This year marks the 20th anniversary of the original The Fast and the Furious. It is a safe bet that nobody involved in that movie ever thought they would be in the same franchise 20 years and 9 movies later. Due to the pandemic the 9th movie, simply titled F9, is released with a delay of a year. These movies went from being about illegal car racing to a group of super spies saving the world with their souped up cars. While writing it down it strikes me how silly that sounds.
But then this entire franchise has become silly. From somewhat gritty stories about a group of street racers performing robberies to people bouncing of cars as if they’re cartoon characters. But nowadays The Fast and the Furious franchise is actually that: a live-action cartoon. Movies in which nobody ever really dies and in which the laws of physics seemingly don’t exist. F9 actually takes the concept to a whole other level. A Road Runner cartoon is more realistic than F9.
I’m not sure if I even need to describe the plot, but it once again revolves around multiple groups hunting the globe for a thingie that has the power to destroy the world. The twist this time is that the other guy hunting the thingie is Dom’s brother Jakob (John Cena). Also lurking in the background is Cipher, the bad girl from the previous movie. When writing this review I was under the impression that this character was related to one of the other characters, but according to Wikipedia I was wrong. Then again, she might just as well turn out to be the sister of someone in the next movie.
While I love over the top action movies, I think with F9 they have taken it too far. There is a scene in which the crew has to drive their cars through a minefield. They quickly calculate how fast their cars have to drive over the mines in order to have the explosion occur behind the car instead of under it.
After this scene Dom drives his car off a cliff with a piece of rope from a suspension bridge “magically” attached to his car swinging it to the other side of a ravine and dropping it exactly on a cliff on the other side. Both Dom and Letty come out of these events without a single scratch on them. It was at this point I looked at the time indicator and saw that the movie was only at the 26th minute mark.
I still had almost two hours to go, but I was already done with this movie. Characters fly all over the screen and never get hurt. In one scene they actually break somebody’s fall by having him land on the hood of a car. Because cars are known for their soft flexible qualities; the bouncy castles of vehicles I call them. I do love how one of the characters actually remarks how they never get hurt and ponders whether they are superheroes. A bit of self-awareness this franchise was lacking up until this point.
If the characters are invincible then it’s impossible to create any tension onscreen. That’s why superhero movie often choose to strip the powers of their characters, or have an even stronger character beat the shit out of the hero in the first act so that the third act is actually exciting, even though we all know the good guys win in the end. What’s left in F9 is two hours of ludicrous actions scenes tied together by scenes in which people talk about family and some old faces turn up. Some of them even considered to be dead.
I’m not spoiling anything since this was already shown in the trailer and on the movie posters. This movie has Han come back from the dead. A strange choice considering they spent an entire movie having the crew go all out against Deckard Shaw to avenge his death. His return is explained as hokey as can be. But what strikes me the most was how much he has aged since his first appearance in Tokyo Drift. Sung Kang is in real life 49 years old, which means he was 34 when he was befriending teenagers in Tokyo Drift.
The ageing aspect goes for other characters as well. With the series having reached the 20 year mark everybody is at least in their mid-40s with Vin Diesel even being in his early 50s. That surprised me, because he doesn’t look his age, but others do. Tyrese Gibson, Lucas Black, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster all clearly look a lot older since the series began. Should this series continue than eventually this cast will become the new Expendables.
The age of the characters is furthermore accentuated by the heavy use of flashbacks in which the principal cast is played by different actors. The strangest casting choice here was the actor who played young Dom. He seems to be more of a latino-looking character (He is actually from New Zealand) whereas Vin Diesel has a Caucasian look. Even ignoring the skin-tone, the actor still looks nothing like Vin Diesel.
To me F9 marks the point that this series definitely jumps the shark. The series finally goes to space, but in the most Fast & Furious way possible: with a rocket attached to a Pontiac Fiero. In another moment of self-awareness at least the characters are in on the joke. The series keeps looking for more over-the-top scenes for which I applaud them, but they’re really pushing it at this point.
It would not surprise as if at one point the Looney Tunes will be added to the main cast in the next movie.