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Why Fast & Furious is cinema’s greatest franchise

This week on The Culture we discuss what makes ‘The Fast and the Furious’ so compelling, and why it deserves to be recognised as this generation’s James Bond.

‘The Fast and the Furious’ is one of the biggest franchises in movie history, grossing nearly $6 billion at the box office and spanning nine films over 20 years. 

The latest instalment in the series, F9, was released in cinemas last week.

This week on The Culture we discuss what makes ‘The Fast and the Furious’ so compelling, and why it deserves to be recognised as this generation’s James Bond.

 

Guest: Culture writer and author Sinead Stubbins.

Show Transcript

Archival Tape --F9 - Dom

“Money will come and go, we know that. The most important thing in life will always be the people in this room. Right here, right now. Salute, mi familia.”

Archival Tape -- F9 - Group

“Salute.”

[Theme Music Starts]

OSMAN:

Salute mi familia, my name is Osman Faruqi and just like Dominic Toretto, I live my life a quarter mile at a time. And when I’m not drag racing on the streets of East Los Angeles I’m here, hosting The Culture, a podcast from Schwartz Media where every week we drift through the world of pop culture, arts and entertainment.

And what else would we be talking about this week other than the return of cinema’s greatest franchise… The Fast and the Furious is back, baby! And if you know anything about me, you know I care deeply about these films and the release of Fast 9 last week is the perfect opportunity to talk about why.

We’re now twenty years on from the release of the first film, The Fast and the Furious, and since then we’ve watched our team of illegal street racers grow into an international heist crew that now features some of the biggest actors in the world, including in the latest installment believe it or not, TWO oscar winners. 

The films have come a long way since we started back in 2001 with Paul Walker playing a police officer trying to infiltrate a street gang led by Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel. Since then we’ve added more and more cast members, including The Rock, Charlize Theron and Dame Helen Mirren, the crew have fallen in love, they’ve had kids and they’ve done it all while travelling over the globe from Brazil to the Arctic taking down terrorists and saving the world.

The franchise is huge - it’s raked in nearly $6 billion, it’s the closest thing my generation has to something like James Bond but it’s even better because it has more kick arse women leads, more people of colour, and, of course, more cars. 

Joining me on this episode of The Culture to help break down what makes The Fast and the Furious so much better than a movie about cars going into space has any right to be is my good friend, culture writer Sinead Stubbins, the author of the In My Defence, I Have No Defence. Sinead, thanks for coming on the show!

[Theme Music Ends]

SINEAD:

Thanks Os.

OSMAN:

Do you live your life a quarter mile at a time?

SINEAD:

Only when I'm drinking Coronas.  

OSMAN:

I'm so excited to talk to you about this because you and I have been friends for like seven-ish years now? I feel like one of the things that we bonded over first was our mutual love for The Fast and the Furious franchise. But this is the first time we've actually gotten to see one of the movies together. And we actually got to see...F9, F9. I thought it was called Fast9, but apparently it's called Fast and Furious 9 or F9.

SINEAD:

These movies are so important that the titles don't even matter.  

OSMAN:

I mean, that's a very good way of putting it. Um, so we did, we did, like there's an enormous amount to talk about with this franchise. I think we're going to go on a bit of a journey. But maybe let's start with what it was like being in the cinema, that experience of watching collectively. I'd love to know how you felt about it and what your reactions were when the lights dimmed, when the screen widened and that the opening credits kicked off. How are you feeling being back in the movies to watch The Fast and Furious?

SINEAD:

Well, I think you know the answer, because as soon as the lights went down, I said, “I'm so nervous I want to die”. I think, you know, it's...I was thinking about it this morning. It's this great privilege of being a fan of something that you can have an emotional reaction to a movie before that movie has even started because you're already in like I'm all in for these movies and it's fun. It's fun knowing that you're going to have an emotional reaction no matter what happens on screen.

OSMAN:

We're going to talk more about, like the ins and outs of the ninth movie. But just in terms of, like, your top line reactions to it, that was a lot of expectation, a lot of built up. How did you feel? Were you, were you satisfied, were you happy, did it leave you wanting more where you maybe unsatisfied? 

SINEAD:

I was satisfied. I have to admit, though, and I hope this doesn't cause a schism between you and I... 

OSMAN:

That remains to be seen. 

SINEAD:

...Well, and this will be the end of our friendship. Maybe, I don't know. We've had a good run up until now. 

OSMAN:

We've had a good run. I mean, this podcast ends up killing our friendship. At least maybe we got some good content out of it. 

