The Long and Winding Road: Chapter 10 – The Road Ahead.

The day before the 49ers and the Chiefs duked it out in the Superbowl Universal Studios set up a concert in Miami advertising their newest movie: F9. An hours-long concert lead-up to a two and a half minute trailer seems like overkill but Universal studios (more specifically Vin Diesel) was riding high. Justin Lin came back to the Fast Saga to direct the latest outing. Long missing cast members returned. Charlize Theron would reprise her role. The whole thing seem poised to break the global box office and start the summer movie season on a high note. Then the global pandemic happened.

On March 16 AMC, Cinemark, and Regal all announced full closures of all of their movie theaters for “six to twelve weeks” to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus and to comply with different state responses to the global pandemic. There could be no summer movie season because there were no theaters to play in. The entire country stared in awe as, one-by-one, studios pulled their movies out of rotation. F9 was the first to go, opting for an April slot in 2021 – one entire year later.

We don’t know what to expect from the movie since it’s delayed release plan. We can only go off of whatever media hype the cast and crew accomplished in relation to the trailer. Since the media machine was in full steam when the virus was just ramping up we can examine the treasure trove of content. I, however, keep going back to that trailer. What I have for you is a way over-analyzed breakdown of the trailer for F9 complete with predictions, skeptical thoughts, and some contextual analysis.

Read along on the rest of our Fast Saga coverage with these articles on the other Fast & Furious installments:

A Preview for Fast & Furious 9

Open on a farm-looking place. Dominic Toretto put the square concrete home of LA behind him and now tunes tractors instead of muscle cars. Together with Letty, his wife, the two raise his son Brian safe from the world at large. Little does he know….

Across the globe, in a supermax prison, Jacob Toretto meets Cipher. With her chic looking bowl cut she persuades Jacob to join her cause: help her destroy Dominic Toretto and bring down world governments. She’ll hint that she has some very powerful friends (Eteon!) and that she has aligned herself with their agenda. Jacob agrees, he’s ready to step out from the shadows.

Dom’s just about to go put his son to bed when he gets a call from Mr. Nobody. He says Cipher has been released from a super prison in Paris. Dominic yells at him for not telling him Cipher was in prison in the first place. Nobody chuckles something about being on a “need-to-know” basis. He then smugly sips amber ale from a Stella Artois and wistfully mentions it’s five o’clock somewhere. Little Nobody takes the phone from him. He explains: Cipher’s set loose and they need Dom and his team to go get her. Oh! And Dom, Scott Eastwood says, Jacob’s there. Letty enters the room after overhearing the entire conversation.

The two go upstairs and poorly explain to an innocent child why they have to abandon him to save the world from a cyber terrorist. Poor little Brian gets his dad’s necklace as a consolation gift and goes to bed happy. His parents arrange Little Nobody to babysit but only after Deckard Shaw won’t take their calls. His voicemail says he’s busy hunting Eteon with the Samoan Hulk. You can hear Luke Hobbs’ voice in the background calling him a candy ass. Letty and Dom smile and shrug. Oh, those two. Boys will be boys. Or something like that.

In Paris the team reunites. Tej flips a big breaker revealing a monstrous hideout in the tunnels. He says he bought them off a former member of the League of Assassins who used to drill tunnels under cities and put bombs there. Everyone looks around uncomfortably. Letty answers her phone and walks away all coy.

Roman does his thing where he struts around and compliment/insults everyone saying how he missed them. When he gets to Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) he goes uncomfortably silent. He, Ramsey, and Tej all share a strange look. They mention a roadtrip in Mexico and a tequila fueled night. Thankfully Letty interrupts them all by introducing Han! They all cry and passionately reunite.

Han meets Ramsey. She blushes at his suave behavior but he cuts her off: he only has eyes for one woman. The sadness lingers. Dom cuts the tension by pointing them back to the problem at hand: Cipher is loose in London and they need to hunt her down. Cue the big reveal – Jacob is Dom’s little brother. Gasp! But Family!

Jacob steals some expensive piece of equipment with a flowery name. Let’s call it the Marigold Explosive. This Marigold can acidly break down anything, kind of like the blood of a Xenomorph. He executes the heist while Dom explains his brother is a world-renowned assassin, master thief, and performance driver. Dom’s narration comes to a close and John Cena smiles while he holds a bizarre looking vial.

