They say “start how you want to go on. ”So it seems appropriate that Q9: The Quick Saga opens with a car accident.
The ninth episode in Fast and Furious Franchise comes at an interesting time in the series. Vin Diesel has announced that after a final trilogy worthy of the characters, it may be time to pull out of the franchise. After many internal dramas, two of the franchise’s core characters have developed into their own franchise with Fast and Furious Gifts: Hobbs and Shaw. The series is also still coping with the death of Paul Walker who held the franchise together. What are Roman and Tej doing on the team now that Brian is gone?
Perhaps you understand that this is a turbulent time for that Fast and Furious Series, F9 makes a number of obvious games for safe and familiar ground. Justin Lin returns as a writer and co-director, a veteran of the franchise who has directed the four films in between Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast & Furious 6. Lin directed Fast fiveArguably the best movie in the franchise, exists at the perfect intersection between the series’ origins as a dark urban western and the bombastic blockbuster giant that would become it.
F9 tries clearly and repeatedly to discover some of the magic of the Fast fivebut only serves to show that the franchise cannot go home again.
F9 repeatedly and directly Fast five. Once again there is an important addition to the franchise ensemble. A former professional wrestler is cast as an initially antagonistic character who inevitably turns out to be a more complex and nuanced figure. It helps that John Cena has been compared to Dwayne Johnson many times, and the two even contested each other during their wrestling days. It’s hard not to see Jakob Toretto as a possible replacement for Luke Hobbs, who follows the same arc from enemy to ally and from outsider to eventual insider.
Lin also touches on several other aspects of Fast five, including a climax that borrows (very loosely) from secondary school physics to reinforce the familiar vehicle action sequences of the franchise. in the Fast five, the figures drive a gigantic safe through the streets of Rio de Janeiro and swing it like a huge swinging pendulum. in the F9, the characters have fun with car magnets. (To F9The film goes out of its way to point out that the villains have excellent dental care, perhaps to justify why these magnets aren’t ripping out fillings.)
More to the point F9 represents another attempt that Fast and Furious Franchise to balance the series between its two poles and to reconcile a series that began with a crew takeover of DVD games before evolving into a franchise where the heroes regularly drive nuclear submarines. Fast five was fortunate that it existed at a turning point in the history of the franchise between what it was and what it would become. F9 is not so lucky and is trying to get back to the roots of the franchise retrospectively with a gap of twenty years and a budget multiplier of five.
Reveal that the franchise has lost touch with anything resembling reality, and perhaps admit that Walker and Johnson’s absence leaves a potential charisma vacuum, F9 tries to bring the series back to its roots with the introduction of Dom Toretto’s previously unmentioned brother Jakob Toretto. Jakob has never been mentioned, of course. There is nothing in the previous films to suggest its existence. Its mere presence, however, provides an anchor back to the roots of the franchise.
F9 begins with a flashback to the death of Dom’s father. The first half of the film is peppered with flashbacks depicting events hinted at in the backstory from the earliest films, such as the attack on another driver who took Dom to jail. These flashbacks are used to portray events that Dom has discussed in previous films, but in a way that Jacob integrates into the story. It also serves to bring the franchise back to its roots and portray both professional and street racing.
Of course, these flashbacks are only there to illustrate how far the Fast and Furious has come and how far this world and these stakes are. The film carefully understands that both Vin Diesel and John Cena are too old to play their younger selves and may avoid baseless deaging technology, but the cast of actors Vinnie Bennett and Finn Cole adds an odd dissonance to all of this . F9 suggests that the only way to get the series back to its roots is to effectively construct a completely different movie F9. The two sides of the franchise can no longer be reconciled. They exist separately from each other.
F9 is a bloated blockbuster. In the last nine films that Fast and Furious Franchise has garnered significant opposition. Even ditching the characters of Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw and handing them over to their own spin-off franchise, F9 feels overwhelmed and burdened. What was once an agile young road racing driver is now an overloaded family limousine. One of the most frustrating parts of F9 is how much redundancy there is within the movie.
The plot was never an integral part of the Fast and Furious Movies. Once again, the gang finds itself tasked with tracking down an ominously named and vaguely defined weapon of mass destruction. “Project Ares.” As is the case with such things, the weapon has been split into three parts, and the team is in a race against time to prevent those three parts from falling into the wrong hands. F9 makes only a cursory effort to explain the stake, perhaps to understand that the audience is smart enough to know that this is never what it is Really Affairs in the Fast and Furious Franchise.
