When my friend Lara called me to ask if I’d like to come watch Fast and Furious 8, my immediate answer was to scoff and ask “why?”
“They’ll make you feel pumped,’ she laughed, and with her energetic explanation and the knowledge I’d only have to shed out about a fiver at the Peckhamplex, I shrugged my shoulders and committed to an 8:30pm viewing. After shoving ten pounds worth of McDonalds into my backpack, getting yelled at like a school child (albeit deservedly) by the member of staff for not standing correctly in line, and cosying into my chair for the long ride, I was met with one of the most action packed, petrol filled, god-and-family referenced film I had ever seen in my life. Besides feeling quite energised by it all I could not help but wonder to myself, how the HELL have they managed to make eight of these films?
The story line is almost identical to the others in the series (apart from the stint in tokyo drift without the main canon) and when I asked Lara to summarise the franchise for the purpose of this article her exact words were ‘people who save the world, but with cars’; which i think is a pretty fair examination. The film itself is a pretty predictable amalgamation of action heroes who travel the world and drive fast cars, with a certain amount of government invisibility. The newest addition to the franchise, The F8 of the Furious, begins in Cuba and takes the gang to New York before the final showdown somewhere in arctic Russia, where they (obviously) defeat a nuclear-missile-holding-submarine, thus forcing it to crash into the ocean, wreaking havoc in all it’s path. If you hadn’t already noticed all the problems that exist in the believability of the story line, you have to admit the adventures had by Vin Diesel and his gang are appalling for the environment.
The franchise is also far from over. With two more films confirmed in the coming years you have to wonder where’s next for the gang to go? They’ve exhausted nearly every corner of the globe, and although they have the FBI/CIA or equivalent to protect them at every sharp turn, driving flashy sports cars and causing multiple car pile ups on the streets of New York has to earn you some sort of notoriety in terms of normal people. Though the films most definitely fit within the action genre, there is an element of superhero strength to them. They don’t die, they have incredible strength and an incredible amount of resources – they just technically don’t have any otherworldly power. That however might change if they were propelled into space, which is arguably the only possible route for the franchise to take to keep up its thrill factor.
But film itself is a form of art. It’s not just there for the thrill factor but has a duty to construct a narrative that feeds into modern life. You could argue that film, especially those lucky enough to reach silver screens across the world, have something of a duty to make a political or social statement. Especially when we’re at a politically unstable time where the fate of the country rests in the balance. Now more than ever we need creative directors, actors and artists to share their stories and criticise those with seemingly all the power. We’ve seen race, sexism and homophobia beautifully and intricately explored through Get Out, Moonlight and Hidden Figures even though the subject matter is still seen as taboo in mainstream media. Take the Hulu filmed adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s the Handmaid’s Tale for example – the dystopian science fiction novel depicts a world damaged by nuclear fallout and run by a theological dictatorship that treats women like second class citizens doesn’t seem too far off from the way the current American system of government is moving, with populist leaders like Trump ruling the roost. So where does Fast and Furious fit into this narrative?
The films mean next to nothing – they are a wild ride of crime fighting, sex and cars, where at the end they talk about the importance of family and everyone is all smiles around a barbecue in a beautiful location. But this is what gives them their charm. After leaving the cinema my better judgement was seemingly absent and I started to feel a release of stress and surge of adrenaline, and against my better judgement I started to realise I had really really enjoyed it. Art, whether it be literature, photography, poetry or film making is incredibly important, their poignancy in pointing out political issues is something that resonates for years to come and can help change the rhetoric of real life; but when the idea of dystopia has started to become more and more realistic, sometimes you do need to just sit in front of a screen and be consumed by a story that is too unbelievable to be true.
Words by Ella Guthrie