But how are they gonna find him? Roman asks. Tej and Ramsey do their tech thing. They explain, once again, why God’s Eye won’t work, thus negating an entire movie. They learn Jacob’s going to deliver the vial to Cipher at a lavish party in the Palace of Versailles. They’ll never get in, bemoans Letty. Roman jokes about how he can talk himself into anything. Again Ramsey and Tej look uncomfortable. Nobody responds. Dom knows somebody.

The Long and Winding Road of ‘The Fast and the Furious’ Franchise

Family Matters Most of All

It’s nighttime. Dom walks up to a red Lamborghini. Dame Helen Mirren answers. She grimaces in disdain but she lets him in anyways. The two chat for a second. She lectures him about the importance of family and how her children only recently reconnected and how it’s super important. Dom stares off, unsettled. She grabs his hand and makes him look her in the eyes. Family, she says, is all that matters. He looks down to see a flowery microchip wristband allowing him into the party. Bassnectar starts playing and we smash cut to:

Bodies. Writhing. In perfectly white togas. It’s that time again! You know what it is! Montage of half-naked models dancing on platforms while shiny sports cars drive in circles. Bass bumps. Dom sneaks a quick peek but Letty yells at him over the comms. She’s staring down the barrel of a sniper rifle watching him. Tej and Roman laugh. Dom moves in.

Dom walks past a few suspicious characters. He probably has an interaction at the bar where someone mentions a past adventure. Dom continues into the Hall of Mirrors where he confronts his baby brother. Both point guns at each other. Finally Cipher shows up. She monologues about the uber-wealthy and their tone deaf partying despite the world decaying. Dom doesn’t buy it. Jacob is totally her patsy. Dom puts his plan into action.

Turns out! This whole time Roman was distracting security so Ramsey could get inside. Once inside she connects to a computer and hacks the security system. This allows Tej to piggyback on it and turn the security system against Jacob and Cipher. Armed forces show up and a shootout ensues. Jacob and Dom battle. Dom gets the upper hand and snags the vial. He runs through the Palace of Versailles with a vial of evil acid. Ramsey escapes through the front, hopping in a Lamborghini that Tej drives, Roman’s in the back. Dom has to jump out a window. He lands on Letty’s character. They all drive off thinking they’ve won.

Back at the hideout they’re celebrating. Everything goes dark. They realize Jacob purposely lost the fight so that they could track Dom to his hideout and destroy his crew. They don’t have much time to escape so the crew bails. Before Dom can escape, however, he’s taken hostage by like twenty dudes. Jacob captures Dom. The gang still has the vial though.

The gang, beaten and distraught, doesn’t know what to do. They’re all rattled. That’s when Mia Toretto walks in. Don’t worry, she quickly says, Brian’s looking after the family. She steps up as team leader. Everyone follows her orders without question. They find out Dom is being transferred by a heavily armed convoy in London. They travel there.

A high-speed chase ensues over London where the gang saves Dom. In the process they manage to flip the transfer car train a la The Dark Knight nearly crushing everyone in the process. Dom escapes and Jacob and Dom do battle across London literally bashing walls and tearing apart entire rooms. They fight on double decker buses. They tackle each other and fall seven stories to the ground. Both survive, but bloody and exhausted.

Mia intervenes before the two can kill each other. She begs Jacob to give up his life of crime and surrender. He spits out how they turned their backs on him once they went straight. He yells at Dom for talking a big game about family and how he abandoned Jacob. Dom gets in the expensive car with Mia and they drive off. Jacob and Cipher have the vial.

Now the stakes have been upped. They have to stop Cipher and Jacob. They may have to kill the two. Dom nods, struggling to accept it. Tej and Ramsey and Roman share a meal together, eating gracefully without words as if they’ve done this before. Han watches them for a second. Someone asks how he’s still alive. He smirks. Turns out Deckard isn’t so evil after all. Mia wonders aloud, if Han could survive an exploding car do you think Gisele survived her plane crash? The question is left hanging. Han smirks.

