Over the past 18 years the Fast & Furious franchise has taken over the big screen, evolving from a relatively small-scale series of movies focused on street racing into a full-blown explosive action franchise. The storylines are outrageous and totally unrealistic, but this is largely what makes the Fast & Furious films such an amazing experience to behold at the cinema. Consistently, the Fast & Furious series has provided crowd-pleasing box office hits and, movie after movie, proven that cars can literally do anything – including falling out of a plane with a parachute to land perfectly onto a mountain, or smashing through two skyscrapers in sequence. Though these scenes may seem ridiculous, it’s the franchise’s bread and butter at this point.
The diversity of the Fast & Furious series is unquestionable, from strong female leads to the inclusive portrayal of racial minorities. Many of the female characters are not only as strong and inexorable as the male characters but also tend to outperform them. This can be considered a rarity for Hollywood, even in 2019. Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), one of the franchise’s strongest female characters, is able to do everything the male characters can do in half the time. Meanwhile, Cipher (Charlize Theron), the villain of the latest instalment, has great wit and intelligence. She uses cutting-edge technology to threaten Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and make him turn against the thing he cares about most – family. Wonder Woman actress Gal Gadot plays Gisele, who started out as a villain but later joined the ride-or-die crew. Throughout her stint she proved to be one of the most courageous characters in the series, eventually sacrificing herself to save Han (Sung Kang) – then going on to shake the world with her portrayal of Diana Prince in the DC universe.
Comprised of African-American, Brazilian, Israeli and Korean actors, the ensemble casts in the Fast & Furious films have produced a diverse range of characters throughout the series. In the first four movies the primary hero was all-American white male Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker). With Fast Five, characters that were previously considered sidekicks to Brian were becoming more central and treated more as his equal. The best example of this being Han, who became an essential part of the gang. He was no longer just the ‘wise Asian mentor’ archetype that he functioned as in earlier instalment Tokyo Drift.
Despite its macho title, the franchise has provided us with several poignant moments that tug at the heartstrings. The most affecting of these sequences has to be the farewell to Paul Walker in Furious 7. Huge news at the time, Walker had passed away during the making of the film with the writers deciding that simply killing off his character would be a poor way of honouring his memory. Instead, they opted for Brian to step away from the heist life to focus on settling down and being a new parent. Furious 7 ended with Dom and Brian having one last drive together before gliding away down their separate paths. Due to the tragic real-life circumstance, it was one of the standout scenes of that cinematic year and the series’ most heartbreaking moment.
While Fast & Furious is a franchise that many find easy to make fun of, it’s hard to deny its persistent ability to shock audiences with WTF moments. It has real staying power, still providing mega box office hits even after nearly 20 years since the first film was released. With recent spin-off Hobbs & Shaw not looking to buck the trend, the series only seems to be getting stronger and stronger.
Check out the trailer for the latest instalment Hobbs & Shaw below: