What fuels the saga so well?
Update of April 12, 2022: When we have just learned that Brie Larson joined the saga for the tenth episode, C8 will rebroadcast tonight Fast & Furious 8. A disappointing opus, as we wrote when it was released five years ago. Flashback.
Article from April 21, 2017: We’re not going to lie to each other, the last one Fast and Furious has, for us, demonstrated the limits of the franchise. Sultry action, twisted stories and script twists over the top… The saga carried by Vin Diesel for more than 15 years has known no limits to satisfy its audience – and still delights it. While F&F 8 breaks an all-time global box office start record, we take stock of the cinematic enigma of the decade, or how a Saturday night popcorn flick became the unrivaled powerhouse of the action blockbuster. And a monument of pop-culture.
With age, the frankness Fast and Furious has become a steamroller. Since the official reboot of the saga with episode 4 in 2009 (which reintroduced the hard core cast of the first film released in 2001) and the change of artistic direction with number 5 two years later, the authors have only pushing back the limits of the imagination to deliver ever more delirious entertainment episode after episode. The wild races of tuned cars no longer excite the public? Let’s move on to the heist movie. Robberies no longer make money? Let’s face paramilitaries and tanks. The tanks are so eighties ? Let the Toretto family take on a nuclear submarine while negotiating a turn toward technothriller.
So what’s the next step? Vin Diesel in space to thwart the plans of a space station wanting to destroy the Earth? And why not… One of the screenwriters, Chris Morganlaunched the most seriously in the world in an interview with Uproxx : “ We’re only going to space if we have a cool concept. For example: what if Dom’s missing brother, Richard B. Riddick (space opera franchise also carried by Vin Dieseleditor’s note), was coming next?” Because that’s what galvanizes the public to Fast and Furious : this ability to transfigure the action and to go as far as it takes to keep the attention. One could easily forget that it started out as a humble little urban thriller, telling the simple story of a cop infiltrating a gang, whose only specificity was flashy fluorescent motorized vehicles with sills and neon lights under the chassis. Since episode 5, Fast and Furious rocked, building over the films a total franchise, a pop-cultural phenomenon, an unmissable meeting that we will see between friends. Because the story of this saga, from the start, is above all a “family” story.
Fast and Furious 8: “We had to do better than the previous films”
In the first Fast and Furiousone of the main scriptwriting issues was the love story that develops between the character of Brian (late Paul Walker) and Mia (Jordan Brewster), the younger sister of Dom (Vin Diesel). Brian having won Dom’s friendship and trust, he allows him to see his sister and introduces him to the family. This concept of the family, of which some members are united by blood and others by friendship, remains the pillar of the franchise. Much more than big cars, babes in bikinis, indigestible mainstream rap and pyrotechnic special effects. In 8 films, the series has built a reassuring family pattern in the face of adversity, a pattern from which many fictions, especially television, derive their success. Within this surrogate family cocoon we find archetypal characters on whom the public can rely, or identify: Dom acts as the upright patriarch but also as a protective big brother. Letty, his companion, is the “mum” of the group to whom we can turn in case of need and who releases her claws if we touch hers. Brian was the ideal son-in-law, handsome and loyal at the same time, ready to do anything for his friends, even betraying his commitment to the police and his ideals. Mia, his wife, is the ultra-protected little sister coveted by alpha males for her beauty. Then the family grew, film after film, and now we find Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), in the role of the hefty uncle who comes to the aid of the head of the family, Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) who are the talking and flirting cousins. And since not everyone is ever really bad in this whole story, in the eighth episode Jason Stathamso bad guy of the previous opus, also integrates the familia. First reluctantly, then he finally gives in to the brotherly love that unites the Toretto family.
This family, skilfully constructed over the course of the episodes, gives the public the impression of being among their own and of also being part of the gang. It is also not insignificant that certain films of the saga end with a meal with the traditional blessings specific to American culture. It is in this last salutary moment, which follows the course of the action where Dom and his peers almost died a thousand times and which precedes the end credits, that the fourth wall seems to fall between the heroes and the public. . Moreover, the multicultural aspect of the group greatly appeals to the American public, facilitating the identification of the spectator with the characters he sees on the screen. Dom, Letty, Mia and Hobbs are Latino and Hispanic, Brian is white, Tej and Roman are black, Han is Asian… In a country where multiculturalism is often undermined by communitarianism and the recent election of donald trump to the White House, Fast and Furious and his family break down borders and mix cultures. This family dynamic works so well that it has actually become a marketing argument. At the risk of sometimes confusing reality and fiction?
Out of frame
Fast and Furious is a franchise in keeping with its times. Social networks are an ideal field of promotion that Vin Diesel, main actor and producer of the films, exploits thoroughly. On his Facebook account, Vin Diesel continues live-direct with the director F. Gary Gray ahead of the film’s release for teasing. He also publishes filming photos, including a recent one with Paul Walker, which garnered more than 15 million likes. On his Instagram, the actor shares photos of him and his little comrades, on promotion or off promotion, generally all smiles outside. These “family” photos sit alongside those of the actor’s real family, especially the one where he poses with his children. There are also montages of images of Paul Walker made by fans that Vin Diesel relays on his official account as a tribute. The barriers of fiction are freed and this is undoubtedly what gave such a dimension to the death of Paul Walker on November 30, 2013, who precisely lost his life in a car accident. Fans are stunned by the news, and his death becomes an event far beyond the cinematic setting. The tribute clip to the actor, See You Again sign Wiz Khalifaachieved the record of one billion views in less than 24 hours on Youtube, currently more than doubled. The world reacts not to the death of an actor, but of a family member. It was also necessary to integrate this tragic event into the films: the shadow of Paul Walker hovers over the end of the seventh opus where we symbolically see Brian’s car taking a different path from that of the team – and we cry. He’s still there in the 8and, some even wanting to ask him for help. Letty’s character cuts them off: “No, he has changed his life and he must be left alone.“Rest in peace Paul. Or how Fast & Furious transcended a B series actor (Brick Mansions, Kill Bobby Z) in James Dean of Generation Y.
But, as in all families, the smiles and the jokes can sometimes be a facade. During the promotion of Fast and Furious 8, Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, the on-screen enemy brothers, had claimed that he would have a wrestling match to determine who is the stronger of the two. Despite the enthusiasm of the press and fans for this real media show, the match will never take place. A quarrel would have been born between the two men on the film set. First taken for a time for a fictitious rivalry for promotional purposes, the real argument would have taken on such proportions that Vin Diesel would have even deleted a post-credits scene in which Dwayne Johnson was the hero. The a priori healthy rivalry has thus given way to jealousy. Very recently, it seems that the two men patched things up for episode 9. Media stunt or not, it’s hard to know more as the marketing around the actors has become an extension of the films.
And like F&F is a saga of its time, the last stroke of hood is to have integrated a strong female character. At the start, the women were divided into two categories: the strong girls, even tomboys (Letty in the lead), and the easy girls with swaying curves making the flag on the starting line of the wild rodeos. Then, in the last episode, Charlize Theron comes to stir up trouble. Badass, sexy and Machiavellian, it illustrates a new turn: the choice to transform the eternal bad-guy into a terrorist diva proves once again that the saga wants to go beyond the codes of the genre and is capable of attracting a female audience who so far was limited, schematically, to girls who agreed to accompany their friends to theaters.
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