F9: The Fast Saga is showing signs that the long-running franchise might be hitting too many bumps on the road and has become too silly and too bloated for its own good.
Related: The Suicide Squad Is Crazy Fun And The Best Movie From The DCEU In Years
20 years ago, The Fast and the Furious was released in cinemas. A movie about a young cop infiltrating the world of street racing, the film resonated with audiences and became a huge hit. Since then, there have been eight sequels and one spin-off. Its success has spawned video games, a ride at Universal Studios, and even memes centered about Vin Diesel that spread all over the Internet for the past few months. But with the release of its latest installment; F9, is the franchise still going strong, or can this be a sign of franchise fatigue?
STRONG DIRECTION AND MORE FLESHED OUT FEMALE CHARACTERS
The first thing to note about the movie is series veteran Justin Lin as director. Lin, the man responsible for the series’ rebirth with Fast Five (2011), returns for his fifth movie in the series after being away from the franchise during its seventh and eighth installments. His return proves that nobody does Fast and Furious better than him as he masterfully directs the action sequences with precision and excitement. The car scenes swoop smoothly past the audience, never falling victim to shaky-cam problems that other Hollywood movies have, while the hand-to-hand combat scenes prove that he can also direct good fight sequences.
At the same time, one of the surprises in this film is how the female characters get to have more standout moments. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) gets to have more agency this time around and is a much more rounded character while Mia (Jordana Brewster) manages to have a bigger role rather than just being relegated to a love interest. Even Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), who usually serves as the team hacker, gets to have a scene where she can shine while Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren) has a brief but fun sequence in the movie.
Despite these points, however, the film does suffer from a weak script and plot contrivances. One big selling point of the film was the return of Han (Sung Kang) who had been killed in Fast and Furious 6 (2013) and while it might be fun to see him again, the film never justifies why he should be back and the reason for his return might be too convoluted even for this franchise. His role in the movie isn’t too big and because of that, his return seems more like an afterthought.
There are also certain plot points in the film that are dropped out of nowhere such as the search for Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell). His disappearance kickstarts the plot and yet the film forgets about him after 30 minutes. With a running time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, F9 is also very bloated with the plot coming to a halt during its second act. Characters just split off and do their own things and it just goes on far too long. For a franchise called Fast and Furious, the film feels slow and dragging in places.
TOO SILLY FOR IT’S OWN GOOD
Another problem with the film is that it might be too silly. While there have been cars pulling vaults and cars jumping out of airplanes before, F9 might be too outlandish for its own good. Cars swing like Spider-Man, villains punch through walls like Captain America, and even fan-favorite characters like Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges) go to outer space. They even poke fun at themselves, calling out how they always seem to get away from life-threatening situations and while self-referential humor is fine, this does seem to show a glaring problem with the series.
With characters being invincible and dead people returning from the grave, it takes away the danger needed in action movies. We love action movies because we love seeing our heroes barely escape perilous situations. We love them because they’re human and so it’s satisfying whenever they overcome adversity and save the day. With F9, the family has been transformed into a bunch of supermans and if they’re never going to be hurt nor be killed, then why should we even care?
LESS FAMILY, MORE DOM AND FRIENDS
Finally, the film’s biggest flaw is the lack of stars to balance out Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel). While the female characters get to do more than previous entries, F9 feels like the Dom show. In the previous films, Brian O’Connor (Paul Walker) served as co-protagonist, having equal screen time and serving as the everyman of the group. While the rest of the cast were these bombastic personalities, Brian was the grounding force of the series, having relatable dilemmas such as fatherhood and starting a family. While the team’s antics become sillier as the movies passed, his presence still made the films feel human.
In the latter sequels, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) helped re-energize the movies with his charisma and his larger-than-life presence. Because of Johnson’s star power, his role in the series was big enough so he can be Dom’s equal. Because of their absences (Walker tragically passed away in 2013 and Johnson has his public feud with Diesel), the film is then left in the hands of Dom alone. While Diesel certainly gives it his all, the absences of his co-stars are sorely felt. Jakob Toretto (John Cena) is a passable villain, but he never gets a chance to shine nor is he ever shown to be someone equally important as Dom which lessens his impact as a credible foe. The lack of characters and actors to serve as Diesel’s equal makes the team feel less like a family but rather Dom and his sidekicks.
BUMPY ROAD TO THE FINISH LINE
F9 is a sign of a long-running franchise that might be hitting too many bumps on the road. It’s a movie that has become too silly and too bloated for its own good. While Lin’s direction is much appreciated, the film’s flaws drag it down and make it one of the franchise’s weaker installments and with its outrageous and physics-defying sequences, the film veers too close to self-parody.
Continue Reading: Blood Red Sky Is Snakes On A Plane Meets Vampires, And It Works Surprisingly Well