SINEAD:

It's kind of iconic. I think The Fast and the Furious movies where Vin Diesel has to carry the emotional weight of the film... are kind of the weaker the movies, um, definitely the plot of this movie is, and this is no, no spoilers.

OSMAN:

We should say we're not, we're going to describe some things that happened in the movie but it's a spoiler free discussion. 

SINEAD:

Strictly spoiler free. Uh, the plot of this film is that the big baddie is Vin Diesel's brother, who's played by John Cena.

Archival Tape -- F9 - Unknown character

“Who is he?”

Archival Tape -- F9 - Letty

“Jacob is...Dom’s brother.”

Archival Tape -- F9 - Jakob

“It’s been a long time, Dom.”

Archival Tape -- F9 - Dom

“Little brother.”

Archival Tape -- F9 - Jakob

“You always say never turn your back on family...but you turned your back on me.”

SINEAD:

An amazing premise.

OSMAN:

When you say those words and it's like, the fact that that's a real thing that's happening is quite extraordinary. 

SINEAD:

It's a big wish fulfilment, as all of these films are. So a lot of this film is Vin Diesel grappling with having to fight his brother in different scenarios all around the world. And while I love that as a premise, this is a film in which The Rock who has been in, I think four of these films now. The Rock is not in this film, and I really missed his presence, I missed his comic presence and his ability to move the story along. I feel like when these films focus on long emotional scenes of Vin Diesel talking about his father, that's the weakest moments of the franchise for me. But this film also marked the return of one of my favourite characters in the franchise, so...

OSMAN:

Look, I don't know if we're going to have a fight, but it's so interesting, particularly when you said the scenes where Vin Diesel was having long discussions about his father, are like maybe 90 percent of the reason I like this franchise. 

SINEAD:

Interesting.

OSMAN:

But I totally hear you on the lack of- The Rock's absence was certainly felt, I think, and I think, a good friend of mine and friend of the pod, Alexei Toliopoulos, who's a film critic, described this movie as The Godfather II of the franchise.  

SINEAD:

Oh, yeah...totally...totally agree.

OSMAN:

And I think that is a really good way of describing it, because we've been following Vin’s character for 20 years now and we know a lot about what he's been up to for that 20 years. We don't know about what happened before. And so I thought that was so interesting to like help land the stakes emotionally of like, why do we care about this character’s motivations, why do we care about John Cena who, despite this franchise talking about family and loyalty for so long, emerges out of nowhere in the ninth movie as the brother of one of the main characters in the franchise. It's pretty extraordinary.

SINEAD:

And it's pretty ballsy that a movie- a franchise is able to do that in its ninth instalment. 

OSMAN:

And I mean, like it's obviously a little bit absurd, but it's like that kind of makes sense, you know? 

SINEAD:

I mean, it doesn't make sense. I don't think we go to these movies being like, ‘Wow, this is going to make a lot of sense’ in terms of the sense that I like about this.

OSMAN:

In terms of the weird rules of the Fast and Furious universe, it does make sense. 

We’re going to take a quick break, and be back right after this.

[ ADVERTISEMENT ]

OSMAN:

So we are going to talk a lot more in detail about F9 a bit later in the chat. But before we go into the details, I think it's worth taking a step back and just exploring the franchise a bit more generally. It's enormous. The movies have grossed $5.8 billion over the past 20 years. Obviously, that means millions and millions of people around the world have watched it. But I still find so many people in my life who have never seen a Fast and the Furious movie, and in fact, people that are really quizzical about the fact that I'm really into them. They seem shocked that what they think of as a like, high octane, you know, masculine action car franchise is so popular. But I think, I think that sets up this really interesting kind of dichotomy where there is this huge fan base, people like you and I, who love this film, and then there are so many people in our lives that think we're crazy for it. Is that a similar experience to what you have? 

SINEAD:

Yeah, it definitely is. And it's funny because even when we were in the screening last night, I got a message from, um, a mutual friend of ours and also a friend of the pod, Shaad D'Souza, who said, ‘I'm in the new Fast and Furious. Can you please sum up the last eight films for me? And I know you’ve seen them all’. It's like I mean, how do, you know?

OSMAN:

I mean, props to Shaad for going on the opening night, despite having seen none of the movies. 

SINEAD:

I was like, props to you, how you become a Fasty, that kind of energy. Um, but the thing is, I was actually a late adopter of the franchise. 

OSMAN:

Yeah. Tell me about that. Tell me about how you came to the franchise. 

SINEAD:

Well, it's kind of weird because the first film that came out was in 2001...