It has become commonplace that Fast and Furious Films as superhero films, just swap the capes for cars. Certainly, the action in the franchise rivals on a par with any modern comic book film franchise. However, what is interesting about the Fast and Furious Movies is how they port over certain conventions of comic book stories that carefully avoid even more direct adaptations. The Fast and Furious Films embrace the comic book storytelling conventions that make them up “Soap operas for boys.”
The Fast and Furious Franchise relies heavily on the narrative conventions of superhero comics. Characters often fake their own death. Big events are constantly being reworked and reconnected to suit the needs of the bigger stories. The sprawling, networked cast has grown with each episode. The stakes and the scale of the action just escalate from one film to another. in the Fast & Furious 6, it was revealed that Dom’s wife, Letty, had not died Fast & Furiousbut instead suffered amnesia. After this type of reveal, it’s no big deal that Dom happens to have a brother no one is talking about.
At some point, however, these conventions reach critical mass. F9 often feels like it’s too lost in continuity and soap operas to tell its own story rather than feel like one “do” List of plot beats from twenty years of storytelling. It is not enough to introduce the character of Jakob Toretto, which would be enough for most blockbusters. F9 must also revive the character of Han, who died at the end of the year Tokyo drift. It also has to take the gang into space in a car and pay off an internet meme.
F9 is saturated with characters and fan service, very little of which is for the movie itself. There are at least twelve redundant main characters, a dozen significant conversational roles that could be trimmed down to make a leaner and more compelling narrative. Instead, F9 often feels more like an weird extended family vacation than a high-stakes action thriller, with Dom and his friends traveling the world and seeing familiar faces from the previous eight films that are largely superfluous to the story being told.
To pick out a few examples, F9 marks the return of Charlize Theron as the villainous hacker Cypher F8 the angry. Cypher is kidnapped by Jacob at the beginning of the year F9, during an off-screen action scene with Kurt Russell as Mister Nobody. Although he appears in video footage and flashbacks and has not been confirmed dead, Mister Nobody is replaced in the main story by Shea Whigham, who repeats his role as Stasiak from the film Fast & Furious 6. Cypher is locked in a box and spends most of the film playing the role of Hannibal from The silence of the Lambs or Loki from the middle act of The Avengers.
To be fair, Cypher performs a very obvious narrative function that is obvious to anyone who has ever seen a movie and who understands that everyone’s core phrase Fast and Furious Film is the primacy of “Family.” It exists as a jack-in-the-box for the possible redemption of Jacob, a bigger bad guy who could be traded in at the climax, should the film decide Jacob is redeemable. However, cypher is also redundant. Jacob’s business partner Otto could easily fulfill this narrative function alone. However, F9 feels obliged to include Charlize Theron.
The same goes for several significant characters. With the introduction of Ramsey and her relationship with Tej, it is questionable what role Roman still plays in the ensemble. Mia makes a big deal joining the gang on their mission because Jacob is her brother, but Mia and Jacob can only exchange two lines of dialogue. While it’s nice to see Helen Mirren drive a muscle car, Queenie Shaw doesn’t have to stop by for a scene. Cardi B has a completely redundant cameo in a completely nonsensical storyline in which Dom is arrested by fake Interpol agents for violating diplomatic immunity, a four-minute thread.
Likewise, it is questionable whether the franchise really had to bring Han back. It’s also debatable whether the franchise had to bring back three of Hans’ co-stars Tokyo drift, especially as a major recurring storyline that leaves little room for actual character work. The rationale for all of this, of course, is that “The fans want it.” However, an important part of storytelling is understanding that not every course can be desert. It would be okay to indulge in some fan service, however F9 is overwhelming. There is nothing but Fan service.
This causes all sorts of problems with plotting. In order to incorporate all of these elements, characters with plot functions are fused in a way that seems artificial and frustrating. After all, it’s probably part of the appeal of bringing Han back to life, hanging out with Han, and enjoying what he brings to the plot as a character. Instead, it is revealed that Han faked his own death to protect one of the three keys “Project Ares”which makes his death and absence completely meaningless and unsatisfactory.
To meet all of these checklist points, F9 is edited as a trailer. There is no character work here. There are only action scenes and trailer lines. Almost every line of dialog in F9 is either an exposition or a vaguely philosophical statement waiting to be cut into the trailer. There is no substance. There is no warmth. There is no room to breathe. There is no equivalent moment when Dom sits down with Brian over a beer Fast fiveto talk about his father and the male ideal. For a movie that runs two and a half hours F9 feels strangely hollow.
Well worth thinking about. F9 is a film that sends two members of the gang into space. That’s crazy. It’s crazy to imagine two of the characters who were introduced to the Miami racing scene 2 Fast 2 Angry should end up orbiting the planet. However, there are so many other things that the film has to go through that there is no real opportunity to appreciate the moment in all its wonder and awe, craziness and absurdity.
To be fair, the problem is more fundamental than that. That Fast and Furious Movies are nominally over “Family.” In the best case scenario, the films take up this recurring theme “Family found”, an unlikely bunch of outcasts and curiosities that have found each other. Hence the idea that Dom confronts his breakaway brother and grapples with his father’s death should be an emotional fulcrum for the franchise. Unfortunately, it just falls flat, as Diesel and Cena spend relatively little time sharing the screen with each other.
It’s interesting to ask what motivated the decision to keep Diesel and Cena separate for most of the movie. It is quite possible that it was simply due to the logistics, because the sequel had to keep many other balls in the air. It is also possible that the franchise may want to postpone the duo’s interactions until the tenth and then final film in the franchise. However, it’s also hard to miss that Diesel and Cena have about as much screen time as Diesel and Johnson have on F8 the angry. Perhaps the franchise has learned its lessons of incorporating new elements into scenes with Diesel.
That means there are moments when F9 seems almost existential. Again and again F9, Roman seems on the cusp of realizing he’s a supporting character in a long-running blockbuster franchise. He confronts Tej with the argument how absurd her life has become, how improbable her adventures have been. Roman seems almost to stare past the fourth wall and understands that he is trapped in a strange nightmare in which death has no meaning and life is nothing but a cavalcade of heightened drama. Roman inevitably eludes this insight. It’s a stupid joke, not a skewed realization.
To do Lin some credit, there are some impressive action scenes in F9. The opening sequence plays as a strange hypermacho riff on William Friedkins wizardwhich suggests a slightly different version of Friedkin’s film that was swallowed up by blockbuster cinema than what actually happened. There’s a satisfying chase through Edinburgh that makes very clever use of the city’s unique geography, in at least a more interesting way than that Hobbs and Shaw.
Still, F9 is strangely empty and bloated. Part of this is undoubtedly due to the exile of Dwayne Johnson, the most charismatic member of the lead cast. But it is also clear that the Fast and Furious The franchise has yet to do its part with the death of Paul Walker. Walker tragically died in a car accident during the production of Angry 7which puts the production team in the uncomfortable position of having to complete Brian’s arc without an actor.
in the F9, Walker is pursuing the franchise. Characters often talk about Brian, who still lives in the world of the franchise. Brian is still married to Mia. They both have children. Brian has withdrawn into the home, however, acting as babysitter for the team on their stormy global adventures. Characters in F9 have to keep talking about Brian, explaining his absence and promising the audience that the character is just off-screen. At the family barbecue, a prominent place is created for Brian, who is notoriously late.
There is a disturbing dissonance here. The audience and production team understand why Brian can never appear on screen. Walker is dead. However, the characters have to maintain a strange illusion that Brian is alive and active, just not participating in any of these adventures. The result is a little morbid. It borders on tasteless at times since F9 cynically calculates how much it can annoy Brian without showing Walker. It is very uncomfortable to watch, especially since F9 seems to believe this is sincere and sweet.
Moreover, attention to Walker’s absence reinforces what is sorely lacking F9. Walker was the franchise’s most generous and least self-centered headliner, the best scene partner for softer scenes, as he rarely appeared to compete with his co-stars for attention or space. Walker brought warmth and humanity to them Fast and Furious Franchise that is sorely lacking F9, and the franchise’s repeated references to Walker’s absence only underscore how that warmth and humanity have also been lost.
F9 might finally get its characters into space, but it will bring them back to Earth just as quickly.