(SPOILER WARNING: The following review contains several major spoilers for Fate of the Furious. You have been warned.)
Let me preface this review by saying this: I thoroughly enjoyed Fate of the Furious, and if you’re a fan of the Fast series (or at least somewhat enjoy them) then you’ll have a good time. Ok, we got that out of the way.
As I cruised through Fate of the Furious at breakneck pace, with action set-pieces almost colliding with each other in an effort to keep viewers from losing even an ounce of adrenaline they’ve built up, I couldn’t help but come back to the same thought: does any of this make sense anymore? Not in the idea that the stunts and action that the characters partake in ever made sense – physics and logic is something the Fast series correctly did away with around the fifth installment, which is when the series got really good – but rather that in the context of the universe that Universal has created, it just didn’t feel quite right.
Firstly, we might as well get this out of the way: Dom “turns” evil because the villain, played by Charlize Theron, has kidnapped Elena (the Brazilian cop that Dom had a relationship with at the end of Fast Five) and her newborn son, who happens to be Dom’s child. Now I know what you’re thinking, “well, this kid is going to be the centerpiece of the movie because the Fast series is nothing if not all about family,” and you’d be correct. But throughout the movie I caught myself feeling like at some point Dom would stop what he’s doing simply because the risk began to outweigh the reward too heavily. Sure he’d eventually save his son, but at the cost of arming a cyber-terrorist with nuclear weaponry that would effectively allow her to rule the world. And given that the world would also include Dom’s team and all of the people he cares about, I feel like it wouldn’t be beneath him to at some point just say, “actually, no, I think I’m done doing all of this bad stuff for you”.
And the movie tries to do a setup about Dom having a kid in the first act as a conversation between he and Letty, but I just didn’t feel like they sold me enough to where Dom would almost literally turn the world to ash for a son that he doesn’t even know exists until the start of this movie anyway. Again, I know that family means everything in the Fast series, but at what point do you weigh the life of a baby you’ve never met equal to everyone you’ve ever known and loved?
While we’re on the subject of family and its established place in the rules of this universe, we should talk about the established rules that this movie bends, because it feels like a lot more than normal. Ok, so remember how in Furious 7 Dom’s team uses the God’s Eye to track Deckard Shaw, and then say they’re going to hit him at sunrise, but then later Dom tells Mr. Nobody that they need to go that night because his team are good drivers but not killers? Yeah, well, everybody is just killing heaps of people in this one. And not the standard, “oh yeah he just decimated that cop car with a safe that he’s pulling behind his car, so that cop is certainly dead,” but rather throwing guys into submarine propellers and shooting people with miniguns mounted on tanks. At one point Rome (Tyreese Gibson’s character) just straight up mercs four guys with a gun Jack Reacher style, and I couldn’t help but feel like it was a bit out of place. The violence in the Fast movies has always been delegated to characters like Dom or Hobbs or even Brian depending on the situation, but seeing everyone on Dom’s team just straight up murder dudes didn’t feel like it fit quite right in this universe.
And speaking of family, withh how important that concept is in the Fast series, I kind of felt like the mutual respect between Deckard Shaw and his team was shoehorned in, and made little sense. Sure, it’s discovered that Shaw wasn’t necessarily bad, but merely ended up getting framed after botching a highly classified mission, and so really he’s just like all of the good guys (this exact scenario happens to the team in the first act), except for the part where he murdered hundreds of people while on a manhunt for Dom’s team and even killed Han. I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t get over that fact as Dom, Hobbs, and Deckard made amends at the end of the film that they were embracing a guy who literally murdered one of their closest friends and teammates. I do not care that Shaw saved Dom’s son in the movie, and I don’t care that they had a mutual understanding about brotherhood. There’s not a single scenario in which Shaw, who I must say again MURDERED HAN, and Dom ever become pals.
That fact leads into the main takeaway I had when walking out of Fate of the Furious, which is that this universe that’s been built is entirely without consequence, and it’s starting to become detrimental to the movies themselves. Whereas before having virtually indestructible characters made for the audience to get more immersed in the ridiculous stunts and action set-pieces, we’re at a point where the characters can literally do anything and there aren’t any consequences at all for their actions. Hobbs makes a big point to tell Dom as he’s turning on them that he’s crossed a line and they can no longer walk away from it…until Dom comes back around and helps the team and let’s just skip all of the awkward conversation there and cut to a barbecue scene on a rooftop I guess. And hey, never mind that Deckard MURDERED HAN; DO YOU REMEMBER HE MURDERED HAN? I guess they’re pals now because they had a mutual interest in killing some cyber hacker. How can there not be any consequences for anyone’s actions whatsoever? How is there not a scene where Hobbs tries to beat the shit out of Dom for (at the time) making it so he could never see his daughter again, having made him a fugitive on the run? How can everyone just overlook the fact that Shaw killed their day one homie Han just because they mutually wanted to take down a villain.
Speaking of, and this is kind of an aside from my current point, but Cypher (Theron’s character) is so damn annoying that it’s just too difficult to take her seriously. It felt like the main inspiration for this character was literally someone who said, “Ok, what if Neil Degrasse Tyson’s Twitter feed was a person and also evil”. When she isn’t going on about random dumb shit like, “The emotions you’re feeling aren’t real; they’re merely a survival technique,” she’s saying terrible one-liners that aren’t very funny or needed in the moment. Along with that, her motivation for why she’s doing what she’s doing didn’t really work for me. As she explained to Dom that she wanted control of nukes to keep other countries accountable for their actions, I just kept thinking, “this doesn’t make any sense at all, why would you care about any of this”. It all felt very cheesy and forced and annoying for all the wrong reasons, and given the pedigree most villains have had in the Fast series, this one fell very flat.
But back to my point about consequence – this movie hammers home the fact that these characters really just aren’t going to die at this point. But aside from that, this movie also began to show the shaky ground the writers have put themselves on. I know we’ve been saying this since Fast Five happened, but what else can they possibly do at this point? They literally stopped a rogue nuclear attack while driving a Lamborghini on a frozen Russian bay, and only so much belief can be suspended even for these movies. And another point on that, during a prison break scene, we watch Hobbs and Deckard completely tear through dozens of both well-trained security officers and hardened criminals (at one point the Rock just walks pointedly toward a guard who’s firing rubber bullets into his chest and he barely flinches), and I couldn’t help but feel like no matter how many guys you put in a fight against either one of them, they’re never going to lose. And that kind of ruins the fun of it, if I’m honest. What’s the point of watching a guy smash through a dozen other guys if there isn’t even the slightest chance of him actually losing and facing the consequences of his actions? What situation can you possibly engineer that could make a viewer, at this point, say, “oh man, I don’t know how the gigantic indestructible man is going to make it out of this one”?
And really, all of this is to say that I feel like the scale of the Fast series has largely outgrown its concepts and themes that it tries to push on the audience. There’s only so much dialogue you can devote to Dom talking about family while taking out an entire fleet of mercenary jeeps by ramming into a missile-launcher truck that very conveniently fires all of its missiles at its friends. And while again, I liked this movie, I’m really kind of hoping for this to be the end of them at this point, because it’s hard to imagine them ever getting better without first getting much worse, and I feel that after eight installments, it’s best just to hang it up on a note that’s still somewhat high, rather than watching it crash and burn. Because while the characters in these movies might be indestructible at this point, the movies themselves are not.