<Limp Bizkit plays - gunshots, explosion>

Archival Tape -- The Fast and the Furious - Brian

“What the hell was that all about?”

Archival Tape -- The Fast and the Furious - Dom

“A business deal that went sour. Plus, I made the mistake of sleeping with his sister.”

SINEAD:

But it took a while for me to catch on, and I only really did because I'm an action movie lover. And suddenly it felt like there was so much conversation around these movies that I felt like I was missing out. And this is around the time of, I think, Fast5 or the sixth instalment. So I just did this crash course of watching them all in a row. Every movie that was out and fell in love like I was hooked. There was nothing about it I didn't love. Um, but it wasn't just that I found the actual viewing experience so funny and so exciting. It was that, it's actually a fascinating case study for a franchise like. It's an accidentally successful franchise. This shouldn't work. They're not based on a series of books like Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan series or James Bond, they don't have any roots in a comic book universe like the Marvel movies. They didn't start out with, like an Ocean's Eleven cast of A-list Hollywood actors, they were kind of like, no offence, but like B list actors, they were unknown. I mean, Paul Walker was probably the most famous one and he'd only really been in teen movies up until that point. It shouldn't have worked. They shouldn't be popular films. And yet somehow they are, they've created their own mythology and have taken so many risks that they kind of make like the Marvel franchise seem really safe and boring.

OSMAN:

So I want to talk more about why they work, because I totally agree with you. Like my first experience was seeing 2 Fast 2 Furious, the second instalment in the franchise. And I saw that because my family's from Pakistan. We used to go back and visit for holidays and we'd get, like, you know, pirated DVDs for like $2, right? And I saw 2 Fast 2 Furious, and I'm like, this looks like a fun movie. There's cars and numbers on a DVD box, so let's do it.

Archival Tape -- 2 Fast 2 Furious - Unknown character

“Keep your eyes on the road, cowboy.”

<Tyres screech>

Archival Tape -- 2 Fast 2 Furious - Unknown character

“He did the stare and drive on ya, didn’t he? He got that from me!”

OSMAN:

Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, and sort of a strange one to get into because it's a little bit disconnected from the rest of the franchise. It's really at that stage, the only character from the first movie who was in this movie was Paul Walker. Yeah, but it introduces Tyrese Gibson, introduces Ludacris...

SINEAD:

Who has an Afro back then? 

OSMAN:

...Who has an afro back then. And it kind of, there's that weird moment, right, because the first movie has a Ludacris song in it, Area Codes, I think plays at one point and you say, ‘OK, in The Fast and Furious universe, Ludacris is a real musician, he's a rapper’. And then you get to the second film and Ludacris is playing someone. So people are wandering around being like that guy looks a lot like Ludacris. That's so nice. Anyway, digression, something that keeps me up at night.

SINEAD:

But you know that Ludacris as well was actually meant to be Ja Rule. 

OSMAN:

I did not know that.

SINEAD:

Ja Rule was meant to have Ludacris’ job. And thank God that didn't work out because Ja Rule just wouldn't have had the comic timing.

OSMAN:

Absolutely, Ludicrous is an MVP of this series.

SINEAD:

Absolutely.

Archival Tape -- Fast and Furious 6 - Tej

“See man, when a woman starts shooting at you, that's a clear sign to back the fuck off.” 

Archival Tape -- Fast and Furious 6 - Roman

“That could have been my forehead, man.”

Archival Tape -- Fast and Furious 6 - Tej

“Nah, that's not as big as your forehead.”

OSMAN:

Yeah. So, I mean, that's interesting. So kind of canonically maybe Ludacris was not, was just supposed to be the rapper in The Fast and the Furious universe, like he's in the real universe. And then they couldn't get Ja Rule.

SINEAD:

Everything happens for a reason man.

OSMAN:

Wow, OK. I mean I knew that we were going to go down some rabbit holes. I'm so glad that we went down that one. So I watched the second movie and thought it was so fun and weird and wacky and just watched it again. And when you're a kid, you just like have nothing to do on your weekends except watch DVDs. 

So that's what I did. And then I think Tokyo Drift, the third one comes out and that's, that's again removed from the series. Like there's even fewer, in fact, I think there's no characters from the first two movies in that movie. And at the time, I think it got a lot of flack for being a bit weird and being a movie set in Japan but the main character was this 35 year old man playing a teenager who was a white dude from America. But it was also really fun and I think like, self-aware for me, the movie's really kind of hit that gear around the fifth when The Rock came in. 

SINEAD:

Yeah. That escalated things.

