Hear me out.
Photo: Universal Pictures
Emerging from the preview screening of Fate of the Furious on Tuesday night, amidst us lucky plebs, was local celebrity Dominic Bowden, baseball cap worn in jaunty backwards fashion on his head.
Animatedly using vigorous thumbs down, throat slashing and head shaking gestures to economically non-verbally express himself, Dominic appeared to be indicating to a fellow person what he thought of the Fate of the Furious.
As is to be expected, Dominic could not be more wrong. Fate of the Furious is an amazing movie.
Now in its eighth installment, and following the horribly tragic death of core cast member Paul Walker, one could be forgiven for approaching Fate of the Furious with trepidation.
Perhaps this is primarily because the franchise has strayed so far from its humble, modest, even slightly gritty origins. How, one might wonder, has a group of lower class boy racers led by a sexy ex-con come to be enlisted by the government to fight terrorism across the globe? The snowy plains of Russia are, after all, a long way from illegal street races in LA. Eight movies is a lot you may be thinking. Have they finally lost their way?
Fate of the Furious picks up sometime after where Furious 7 left, with Dom and Letty on their honeymoon in Cuba having a grand old street racing time while, as usual, valuing family with every ounce of their being.
Somehow, in spite of this, Dom quickly decides to betray and abandon everyone he loves to work with cyber terrorist Charlize Theron - or does he???
Dom’s family - a fabulously ragtag group of hackers, illegal street racing vets and The Rock - and his jilted wife are none too pleased about this betrayal and are quickly assembled by the FBI to do something about it using their number one skill: MOTORING.
From this point forth the narrative trajectory follows a sensible path of steadily escalating international car battles between Dom’s spurned family and his new cyber terrorist crew. Meanwhile the mystery of why exactly Dom would seemingly reject his single greatest value on a whim gradually unravels.
It’s silly and wacky but somehow it is also utterly charming in a way that dawned on me about midway through: Fate of the Furious isn’t a Fast and the Furious movie. It’s a Bond movie. With more cars.
Now, this is a big call to make, and as you saucily place a hand on one hip you may ask the obvious question of exactly who in this equation is the equivalent of James Bond.
The answer is none of them, but that will not stop me. Everything else is there.
An epic introductory sequence in an exotic location that has zero (0) to do with the rest of the film? The opening of Fate of the Furious is a Bond opening.
An icy bitch who lives on a constantly flying plane, styles her hair in abhorrent bleach blonde waist length white people dreads and speaks mainly in monologues about choice and fate? Charlize Theron is a Bond villain.
An epic showdown in a snowy Russian vista between sports cars, a tank, a submarine and anonymous Russian henchmen on jet-sleds?
Cool GPS devices built into everyday objects; an INCREDIBLE sequence involving driverless cars; an EXCEPTIONALLY cute baby (not so Bondian, but you know); and a surprising number of British people - you get the picture.
Of course, any old movie could feasibly employ these things and still not come anywhere near warranting the favourable Bond comparison I am going for. It is the spirit of Fate of the Furious that really had me shook.
Spectacle, silliness, one liners, fancy cars driving onto ramps lowered by still flying planes - these are the things we have lost in the Sam Mendes era of stoic, serious Bond, just when we need them the most. At a time when the best action adventure movie ever filmed (The Mummy) is being given a ~prestige~ reboot, this could not be more welcome.
Yes it is odd that the FBI would employ a group of illegal street racers to single handedly stave off the cyber apocalypse. But in the age of ill-advised reboots, exhaustive franchising and a general refusal to let any successful piece of media die a dignified death, and in which Spider Man is doomed to repeatedly play out his origin story Groundhog Day style, supplanting the street racing scene with a Pierce Brosnan era Bond film is, I venture to say, genius.
Imagine, will you, if the Pirates of the Caribbean, instead of sailing the seas for treasure, sailed the seas to fight cyber terrorism? If Harry Potter and his school chums, instead of fighting Voldemort with magic, fought cyberterrorism, with magic? The world would be a better place.
Consider this praise hyperbolic if you must. Like Dominic Bowden you may have your reservations. But if, like me, your senses have been lulled to sleep by an eternity of smug Marvel films, then Fate of the Furious may be just what you need to shock them awake.