By Carl Wyant.
In a contemporary post-Trump world, where perpetually lowering the bar has become de rigueur, this alliteratively fueled franchise is no great disappointment.
Or to twist a biblical phrase, where so little is expected…you get it.
Sure there’s more speed, more action, more muscular exhibition of testosterone than you can shake your stick at, and more hot young things dressed for succsex to accompany the woodener dialogue and preposterouser plot, but then what have you got?
As with every successful (at the box office at least) blockbuster franchise – Bond, Star Wars, et. al – the subsequent sequels are duly required to pump, pump, pump up the volume, and F8, the hipper moniker for this latest amalgam of macho and machinery, is no exception.
The locations are more exotic…the steamy streets of Havana, the lava pooled landscapes of far north Iceland, and then there’s Manhattan, where evidently, the high rises are raining cars, of all makes and models cascading down on to the street to explosive effect. Wait, maybe that was Cleveland? Exotic to some I suppose, if you live in Kentucky, and are married to your first cousin.
The stunts here are all more gravity, and logic defying. A submarine gets orca-breaching air, and there’s a torpedo attack on ice. Harpoons are the weapons of choice in another tip of the Bond formula-Q nod to high-tech gadgetry, and as always, the interminable 2 hours and 40 minutes – I swear it felt like 5 – are chock full of big boys’ toys and allot a blowin’ shit up.
Suffice to say that it’s a brutally choreographed dance of man and metal, but for all it’s physical weight, mass, and general bulk, very little substance . . . all hat and very few cattle as they say down Dallas way. Incidentally, not one of the exotic locations.
Hey, when the crowd pleasing highlight comes from a guy named Dwayne ‘The Rock’ pulling a concrete bench out of the wall and bicep-curling it, was there ever any doubt about what this edition was going to deliverer?
On an artistic level, just when you thought ‘Straight Outta Compton’ would propel director F. Gary Gray to greater heights, he’s been dragged kicking and screaming back to the bank with this predictable comic-action genre.
I say comic here for a couple of distinctly different reasons.
The respite from the race-crash-spin-repeat cycle that a few one-liners provide from Tyrese Gibson and Ludicris as they play off Kurt Russell’s authority figure and Scott Eastwood’s handsome fool to lay on the leitmotif is the first.
Then there’s the inadvertent laughs that come from Charlize Theron’s braided beauty-hacker-mastermind-villain Cipher as she furiouserly works a keyboard, or Vin Diesel’s thankfully laconic lead Dom when he mumbles one of his Zen-like koans “I choose my own fate” – hmmm, isn’t that an oxymoron? Hmmm, never mind.
Lest I forget, there’s Jason Statham, as Jason Statham I think. Same as it ever was. He should just use his own name in all of his roles, no? Time saver.
Such is the bouillabaisse of this film, with its piling on of action stars, its homage to nearly every super hero riff extant, the action clichés, the female characters as virtual props, keepin’ it borderline hetero in a thinly disguised arabesque of bromances left and right, that one could easily take away the impression that the filmmakers were just hedging their bets against the very real fear that the franchise may have run out of heat with the real-life death of its charismatic co-star Paul Walker.
It the end, its much ado I suppose, as this close to movie-going Summer, you get what you pay for. Yes, F8 had the highest grossing opening weekend of all time, but let’s remember that populist victories can be very cautionary tales, especially if the electoral college gets involved.
Look on the bright side, at least it’s not another Marvel, on the surface anyway, and as to the ‘Fate of the Furious’? Let’s just hope that 8 is enough.
One usually wants to see this kind of fare on the big screen, for the effect, if not the effects, but I’d recommend seeing it on a plane, as I did. Kill two birds.