Mr. Nobody teleconferences in. He explains Cipher’s plans to… I dunno… burn open a lock and steal Dom’s gym socks to laugh at him. I dunno. They usually make up some poor excuse and move past the motivation. Suffice to say it’s bad and the whole world would suffer. He tells them they have satellites that tracked Cipher and crew to Hawaii. They’re accessing weather satellites or something. Once again, this part doesn’t usually matter. The Gang’s needed in Hawaii.

The Influence of Video Game Culture on The Fast & Furious Franchise

The Fast Gang Goes to Hawaii

There’s a lot more that happens in the movie but at this point you get my drift. They chase Jacob offroad in Hawaii. Cipher pilots a magnet plane. Helicopters shoot missiles at Dom and friends. Jacob wants to kill his little brother. Cipher’s using Jacob. At some point the crew test drives a rocket engine strapped to a car (pushing the limits of acceptable speed), implying the crew may have to drive cars in space someday. Han soaks up all of the atmosphere just by being his cool self.

It all sounds goofy and, at times, entirely plausible but that’s the niche of this self-mythologizing franchise. It never half-asses anything. It whole-asses everything. Whatever happened in movies before you can expect them to try and one-up. Army of zombie cars? Look for bigger. Let’s watch as Dominic whips car from island to island using only a metal clamp and wire rope. Or perhaps a Jeep driving across a collapsing wooden bridge in sheer defiance of gravity might suit you better.

The Fast & Furious franchise has stunned critics and audiences alike for its ability to outdo itself in almost every way while softly recalling it’s humble origins. We’ve come a long way from the Vibe magazine article that inspired this whole outfit. In fact, a long retrospective shows how every movie for the first five movies were a surprise success against plenty of odds. Only after huge international success would it turn into a franchise and even then it took four more films to inspire multiple spinoffs. While Vin Diesel has gone on to say that his franchise only has two more movies left in it (F9 being one of them) expect another Hobbs & Shaw, a female-led spinoff, and potentially more material to be mined for the near-future.

The story of the Fast Saga is really the story of summer blockbuster filmmaking writ large. What once started in the middle range budget with practical effects, quippy one-liners, and rap-heavy soundtracks turned from domestic appeal to international focus. While Marvel studios carved up the summer money Universal copied some of their success by injecting those ideas directly into the Fast franchise. By incorporating a moralist family-oriented group of misfits and rebels into a stunt-and-effects-driven action flick Universal hit upon universality. Now the movies are for international audiences and take place all over the world. It evolved past being LA-centric or even remotely real-world-influenced. It started as a crime drama and street racing movie and turned into a heist flick before settling into its role as a spy action thriller in the broadest possible terms.

The cast makeup represents multiple ethnicities, languages, and personalities in a truly global representation. That diversity helps align the movie to more audiences than just its initial straight, white, male audience. Across the globe people of different nationalities could see themselves represented as heroes onscreen. Going even further the franchise develops predominantly white characters as antagonists, only once it escapes it’s crime drama roots. Scott Eastwood tentatively fills the shoes of the white man fitting in comfortably with other people of color; a buoyant and optimistic perspective when it comes to action movie teams.

I grew up with these movies and learned to love them all in different ways. Seeing them and writing about them has brought me an impressive level of context to share with you all and helped me evaluate them both individually and as a collective. Fast & the Furious movies are, at their worst, escapist fantasy full of meaningless plot, poorly clothed women, and car-specific action scenes. Fast & the Furious has demonstrated time and time again it aims to be so much more. Whether it’s unification of the fan base after the death of a beloved star or changing their story after fan’s urges to right their own wrongs they’ve grown. Vin Diesel sits at the heart of it all and you can tell he’s listening.

No one expected this movie series to take off like it did but with each new iteration it gained an opportunity to prove to us why it’s so much more than basic cinematic drivel. With its heart on its sleeve this series offers a little bit of everything to everyone and while some argue that waters it down I will argue that: despite its broad appeal it clings to its main theme with an iron fist and that message is – family isn’t just something you’re born with it’s something you build and care for. As the man himself, Dominic Toretto, says “You don’t turn your back on family.” We are all looking for our families. Treat each other with respect and kindness and appreciate the bombastic parts of this world. They’re juvenile, sure, but explosions can still be profound (in a lowest common denominator way) as long as you’ve got loved ones to share it with.

The Fast Franchise Reaches its Final Form in ‘The Fate of the Furious’ (2017)