OSMAN:

Yeah, and I want to try it because it's sort of hard to take it off because I think when the first for the franchise is now so big, it sort of feels like, that it was always going to be big, but that was not the case, like the first movie was successful, it spawned a couple of sequels, but you would not have said that even by the third or the fourth movie that we're going to have nine. We're going to have a spinoff. We're going to have two more in development. We're going to make nearly $6 billion. So when you said that, you know, they shouldn't work, but they do, why do you think that is? And how did that all sort of come together around the fifth movie? 

SINEAD:

Well, I think it's really important to remember that these films started as a Point Break rip off about drag racers in L.A., stealing DVD players. That's how this started. They escalated to a point where now the films have these drag racers become international agents of espionage. They are fighting with international crime syndicates and global crime families. They're saving the world. They're stopping nuclear war. How does that happen and the reason that happens is Fast5, which, as you said, it's the first movie that has The Rock in it.

Archival Tape -- Fast5 - Agent Hobbs

“All right, listen up. The men we're after are professional runners. They like speed and are guaranteed to go down in the hardest possible way, so make sure you got your funderwear on. We find them; we take them as a team and we bring them back. And above all else, we don't ever, ever, let them get in the cars…”

SINEAD:

I think that's important to note, because as soon as The Rock came into these movies, an A-list actor, no matter what you think about The Rock's acting ability, he brings billions...

OSMAN:

Why would you not think anything other than positive things about The Rock? 

SINEAD:

Well, obviously, you and I love The Rock, but not everyone else. Not everyone is correct like we are.

OSMAN:

True to a lot of wrong people out there.

SINEAD:

There really are. The Rock is wildly popular, but as soon as he joined the franchise, it suddenly became OK for the actors of his popularity to be in these movies. Suddenly it becomes possible for Jason Statham to be in these movies, Idris Elba, Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron, Kurt Russell, you know, it raised the stakes in that way, but also in terms of stunts, in terms of the scale of the heists, suddenly these weren't drag racing movies, they were The Italian Job. I like that. It just, it made the stakes higher. And I think there was a level of self-awareness by the fifth one that really threw all the rules out the window. 

OSMAN:

I think that makes a lot of sense. I think the first few movies landed this quite intimate idea of like, almost kind of buddy cop, buddy heist sort of vibe. And you get a sense of that being this crew and this gang, and they really love each other, look out for each other. But it's, that's not quite enough. It's kind of like that then mixes with the fact that, well, we're going international. They've been everywhere. I mean, to be honest, in this last movie, they went to countries I didn't...I didn't know where they were.

SINEAD:

Oh yeah. Definitely. There was some words on the screen last night where I was like, I'm too embarrassed that I don't know where… 

OSMAN:

They sort of just zoomed up on, like, Central America generally. And then there's one bit where their base is, and it just says Caspian Sea. I'm like, I’m pretty sure that like six countries border the Caspian Sea. What does that actually mean?

SINEAD:

But it's actually, like the filming locations of one of the reasons I love it, like, Fast8 was the first American movie to film in Cuba. 

OSMAN:

Wow.

SINEAD:

Like that's, that's phenomenal. 

OSMAN:

That is pheno- another thing that this franchise has done...

SINEAD:

It’s bringing the world together man.

OSMAN:

...Is break the boycott of Cuba. You know, we're going to Brazil, we're going to the Dominican Republic. We have, like, assault rifles and machine gun fights in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. And there's, like, really big bad, the stakes are now not, ‘Oh, no, I stole the DVD player off a truck and the police are going to come after me’. It's like my entire, like, I don't know which movie it is where Dominic Toretto, Vin Diesel’s character’s house gets blown up?

SINEAD:

Oh that's F7.

OSMAN:

That's F7, like, shit gets real in these movies.

SINEAD:

Yeah.

OSMAN:

And yeah I think what they do is they kind of bring together a lot of what people love about cinema. They bring together great action set pieces, they bring together a wide cast with a lot of famous people in them. They bring together international, you know, settings and locales. They bring too the great soundtracks. But I feel like what they've got, I mean, this is a big part of the series, and it's almost cliche at this stage to talk about the themes of like family and loyalty and people laugh at me when I say that, when I try and convince people you've got to watch these movies because they're about family…

Archival Tape -- Fast and Furious - Dom

“...I got family”

Archival Tape -- Fast and Furious - Various characters

“Family, family, family, family…”

OSMAN:

...They're about relationships, they're about looking out for one another in a world where you can't trust the police, you can't trust...international crime syndicates, you can't trust the people that you maybe thought you could, but that, that's a big part of it, right?

