If one was told that what started as a homage to street racing culture would one day become one of the highest grossing film series of all time, no one would’ve believed them. But that’s exactly what The Fast and the Furious franchise has managed to do by continuously reinventing its formula and shifting its course with changing times. Piece by piece, one instalment at a time, the series has upgraded itself like the mean vehicular beasts that feature in it and has garnered a worldwide fan following over the years. In addition to that, where majority of film franchises run out of gas after churning out a few sequels, The Fast and the Furious has continued to get bigger, is raking in more cash than ever, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The first four instalments, in my opinion, were more or less mediocre. It clicked with its target audience but didn’t have much in store for the masses. It all changed with Fast Five which revitalised the then-derailing franchise by replacing its street racing formula with elements of heist thrillers and heralded the series’ heading into a new direction. Fast & Furious 6 further capitalised on the momentum of its predecessor and was another high-octane roller-coaster ride. Furious 7 took its larger-than-life entertainment a bit too far but its crazed hype, coupled with an unexpected real-life tragedy, turned it into a huge box-office success. More than anything, its ending felt like the perfect moment to wrap up the entire saga and frankly, it should’ve been.
Because everything about The Fate of the Furious (stylised as F8 and also known as Fast & Furious 8) feels superfluous. The eighth instalment in the long-running franchise marks another shift in focus & direction, switching from heist thrillers to spy capers this time, and it delivers a big-budget blockbuster extravaganza that’s so over-the-top that it makes the outlandish CGI effects in the previous chapter seem somewhat fair to an extent. No matter what happens in the movie, there is simply no excitement felt. Also not helping the plot is its wisecracking moments in life or death situation which only takes away the seriousness of the given sequence. And almost everything about it is predictable this time, and nothing really surprises anymore.
The story of The Fate of the Furious finds Dominic Toretto honeymooning with his wife Letty in Cuba, Brian & Mia retired from the game, and the rest of the crew living their separate lives in peace. But it’s only the calmness before the storm as the whole gang is coerced to regroup once again when Dom is forced to provide his services to an elusive cyberterrorist who happens to have a major leverage on him, and is made to turn on his very own family. As the group comes to terms with Dom’s unexpected treachery, they must work together as one to locate him and stop whatever it is that the criminal mastermind is planning to do with Dom and is compelled to join hands with a former enemy to apprehend her, thus testing their limits like never before.
Directed by F. Gary Gray (best known for Straight Outta Compton), the film opens with an unexciting car race that was only an indication of more exaggerated things to come. The action certainly goes over-the-top as expected but it’s in the application of wit where things go a too far. It’s not that the film’s humour doesn’t work but it’s not properly utilised. Sure the movie was never supposed to take itself seriously and sure its universe has always been ludicrous but its attempts at humour in moments that don’t call for it creates a jarring effect which often throws the story off-balance. Gray takes everything towards excess in his effort to provide a big-budget summer blockbuster but there’s pretty much nothing in the film that we haven’t seen before.
From the warm, sunny climate of Havana, Cuba to the icy Russian landscapes where the climax unfolds, the movie is shot is truly exotic locations, and the camera is able to intensify that natural iconography. Cinematography rarely keeps its visual device at rest, and its swift, kinetic manoeuvring during moments of action are in tune with the photography of its predecessors. Set pieces get upgrades of their own, and so do the automotive beasts. Editing provides a fine pace to the narrative but the element of surprise is definitely missing here, and the outcomes of majority of the events are easily predictable. Thanks to excess CGI, the action defies the laws of physics & looks absurd most times. Last but not the least, Brian Tyler returns to score again and contributes with a serviceable soundtrack.
Coming to the acting department, The Fate of the Furious marks the return of almost all key players except for the late Paul Walker & Jordana Brewster, who played Brian & Mia respectively and were retired in the previous chapter. Leading from the front this time is Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto and he plays his character the same way he’s played him since the beginning. Dwayne Johnson gains superhuman strengths in this one but is still fun to watch. Tyrese Gibson continues playing the comic relief part but here, he’s more annoying than amusing. Jason Statham does a fine job with what he’s given, and same goes for Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges. The newest addition is Charlize Theron but there’s neither anything intriguing about her character nor anything worth noting about her performance.
On an overall scale, The Fate of the Furious isn’t amongst the strongest entries in the series, for it is overstuffed in every aspect. It does outshine its predecessors as far as challenging the moviegoers’ suspension of disbelief is concerned but the film isn’t as much fun as past few examples. With every subsequent instalment, the action in the series has gotten more n more preposterous, and it only seems to be heading further down that route, unaware that there’s a limit after which an element loses its appeal. Dull, bloated & unsurprising, the eight instalment in this long-running franchise may have enough nitro fuel to boost its adrenaline pumps but the core engine has started showing signs of breakdown of lately and, if not oiled properly, it may fall apart sooner than expected. Fans may enjoy its farcical entertainment but to me, The Fate of the Furious is simply unappealing, underwhelming & unsatisfactory. In a word, disappointing.