys do not even reach the height of the bitumen.
Sometimes it borders on the ridiculous the flexibility that seems to have the American judicial system, which goes from giving you a life sentence to pardoning you at the snap of a finger. Well, we are talking about fiction, but the Spanish judicial system is funnier, and you all know what I mean. Only the chorizos and caraduras in Spain spend less time in jail than the protagonists of these movies, but it's reality, and we don't like that so much anymore.
In the fifth installment, it seems that all the police in Rio de Janeiro are corrupt. I would like to know the impressions of a Brazilian about the treatment they give to their country. Next to him, the treatment they give to Spain is extremely indulgent, they don't mess with our country in anything, and they run away from clichés. That's a lesson for much more prestigious productions, and there's no need to give examples, I'm sure we know a few.
Matrix, matrix everywhere
Last week, I had only seen the first three films, the others were accumulating for A or B. On Thursday I watched the fourth one, and on Friday the fifth, sixth and seventh. There is a noticeable change from the previous installments, the action becomes fast-paced, and there comes a time when you do not know if you're watching Matrix or Fast & Furious. The adrenaline rush still lasts, as an entertainment product it's hard to beat it.
Another thing that is noticeable, besides the change of director, is the budget. For example, the seventh film has cost almost the same as the entire first trilogy, although on April 3rd, just released, it had already collected those 190 million dollars only in the United States! The first film was "cheap", 38 million dollars, the second, third and fourth doubled that budget. The ones that have followed have gone over $100 million.
To date, they have grossed more than 3 billion dollars since 2001.
Of course, with such a budget you can have a waste of special effects (without abusing the digital ones, very common nowadays), smash cars by the hundreds and cause such massive destruction that Saddam Hussein looks like an amateur. You can see what they've spent the money on, but how good it looks! How comforting it is to spare no expense, that you know you're going to get all your investment back, and with interest.
It hurts to see so many cars being wrecked, but it's quite realistic. We have become accustomed - for the worse - to the Hollywood industry selling us an hour and a half or two hours of digital special effects, without which the film would be unwatchable. We must also honor the truth and say that many of the things we are going to see are total fantasmadas, physics is often violated mercilessly!
Let's face it, if these movies didn't break the laws of physics in any way, they would be pretty boring. Only with good "parkour" it wouldn't have been the same. In fact, it is one of the resources of the saga, that we see things so improbable that we reach the climax sooner in action, and it is more difficult for the viewer to get bored. With the last ones, I couldn't take my eyes off the screen.
In my opinion, the third part (Tokyo Drift) could have been spared. I'm sorry, it doesn't make sense that a guy who goes to high school is actually 24 years old and appears to be over 30. It seems like a filler installment for its little connection with the other films, moreover, you can understand the whole saga without even having seen it. It was the least profitable of the saga, "only" doubled the budget in box office, and in terms of criticism, they put worse other deliveries.
Testosterone out of the bag
Another aspect that I liked more of the last movies are the fights, although they lack "a little" of realism. I don't know about you, but if a guy so strong gives us a typical punch, he leaves us unconscious at first, others don't even bleed. It's erotic to see how Dwayne Johnson or Jason Statham get their backs tanned with a clean slap, or Vin Diesel handing out consecrated punches. I loved the fights, they give a very dynamic and punk touch.
Not only are we going to enjoy the fights of the macho males of the place, but also when two girls get into a fistfight. I'm curious to know what's going to happen in the next movies, because the bar keeps getting higher and higher in terms of violence. I don't mean gratuitous violence, the gore is very under control and there's a lot less blood than there should be. It's politically correct violence, we can see more blood on any TV news...
The inclusion of tough guys has given a lot to the saga, a success in the case of Dwayne Johnson. His muscles, constant sweat on his face and lapidary phrases are more typical of the "Mercenaries" saga, but it could be worse, he's one of the good guys! He has beaten Vin Diesel in macarrism, and the bar was already set pretty high. If you haven't seen any movies yet, you'll understand what I'm talking about?
Finally, we can say that the human side of all the characters has been deepened, with time we end up knowing them quite well, which is a detail of quality of the script.
A highlight, the selection of girls who come out in the environment of illegal races, make you want to become a daredevil of the steering wheel. On the other side, a big downside, there are musical pieces that destroy the film, are very bad in relation to other great songs like those of Ludacris (who is also an interpreter in the saga).
Fast & Furious is going to go down in film history as a revered action movie saga, which despite having many installments, enjoys more respect than other franchises. I don't know how it will stand the test of time, maybe it will become a cult saga when autonomous cars populate the streets en masse or gasoline exceeds 2 euros per liter.
I know there are better movies critically, and there are more realistic car movies. Now "Need For Speed" doesn't seem so spectacular to me anymore, what can I say. I've enjoyed like a pig with the whole saga, and I still enjoy it every time I play any installment with a good speaker system. If they release a special edition on Bluray with DTS sound I'm going to do anything to get it.
Too bad Paul Walker is not going to appear again in the saga. The seventh film is a brutal tribute to the actor, but also to the fans. Although I was watching to see in which scenes they had used doubles or digital recreation to replace him, it was only evident in one shot, during the rest of the film I took the bait like a stupid fish. Paul, you are already immortal, as well as the saga, you deserved it. Others of us have a miserable life and drive a Prius.
Who would have thought I would be excited about this movie....