SINEAD:

I think it's an enormous part of it. And I think we're talking about, um, Fast5 escalating it. I think the two turning points in the franchise of Fast5 and Fast7 or Furious7, whatever the actual title is. Um, and I think the importance of family and community and that code is kind of best exemplified by how the franchise reacted when Paul Walker passed away. He passed away halfway through the filming of the seventh instalment, um, and there were serious talks about shutting the whole franchise down because these actors are actually friends in real life, like Vin Diesel and Paul Walker actually have had a really close relationship. And the way they reacted to that, is that they decided to keep the filming going and so they kept the filming going and they used all of the footage they already had of Paul Walker and the footage they still needed to film. They got his brothers involved and even employed the skill set of Weta, Peter Jackson's special effects company in New Zealand, who sort of digitally altered Paul Walker's brothers faces to look like him, which sounds really creepy and it is creepy until you see the film and it's incredibly touching. It's...this is a spoiler...

OSMAN:

For Fast7? I think we can if you don't want to listen to, if you want to...watch all the movies first, then tap out for the next couple of minutes.

SINEAD:

Yes, exactly. I think there was a lot of hesitation with fans before that movie came out about how they would treat Paul Walker's death, um, and whether it would be a bit macabre to even talk about it in the film. And the way they did it is that they decided that his character, Brian, just wouldn't be involved in future heists anymore. And the end of the film is this really touching montage of every film that he's been a part of in the franchise and is kind of the characters, the actors in the films saying goodbye to him.

OSMAN:

Soundtracked by the incredible Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth, which I can't...even hearing you describe that scene, is making me quite emotional.

Archival Tape -- See You Again ft. Charlie Puth - Wiz Khalifa

“It’s been a long day without you my friend

And I’ll tell you all about it when I see you again

We’ve come a long way…”

SINEAD:

It all sounds silly to people who haven't seen the films, but I think that's kind of a reflection of the franchise's values. It is about these communities of oddballs coming together and having each other's backs. And I don't know, I find that all very moving.

Archival Tape -- See You Again ft. Charlie Puth - Wiz Khalifa

“When I see you again

Woah…”

OSMAN:

I think that's spot on. I think it's almost the first movie is about Paul Walker, who is an undercover cop trying to disrupt this ring led by Vin Diesel, he falls in love with Vin’s sister and he ultimately ends up betraying the police, essentially to free them, right? And as the franchise goes on and on, for a long time, the main antagonists are the police or international security agencies, DEA, the FBI or whatever. So you have a group of like outlaws taking on the police, which obviously means that they've got no one to turn to but themselves, and that develops their reliance on each other. Uh, it also forces them to realise that their friendships and their relationships are the most important thing in the world, in the universe of the movie, and I think they lean into that, like quite a lot. Like there were so many scenes throughout so many of the movies where Vin Diesel is giving a monologue about fatherhood.

Archival Tape -- Fast and Furious - Dom

“My father...He used to have a barbecue every Sunday after church, for anybody in the neighbourhood. If you didn’t go to church, you didn’t get any barbeque. I remember everything about my father. Everything.”

OSMAN:

And Vin Diesel is, you know, gets the Corona's out, salute mi familia. You know, there's nothing more important than family. A lot of the movies end with a barbecue at Dom's house in L.A.

SINEAD:

Almost all of them do.

OSMAN:

Almost all of them. And he always wears the same, like, blue shirt and white pants.

SINEAD:

He’s got a look. 

OSMAN:

...Sunday barbecue look. And they do grace. And it's like it's so strange when you think about how intense these movies are, how action packed they are, that there are so many scenes where they're just sitting around eating food at a barbecue, talking about family and drinking beer. But it's perfect. It's not odd. And in fact, it is what makes the series so compelling. And the family itself, like...I think we talk a lot about, like, movies and diversity in casting now. And I think the Fast and the Furious franchise made it so, seems so effortless to have casts that reflect the reality of the world for the past 20 years.

SINEAD:

Yeah. 

OSMAN:

And you look at a movie like this one in particular, and you're like there's like two white guys in this whole movie out of, like, maybe nine or ten main characters. It's quite extraordinary. 

SINEAD:

The token white guys. 

OSMAN:

Yeah. And they're almost like they are the token white guys.

SINEAD:

Paul Walker was the token white guy in this franchise. 

