Franchise Expansion (Or Implosion): ‘The Fate Of The Furious’
by Ben Martin
Franchise Expansion (or Implosion) is a column that looks at franchises that have new installments or releases forthcoming. In looking at a franchise, each entry in a franchise will be given a review and then be examined as part of the bigger franchise. (i.e., Was this sequel a worthy expansion of this franchise or was it an implosion of sorts?)
If you had told me when I initially saw the original The Fast and The Furious at age twelve that it would inspire a massive franchise, now dubbed The Fast Saga, I wouldn’t have believed you. Nevertheless, it did just that, spanning eight sequels and one spin-off (thus far). I’ll be racing a quarter-mile at a time from the beginning of this franchise to its current finish line of F9: The Fast Saga. This time around, I look at how the series proceeds after the tragic loss of one of its leads with The Fate of The Furious (2017)!
Following the untimely demise of Paul Walker, I had trouble imagining that there would be further direct installments in The Fast Saga. So much so, that I feel Furious 7 (2015) serves as a fitting and somewhat poignant end to this series. However, I’m also not naive enough to think that Universal Studios, nor Vin Diesel and most of his castmates, would respectfully bow out their multi-billion dollar franchise on a high note. After all, this is the movie business, and as Danny Madigan says to Jack Slater in Last Action Hero (1993), “You (the franchise) can’t die until the grosses go down!” As a result, The Fate of The Furious (2017) went into pre-production immediately following the release of Furious 7.
The majority of the franchise’s ever-growing ensemble cast returns here — along with the new additions of Charlize Theron (The Old Guard) as the new villain and Scott Eastwood (Wrath of Man) as the new baby-faced lawman — in yet another installment written by Chris Morgan, who has penned this and the previous five Fast films. But this installment would need yet another new director as Furious 7‘s James Wan declined to return after all the turmoil on that previous entry’s production. Not to mention, he was most likely in pre-production on Aquaman (2018) at this point in time.
Thus, an incredibly logical choice was made instead. After deliver Universe a smash success with Straight Outta Compton (2015), director F. Gary Gray was chosen to guide The Fate of The Furious. It also helps that Gray had previously worked with three of Fate‘s cast members — Diesel in A Man Apart, then Theron and Jason Statham on the remake of The Italian Job, both of which were released in 2003. With Gray in place to direct, the Fast family set out to tell the following story:
Shortly after the events of the previous picture, our heroes have all retreated to everyday, quiet lives. Thus, Dominic Toretto (Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) can finally take their much-belated honeymoon in Cuba. Alas, their semi-newlywed bliss abruptly comes to a halt when Dom is approached by a mysterious and malicious individual known as Cypher (Theron), who puts our hero in a terrible position. At roughly the same time, Diplomatic Security Service Agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) asks Dom and the crew to help him on his latest off-book mission. But everyone is taken by surprise when Dominic seemingly betrays them! Now, to stop Dom and Cypher from harnessing a nuclear football as the ultimate tool in the terrorism trade, Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) brings Deckard Shaw (Statham), of all people, into the proceedings to save the world!
If you read my review of Furious 7, you know that I’m not overly enthused with the low-grade espionage tact this franchise has been taking since Furious 6 (2013). And the movie in review proves that the spy-thriller subgenre is, perhaps, not the lane The Fast Saga should be weaving in and out of. The Fate Of The Furious doesn’t so much tell a story as it does poorly string together events and dialogue between massive action set pieces. Worse yet, this loose narrative once again treads its worn-out tires into soap opera territory in which “gasp-inducing” ridiculous reveals are made.
Of course, all this on-screen absurdity could have amounted to some fun if the behind-the-scenes drama didn’t translate to the movie itself. While most of the cast delivers perfunctory performances, the ensemble fails to create the entertaining group dynamic we’ve come to expect from this series. Moreover, the man who claims this franchise as his own is seemingly no longer invested. Folks, Diesel clearly was not into this project. And if the actor’s apparent boredom wasn’t enough to prove that he was a little less than professional, Johnson certainly put his co-star on blast with his infamous #ZeroToleranceForCandyAsses Instagram post.
This tension between Diesel and Johnson became more evident than ever when stories began to emerge about Diesel, who also serves as a co-producer here, having several of Johnson’s scenes excised from the script before they could be shot. Furthermore, it was reported that Diesel was angry the studio wanted to produce Fast & Furious Presents: Hobs & Shaw (2019) — a spin-off centering around Johnson and Statham’s characters — before moving forward with F9: The Fast Saga (2021). But, I think Diesel might’ve been most upset because his character feels sidelined in The Fate of The Furious, while Johnson, as Hobbs, essentially becomes the ensemble leader; as well he should since he and Statham are the only male actors bringing their A-game to this picture. To be clear, though, I’m sure both stars carry some fault here as both their personas heavily rely on machismo.
I’d be remiss, though, if I didn’t address the newest addition to this cast: Charlize Theron as the villainous Cypher. To say that the Academy Winning Actress plays this role in an arch fashion would be putting it lightly. Through her performance, Cypher comes off like one of the darker Bond villains. That approach works because the whole idea of Cypher is simply ridiculous. She’s supposed to be a mastermind antagonist who’s been pulling strings for the past several installments. Alas, I have real trouble believing an international cyber-terrorist would give a damn about Dom and the crew for any reason. But at least it’s entertaining to watch Theron chew the scenery as she spouts her monologues.
In the end, The Fate of The Furious is a Franchise Implosion because of what it is — an unabashed cash-in that’s mind-numbingly dumb as opposed to fun B-movie. Aside from the action sequences, which only work if you turn your brain off, this movie is not worth watching. While promoting this movie, Diesel famously said that “Furious 7 was for Paul and The Fate of the Furious will be from Paul.” Now, I’m sure that he felt this way, but, in my estimation, making such a statement plays like nothing more than a marketing ploy that pulls on the heartstrings to put butts in seats.
The Fate of The Furious is available on all home video formats.
F9: The Fast Saga is Now Playing.
Next time, we’ll spin off onto a side road for Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (2019)!
Looking Back A Quarter-Mile At A Time:
The Fast and The Furious (2001)
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003)
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Fast & Furious (2009)
Fast Five (2011)
Fast & Furious 6 (2013)
Furious 7 (2015)