And what could be better for the family-oriented time of year than this, the most family-oriented action franchise around?
(“Family-oriented” is not the same as “family-friendly,” of course. For the latter, your mileage may vary. My family is more into movies like The King’s Speech — I don’t think I’m going to talk much about Fast & Furious tonight when we’re all together.)
Why do I like the F&F movies so much more than the various superhero movies around? I like some of the superhero ones, too, but F&F (and most of this applies to the Resident Evil movies, too) has quite a few advantages.
1) Here’s the easy one: diversity. There’s a lot of diversity in the X-Men world (though nowhere near as much as in the comics), but the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Avengers and so on) is basically a bunch of white guys, some with Black sidekicks, and a few peripheral women. I just watched Ant-Man last night, and damn, it took them a whole movie to add The Wasp to the franchise? As she says in the post-credits scene, speaking for the audience, about damn time.
The F&F “family” includes all sort of people, men and women, different races, but not in the way of a WW II movie where the squad contains one Black guy, one Jewish guy, one guy from Texas, and so on, and they banter about it all the time. In the F&F world, it’s almost never mentioned.
As one reviewer said, this could be the first action franchise to add a gay character, and if they do it probably won’t be any big deal. Because in the F&F world, it’s all about how you drive. It’s very Hawksian, actually — very much like the group of pilots in Only Angels Have Wings (in fact, Fast 5 has a scene that reminds me a lot of the way the disgraced pilot redeems himself and is accepted back into the group in the Hawks movie).
2) Solidity. The F&F drivers may regularly subvert the laws of physics and probability, but they do it in real cars, on real streets and highways. That beats the CGI-fest that most superhero movies are. And it may be related to the fact that the action in the F&F (and also RE) movies is almost always a lot easier to follow.
In the Resident Evil movies, 99% of what you see Alice doing on the screen is being done by Milla Jovovich (even running down the side of an office building, for one example). When Michelle Rodriguez and Ronda Rousey have a (fairly terrific) fight in Furious 7, I think it’s almost all them — probably except for their final crash off a balcony onto a DJ’s turntables. That also helps the believability.
3) Death. In the commentary for Furious 6, the director talks about how, in so many movies, the studio doesn’t allow you to kill any characters, because of potential sequels. But in real life, in real families, and even more so among people who live lives full of fast cars and guns and explosives, people do die.
The arc of The Avengers was that Tony Stark should have died, sacrificing himself to save the world, but of course we all knew Robert Downey Jr. is already signed for a bunch of more movies. So, (yawn) yeah, you can hint that Iron Man is going to buy the farm, but there’s not much suspense there.
But, except for Dom in F&F and Alice in RE, there are no guarantees in these movies. And characters do die.
Heck, the only character who died during The Avengers later came back on the SHIELD TV show (a fact that was wisely not mentioned in the second Avengers movie 🙂 ).
Anyway, maybe more to come about this, but now it’s time for family.
(You can imagine “family” being said in Vin Diesel’s voice if you want. 🙂 )