First! Uhm... Now What?

Fast and Furious

So I run websites where I basically got to review movies and other mass media (it seems that my natural state is shitting on the works of others, and I'm okay with that). Over time I've had my hand in four different websites that allowed me a chance to do my "reviewing" thing, only one of which is still alive in any form (Castlevania: the Inverted Dungeon, which I sadly haven't touched in years, so it just shambles along like a zombie -- a fairly amusing and accurate description considering the source material). The failure to keep up with any of these sites, though, has left me with a void in my "shitting on things" lifestyle.

Thus, I figured it's be a good idea to get one of these feeds together and start rambling about whatever again. As a mission statement for the feed, I will use this as an opportunity to discuss my webcomic, the creative process, projects I'm currently working on (with SPOILERS clearly marked, if I ever bother posting spoilers), and, of course, crap I've watched that I must review at all costs.

We'll get into some of the other (less important) topics soon, but I want to start this stream off with some thoughts on the first of three recent blockbusters I watched, and how they managed to pass/fail despite themselves.

The first of which, Fast and Furious 6, was a movie I actually saw in the theater, despite it being part of the Fast and Furious series (because, really, come on). While not exactly high art (in no sense is the series "good"), the F&F movies are fun, stupid cheese. The original movie (as has been pointed on in various locations) is little more than Point Break with cars instead of surfing (and Vin Deisel instead of Patrick Swayze, which, as I was not a big fan of the Swaze, seems like a wash to me). The relative "meh" feeling I had seeing the first flick (on video, not in the theaters) made it so that I did bother going back to the series until entry four (Fast and Furious, a name given to try and make it seem like more of a reboot than a sequel, what with number 3, Tokyo Drift, under-performing in theaters; the less said about number two, 2 Fast 2 Furious, the better).

But I did see the fourth flick, mostly on a lark to see how bad the series had gotten, and was pleasantly surprise by how decent it was. Freed up from the plot a Keanu Reeves movie, Fast and Furious was fun and stupid in all the ways a good car chase movie should be. it relied a little too heavily on CGI in places, and nothing will ever make Vin Diesel's ability to pop a car wheelie make sense, but baring those issues, the movie is a good time.

This was only improved in number five, Fast Five (because they apparently can't name any of these movies consistently). Wisely, the series finally decided to minimize the "street racing" parts of the flick, instead focusing on a heist plotline that made the flick two parts Ocean's Eleven, one part dumb driving movie. The obvious fun the actors had with the material fed into a free, breezy feel for the flick. This is aided by an over-the-top (but in the best ways) climax, which managed to put a grand cap on the series, elevating the whole franchise (inexplicably) into mainstream blockbuster awesomeness.

Yet, sadly, the movie made a crap ton of money, so the producers elected to make a sixth movie. Don't get me wrong, Fast and Furious 6 (not Fast Six, or Fast and Furious 2: The Fast and the Furious 6, or 6 Fast 6 Furious) is a decent movie. If it had come out before Fast Five it probably would rank higher on my list. As it is, number five is so good that six just pales by comparison. It took me a little while to figure out why (because, really, what am I expecting from a dumb driving movie), but I think there's one really big reason why the movie doesn't work:

It's not really about everyone's favorite street racing team.

In the previous movies, whatever hero we had gets in a car, finds someone to race, the if there's a villain, their animosity to said villain grows naturally out of the plotline. Alliances are made, bets are placed, and everyone that matters goes home happy. In FF6 (the one without Espers) the story is already half over by the time our spunky street racers get involved. Some villainous fiend is off robs places and blowing buildings up, and for the first third of the movie, we're on the sidelines watching other people while we get informed about what's going on.

There's a rule: show, don't tell. If you have to spend the first act of the movie getting us up to speed on what's already happened, instead of showing it to us as it's happening, you've missed the whole point of "moving pictures".

This alone wouldn't completely kill the movie, but it certain illustrates why, while watching the flick, I didn't care about what the villain was doing. I had no context for just how evil he could be. He blows up one set piece and we're off to the races (so to speak), but a truly great villain needs more to do. He needs scenery to chew, and multiple evil deeds to accomplish.

Added to this is some serious implausibility with physics. In previous movies, there were some glaring physics flaws, sure (Vin Diesel and Paul Walker fall 100 stories into water, which we all know would kill them, but by movie logic is just like falling gently onto a mattress). In Faster and Furiouser Sixer, though, the biggest set piece involved a tank,cars, and multiple characters flying about on a bridge, using a car as a "soft" landing place and walking away from it like it's nothing. Note that: no bruising, no blood, and no limp. The characters just brush off jump 30 miles per hour right into a windshield like it's nothing. They didn't even get to brush off a fall into water, but high speed bodies-crashing-into-cars is okay?

Eh, not hardly, thank you.

Between these two major issues, I just wasn't able to get my head back in the game for the big climax at the end (which is supposed to feel even more epic than the tank sequence). There's a chase sequence with multiple cars, a jetliners, and massive explosions on the tarmac. And yet, I still just didn't care. I wasn't invested in the movie any more, either for the characters -- whether they lived or died (because, obviously, it was all at the whim of the producers who could die, and no any "real world" consequences) -- or if the heroes succeeded in stopping the villain (because who gave a fuck about the villain?).

So yeah, I'm sure there are some that would argue I expect too much from a movie called Fast and Furious, but is it too much to ask for (1) a villain that's interesting, and (2) internally consistent physics. Give me those things and you can crash all the cars you want, guys.

Me, I'd rather go watch Tokyo Drift again.