OSMAN:

Yeah, absolutely. And I'm just rattling off like the cast. So Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Dwayne Johnson The Rock, Lil Bow Wow. Like that's a big group of like, you know, people who are not white to put into a huge high budget action movie. And it just makes all these other discussions about, like, can there be a black James Bond, you know, like what's going to happen with Star Wars? It's just, people, just don't overthink it. You can just find these people and put them in your movie. 

SINEAD:

Totally agree. And the thing is, like it was perceived as so risky to have so many non-white people starring in an action movie, which is proven to be totally ridiculous because, as you said, they've made billions and billions of dollars. But frankly, they make every other ensemble film look silly. Like, when you think about these films in comparison to James Bond, the Ocean's movies or the Marvel movies, they look ridiculous compared to these films...

OSMAN:

Yeah, absolutely. And in terms of who's behind the scenes as well, like, you know, the new James Bond is directed by Cary Fukunaga, Marvel has hired Chloe Zhao to make their latest movie, and it's like they want props for hiring Asian-American actors to make movies. Most of the Fast and Furious movies have been directed by Justin Lin. One of them has been directed by James Wan, who's an Australian director. It's just like, you know, whoever Universal was basically like saying, just do this, I don't really care, like, that is such a significant decision because they've just proven how, like I said, effortless it is. I don't believe that anyone involved in the production of these movies sat down and thought, ‘How do we make this movie diverse?’ I just don't think that was a thought process.

SINEAD:

Well, it doesn't seem obvious...

OSMAN:

It doesn’t seem obvious. And I think also just the fact that they were locking in this cast like 15 years ago, way before these kinds of #OscarsSoWhite, and there's more mainstream conversations about, um, diversity in film and big budget Hollywood in particular wasn’t happening. So I don't, I doubt that that was part of it. And in a way, that's what makes it so good.

SINEAD:

 Totally. And it goes without saying these films, even though they are ridiculous and bombastic and involve, you know, cars driving out of skyscrapers into another two skyscrapers, like, they are considered in a lot of small ways. Like I've read interviews with Justin Lin about filming Tokyo Drift. And when he came on board, the, the script for Tokyo Drift was offensive in a lot of ways. And kind of, I think he described it as there were a lot of scenes where geisha girls were dancing around Buddhist statues, that kind of thing. And so he influenced that a lot, obviously, and even small things like, I think it's the eighth movie, where it's a very comic scene in which The Rock is coaching his daughter's soccer team, junior soccer team. And before they start playing, they do the Haka. Um, The Rock is a Samoan man, and that's actually a big part of the spinoff Hobbs and Shaw. Um, and that scene actually was overseen by two Maori elders. And the kids that were doing the Haka were taught about the importance of the Haka and what every move meant. And it's kind of, it's this, it's less than two minutes, this scene. But it was so important to the people making these films that they got that right. And so it's just so strange that a film of such large scale, of such like, mainstream quality is still so careful about small moments like that.

OSMAN:

It's not just racial diversity, but the idea of an action franchise for the past 20 years because you have these similar debates, like I keep going back to something like James Bond or Star Wars just because there are other huge franchises where there are so many people seem so anxious and stressed about debating like, ‘Could James Bond be a woman? Could they be a woman of colour? Oh, I don't know. How would we do this? It's so hard to figure out’. And this movie is just like now we've got a bunch of amazing women beating the crap out of each other and being heroes and having, you know, Charlize Theron comes in as a baddie and she's kind of cool and complicated. Dame Helen Mirren is drifting in this most recent movie, like that. Like, what else do you want from a movie? Come on.

SINEAD:

Totally. And I think these movies are a case study for, like, if you put different people of different genders and different ethnicities in the movie, it automatically makes that movie more interesting.

OSMAN:

Let’s take another break, and when we come back we’ll dig into F9 and how it takes this franchise to another level.

[ ADVERTISEMENT ]

OSMAN:

So I want to come back to Fast9, F9, whatever. It's so funny that none of us know what these movies are called.

SINEAD:

It doesn't matter, that’s how ubiquitous it is.

OSMAN:

But before we get to that one, I just, there’s this amazing bit. It's in the trailer of this most recent movie where it actually shows how self-aware the franchise is. And that's one reason I love, I love it so much. Tyrese Gibson's character, Roman, is basically talking to the audience, essentially, and saying, you guys have a think about how crazy this is. 

Archival Tape -- F9 - Roman

“Y’all ever thought about the wild missions we been on

We’ve taken out planes, trains, tanks

I’m not gon’ even think about the submarine, pow, pow, pow.”

