29 April 2015

Furious 7

I love the Fast and Furious franchise. Not only is each movie better than the last, but with 6 especially, I think they really perfected the formula for a perfect action movie: totally f*@!ing awesome stunts, corny jokes, just a touch of emotional gravitas ("Nothing matters more than family"), and a (diverse) cast that is easy on the eyes. So obviously, I was VERY excited about Furious 7. So excited, in fact, that my man and I rewatched the entire series (minus Tokyo Drift, which is kind of apocryphal, though I intend to rewatch it soon anyhow) in preparation. I was buoyed by the glowing reviews -- the best movie in the franchise! they said. And I believed it, because every new movie in the series is better than the previous one (except for 2 Fast 2 Furious, which is decidedly the weakest link). My excitement was fueled by the insane box office numbers. This was gonna be AWESOME.

But it was not. I mean, ok, I set a high bar going in, so perhaps I was bound to be disappointed. But Furious 7 is not the best movie in the franchise. It's not as good as 6. It's not even as good as 5! I'm not saying it's a terrible movie, because it's got a lot going for it. And as we know, tragic events certainly influenced the final product. But it's just not as good a movie as one would like it to be. The filmmakers seem to have abandoned the formula they had so painstakingly perfected, and the results are decidedly imbalanced.

For starters, WAY too much Vin Diesel. Yes, he's always been the brooding melancholic core of the films, but he was complemented by a broad array of goofiness, badassery, and even some other emotional subplots (Han and Giselle's relationship, Paul Walker's anxieties about fatherhood). With Han and Giselle gone, Vin apparently decides to shoulder the entire emotional weight of the story, such that any time another character is having feelings, they're doing so while in conversation with Vin Diesel. He is so overburdened by all this feeling that he frequently has to go off by himself and emote for awhile. It's boring, and it makes us like him less. The man has a very sexy impish smile, and knowing chuckle, and we don't see nearly enough of it in this movie.

Also, someone apparently decided that audiences are more interested in fight scenes than driving scenes. This has been on a slow increase since the first film -- each one has more fighting. 6 had just the right amount. 7 had too much. Or at least, it felt that way, because it seemed like it came at the cost of awesome driving scenes, which it did not have enough of.

Related to that, the stunts themselves were precariously balanced on the fine line between mind-blowingly badass and absurd. If your action sequence is awesome enough, I don't care if it's realistic. If it's not, I start to ask questions. I particularly start to ask questions about whether something better could have been done with those resources. For instance, if you give me a big set-up about having the fastest car ever, I want to see it go really fast. Soaring through the air is neat, but you don't need the fastest car ever to do that. As we all recall from Speed, even a city bus can do that shit.

The pacing was totally off. The scenes were all very short, which made the movie seem quite rushed, despite the fact that it also felt bloated and way too long. This, in turn, made one notice how uninteresting the plot was. Which is pretty surprising, because I can hardly remember the plots of the other films, and I have no complaints about them whatsoever.

Also, I'm sorry, but CGI Paul Walker is not seamlessly integrated into the film. It's painfully, tragically obvious on a number of occasions that he is being digitally added. And it's very sad, and I sincerely mourn the man's passing (and I quite appreciated the homage at the end, which incidentally is also at the beginning of the dvd of 6, should you rent it), but this was not the greatest way to solve that problem.

I'm sorry to be down on the movie. I wanted to love it. And some of the stunts are great, and some of the fight scenes are pretty badass, and I do love the characters and enjoy seeing them again, but at the end of the day, you're better off re-watching 6.

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