Sunday, January 10, 2016

Preposterous and preposterouser

Preposterous? The Fast & Furious movies.

Preposterouser? That I marathoned the last five of them -- over the course of more than six months, but still -- in order to rank Furious 7 with my 2015 films.

Less than a week before my ranking deadline, I've finally finished the project.

And I think I don't need to watch another one of these movies for a while, if ever. I apparently have about 15 months until Furious 8 to change my mind on that topic.

While "preposterous" is an adjective that could apply to any of these movies, it's remained a subjective assessment to this point. With Furious 7, it becomes objective.

The trajectory of these films has been to take the characters beyond anti-heroes to actual heroes, those that have the backing of even law enforcement. It's the best way to keep the widest number of potential audience members interested. They're criminals, sort of, but they're also fine, upstanding young gentlemen, sort of. And ladies, sort of.

But it's a real stretch to imagine these guys actually being employed as a government-sanctioned strike unit, as though there is not some group of Navy SEALs that would be better equipped to a obtain a surveillance gadget so powerful that it could have found Osama bin Laden in "a matter of hours." Who is the best person for this job, you ask? Frequently wanted and incarcerated drag racer/bank robber Dominic Toretto, and whoever he considers to be his "family" that week.

Oh, and the plan for this mission? Let's drop them out of airplanes in cars with parachutes, because how could anything possibly go wrong?

And assuming that part of the mission goes well, let's have them jump some other cars between adjacent skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi. And not the tops or anything, but from random floors, hoping that the random floor where they land in the other skyscraper has strong enough floors and enough open space to safely receive a car and its two passengers.

Okay, that wasn't part of the plan, that was improvisation. Sorry. Now it's more realistic.

Actually, I did admire the sheer go-for-broke "fuck it" quality of these story details, on some level. That's why the movie gets a mediocre 2.5 stars from me rather than the lowlier two stars I was pondering.

These story details do tend to create even more of a disconnect with what the movie came to represent, which was a sentimental send off to Paul Walker, who died before shooting could be completed on the film. Probably to the movie's credit -- and probably because they couldn't go back and reshoot many scenes to gain a more melancholy tone, especially the scenes with Walker in them -- they play it straight as just a dumb action movie for nearly two hours. The last ten minutes or so are when they choose to honor Walker via a montage of Walker moments in the previous five films in which he'd appeared, which then give way to that uncanny scene where a beaming, digitally manipulated Walker stares lovingly -- almost too lovingly -- over at Diesel from the driver's seat of the next car over. I'm not sure if I would have noticed the effect if I hadn't known Walker was dead, but I sure did with that knowledge. (And in truth, seeing how they handled this moment was probably the deciding factor in forcing me to finally watch the other movies in this series.)

I must admit, I did feel a bit of a swell of emotion at the end of the movie -- not tears or anything, but definitely chills. And sure, that Waz Khalifa/Charlie Puth song "See You Again," which is admittedly catchy, surely helped with that. But it probably also helped that I had indeed recently seen all these movies and that some of their corny thoughts on loyalty and family did rub off on me. They didn't lose a member of that family in the movie, as Brian O'Connor gets to live on (and just presumably never again put his life at risk for Toretto, now that he's going to have a daughter to join his existing son). But Diesel and the others surely feel like they lost a family member in real life, and those last few must have been really emotional scenes to play.

That is, if they weren't grossed out by the exploitative logistical ickiness of it all.

So Fast & Furious, done and dusted.

And 2015 not far behind it.

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