F9 Doesn’t Follow the Science. It’s Great.
The Fast & Furious franchise does not believe in science. In these films, cars can flip, hop, and fly with ease and even grace; roads are helpful but not necessary; and the drivers themselves are almost never seriously injured. The films exist in an alternate universe where there are no rules, no principles, no gravitational effects that cannot be overcome with some skilled driving and clever garage modifications. Strap a rocket to a Pontiac Fiero and send it to space? Sure. At the end of the latest entry, F9, that’s exactly what happens. If anything, it’s one of the more realistic moments.
Realism has never been the draw for this series. If anything, the opposite is true: The series has only become more successful as its vehicular gymnastics have broken free from the demands of gravity. Although the franchise began two decades ago with a lowly B-film about illegal street racing—essentially an uncredited remake of Point Break with souped-up Hondas swapped for surfboards—it has evolved into one of Hollywood’s premier mega-series, with a vast rotating cast of muscle cars and muscled men, and vehicles that leap from bridges and buildings.
Like so many of today’s biggest movie franchises, it’s effectively a superhero series, but with cars instead of capes. These films, in other words, are fantasies—big, dumb, loud, and largely enjoyable, and the long-delayed F9, which finally hits theaters this weekend, is no exception. And after a year with few real big-screen blockbusters, the franchise’s brand of action fantasy is incredibly welcome. It’s exactly the big, dumb, loud movie I wanted to see.
If the gleeful embrace of vehicular fantasy is one key to the series appeal, the other is its earnest melodrama. These are superhero films, but also soap operas, in which the day-to-day bonds of friendship and family are always at the fore. The mantra of the Fast & Furious films—it’s all about family—has become something of a hollow punchline, but in F9, director and co-writer Justin Lin finds ways to deepen the theme, grounding the movie’s high-flying auto antics in familial tragedy and patriarchal pain.
Over the course of 20 years and nine films, Dom (Vin Diesel), the series’ glowering goliath of a protagonist, has become both a literal father and a figurative one to the ragtag gang of car-crashing misfits he leads. In a stran
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