OSMAN:

Like we started doing low scale sort of crimes against drug dealers. Then we went to Brazil and then we drove super car, hyper cars I think they’re called, through skyscraper after skyscraper, after skyscraper and then in, I think F8, they’re racing Lamborghini's on the Arctic Circle against a nuclear armed submarine.

SINEAD:

Ah, the submarine, yeah.

OSMAN:

And it's yeah, the stakes just build, and build, and build. And then in the trailer for this movie, they very strongly indicate that they're going to space. 

SINEAD:

Because that's been a fan theory for a really long time.

OSMAN:

It has. Yeah, yeah. Tell me about that. That's the only place that we could take this franchise.

SINEAD:

Literally, fans have been saying, you know, the next thing is obviously space because there's nothing on earth that these cars haven’t conquered. And even as we were watching it last night, we definitely were looking at each other being like, this is absolutely ridiculous. You have to suspend disbelief when you go into these films, because these films do not observe physics or any sort of logic.

OSMAN:

So that is another part of it, because I think so normally with movies like this, there needs to be, you got to suspend disbelief because it's an action movie, obviously. But you also need there to be some sense that bad things could happen to these characters, like there's the bit in Fast5 where towards the start of the movie, Vin Diesel and Paul Walker's character literally just drive a car off like, you know, a five hundred metre drop off a cliff into the water and they jump in the water and you're like, ‘Oh, my God, someone's going to die here’. But they’re fine. And, and then, you know, and they're taking bullets-...like, people don't die in these movies. Well...

SINEAD:

Yes, they do Os. 

OSMAN:

Sorry...Generally in these movies, people don't die to the extent that even when one of the actors actually does die in real life, they still keep him in the franchise. And the closest I come to criticising these movies is when I see them doing something crazy, like going into space or taking on people, taking on a drone or being in a hectic car, sort of, pile on with magnets, pulling cars into them, which is a huge bit of this film. And that's in the trailer, so it's not a spoiler. I'm kind of like, this is fun and I love it, but there's a bit of me that's like everyone's going to be fine. So I'm not as into it as I might otherwise be. 

SINEAD:

OK, here's why you're wrong.

OSMAN:

Ok.

SINEAD:

Why are we expecting something different from the Fast and Furious franchise that we don't expect from like Marvel? You have to believe that these characters are not drag racers anymore, they're super heroes. And I think the movies are very aware of this now. Like there's a couple of jokes in there that, like The Rock is referred to as Samoan Thor. Idris Elba in Hobbs and Shaw calls himself Black Superman. They're very aware of what they're doing. And I think that's OK. And if we're expecting that realism from these films, I just don't know that these are the films for you. 

OSMAN:

I mean, don't say that. 

SINEAD:

I mean, just like for anyone who's going into these films being like, ‘Hang on, I don't think someone can catch someone mid-air and then fall into a car and survive’.

OSMAN:

Yeah, well, no, I mean, look, I totally agree with that. And I think part of what's so good about them is they come up with these crazy things that happened, that shouldn't happen. And, you know, that, that's going to work and that's what makes it fun. But you brought up the Marvel movies, and I think in a way, it's part of my critique with them as well, is that the Marvel heroes, like, again, every movie you have to lift the stakes in some capacity. And the heroes have, like, so much power, they're all basically invincible now. And they're sort of fun to watch them run around and crash into buildings or whatever. But I just think, and it's not even that it's bad, It's a, I feel like the suspense, the tension would be lifted a bit if you did think that at any moment some character that you loved and had been on this journey with for so long could actually fall into strife. And I think Han coming back is, I loved it. I love Han. And I think he's one of the best characters throughout the franchise and I missed him a lot.

SINEAD:

He's definitely the coolest one.

OSMAN:

Coolest, easily the best looking as well, I think.

SINEAD:

Han’s hot.

OSMAN:

Han’s hot. And I'm like, so I'm torn. I'm like, I'm so glad they came back, that he came back. But it's also like, well, if Han can come back. Hasn't been in a movie for like three movies, four movies. 

SINEAD:

I think you are taking for granted the fact that we had a year to digest the fact that Han was coming back, because when it was revealed that Han would be back, it was a total shock. And I think we've just gotten used to the fact that a second tier character, who was introduced in a third movie, basically has influenced the entire franchise, because for people who haven't seen the franchise, it skips, there's a time jump. And Tokyo Drift, which was kind of the most maligned movie, definitely made the least amount of money, suddenly became the most important movie in the franchise because four, five and six were then prequels to Tokyo Drift. So Han, who was like a secondary character, suddenly became one of the most important characters. And I think, the fact that these films don't have to follow a guideline of a comic book world or book series means they could be really reactive and really fluid. And the character of Han was popular, so they brought Han back. 

OSMAN:

I think it's a, it's another really smart point you're making, because what they've done with this movie, they've done with the last couple as well, is if you've only seen this movie or maybe you've come to the franchise really late, they make all the earlier movies feel like you have to watch them. 

SINEAD:

Oh they're suddenly essential. 

OSMAN:

Exactly. And it's so smart, like they, they've done it now a couple of times with making things that happen in the first or second movie circle back. And like sometimes it's kind of like it's absurd and sure that you've totally just shoehorn that in. But whatever, I'm into it. But the way that you even, if you like, you were talking about our friend Shaad, who has just watched Fast9, I'd be very surprised if they went like, ‘OK, I need to know what's going on. Like, why does everyone love Han? Where is this emotion coming from? I'm seeing these flashbacks to how he died in the earlier movies. I want to now know all that story’. It's very smart filmmaking. 

SINEAD:

Incredibly smart, and especially the way they tied in Jason Statham, who didn't appear till the seventh movie. They somehow made him the big baddie of the previous three movies, without him being on screen for any of those films. And as a fan of the franchise, it feels very comforting that I always feel like I'm in safe hands. I feel like there's always going to be an emotional payoff. I'm rewarded for my fandom. And I think, though I liked the movie, F9, it did feel to me like a second last movie. I felt like it was setting up the last movie, which is going to be Fast10, which Justin Lin is also directing. But I also trust that I'm going to get rewarded for watching all of these films. 

OSMAN:

So what are you hoping or expecting? I mean, a part of me is doubtful that Fast10 will actually be the last. I think it might end certain chapters and certain characters might close out and move on. The franchise is making way too much money for everyone involved for it to actually wrap up. You know, there's talk of like spinoffs. And even in this movie, I was thinking, OK, I could do a spinoff. That is Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris and Natalie Manual's characters just having fun around the world and doing private contracting spy stuff like that would be really cool when you're thinking about the future of this franchise and the fact that we've now taken it literally into space. We've brought back characters from the dead. We've saved the world. Like literally this one is we've saved the world from destruction. 

SINEAD:

And it's not even the first time. 

OSMAN:

It's not even the first time. Yeah. So, yeah. What do you think is left and, and what would you like to see? 

SINEAD:

I think you're right in that the 10th movie will be the end of Fast and Furious as we know it, which is that core group of actors who have been in most of the movies. I think the spinoffs will probably go for a long time. I know there's another Hobbs and Shaw spinoff, and for years it's been rumoured that there's going to be an all-female Fast and Furious spinoff as well, which I think would be fantastic. I think it's smart to end it at a point where all of these actors still want to do these movies and to conclude it in a way that doesn't feel like, ‘Oh, we had to film around this person not wanting to be in these movies anymore’, but because it's regenerated in such a way, there's literally nothing that these movies can't do now. So they can, they will have spinoffs forever, and I will watch all of them. 

OSMAN:

I feel like these are the kinds of movies that, and it’s probably, you know, people of our parents generation who watched Bond movies in the 60s and 70s, maybe there wasn't a sense then that like 40 years down, these are still going to be the biggest movies around. I feel like that is absolutely the case with these movies. Like we, you know, I will watch this, if, if I have kids, I'll watch this with my kids. I'll probably watch it with my grandkids. This is something that is not going away any time soon.  

SINEAD:

No. And the only thing that they need to have in common is that there's some form of a car in all of them. And maybe that car is a spaceship. That's OK. 

OSMAN:

Sinead, thank you so much for chopping it up with me all about Fast and Furious on *The Culture*, shall we say, grace, as we wrap up? 

SINEAD:

I'll say it first. 

OSMAN:

I've never done grace in my life. 

SINEAD:

Neither have I. 

OSMAN:

Um, thanks for joining us. 

SINEAD:

Thanks, Os.

[Theme Music Starts]

OSMAN:

Thanks for listening to the show, The Culture will be back in your feeds next week.

 

So make sure to follow us in your podcast app to get it as soon as it drops. 

 

In the meantime, you can follow us on Instagram @theculture.pod. 

 

We’d love to know what you think, if you want to recommend any topics you think we should be talking about, just send us a DM.

 

The Culture is a weekly show from Schwartz Media.
 

It's produced by Bez Zewdie and Atticus Bastow, Our editor-in-chief is Erik Jensen, and our theme music is by Hermitude.
 

I’m Osman Faruqi, see ya next week.

[Theme Music Ends]

 

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