So, now that I have taken care of the shadow lingering over The Anticipated known as Jupiter Ascending, I can start with the films from the actual 2015 list. Or at least that was the thought a couple months ago. So it’s time for an edition of Catch Up with The Anticipated. This will be in four parts, after which posts should start to sync up much closer to actual release dates. First up is Furious 7. The shadow of Paul Walker’s death looms large over this latest entry in the Fast series. So the question is, will the film give a proper send-off to Walker, but also still work as a movie? Only way to find out is to make it one quarter mile at a time.
Spoilers Ahead (Probably)
Furious 7 (April 3rd, 2015)
How was it?
At this point, it is impossible for a movie in this franchise to be bad. It is a well-oiled machine that never misses a beat. So unless these kind of movies just aren’t for you, a Fast movie can’t really be bad. Now, it certainly can be degrees of good, and it must be acknowledged that this film has one of the shakiest foundations since the franchise’s rebirth in Fast and Furious. Part of this is because the script was a bit shaky. The film feels like a collection of scenes that are barely held together, rather than a cohesive whole. Of course, Furious 7 has an excuse, in that Paul Walker unfortunately died in the middle of shooting, so the film had to be rewritten around the scenes that were already shot, using Paul Walker’s two brothers (along with the magic of digital face wizardry) as stand-ins for Walker’s Brian O’Conner. Considering all of these difficulties, the film did a good job responding to an extremely awful situation, ultimately creating a story that served as a beautiful send off to both Paul Walker and Brian O’Conner. The end of the film is lovely, and brings about all the feels in its brilliant replay of all of Walker’s best moments in the franchise while Whiz Khalifa’s “See You Again” plays over it. This all culminates in one last ride between Vin Diesel’s Dom and Brian as their paths diverge and they go their separate ways. The Fast series will continue without Walker, but it will never be the same.
Still, as beautiful as the ending is, the script issues are still worrisome, because Furious 6 had most of the same issues. This is a cause for concern for the franchise. Fast 5 was a brilliant movie that completely changed the direction of the series, but neither entry since has felt as cohesive. Hopefully, during the extended period in which the filmmakers are working on Furious 8, the script can be made a bit tighter and meet the quality of Fast 5. I don’t want to dwell too much on these issues, because there is still a lot to love about Furious 7. The action is as ridiculous as ever, and the series’ complete disregard for the laws of physics has become increasingly endearing (while in Dubai, Dom literally jumps a car through all three buildings of a three building hotel, through windows and everything). Also, each actor got a chance to shine, which is a strength the franchise has always shown with its ensembles. Plus, dear God, how far digital face CGI has come since the travesty of Jeff Bridge’s virtual doppelgänger in Tron: Legacy. It was pretty easy to tell when Walker was being used versus when his doubles were on-screen, but the film did it in a way that still made it look rather natural, which was completely unexpected. A world in which digital face CGI could be used more aggressively in films no longer seems impossible.
Isn’t this based on…?
Not a book, but it is the seventh film of a franchise whose first movie was a Point Break rip-off involving cars instead of surfing, so I wouldn’t exactly call this original. Still, considering the re-invention of this franchise starting with Fast 5, this film does have the distinction of being a super hero film without actual super heroes in it.
Did it warrant its selection on The Anticipated?
Definitely! Not only did this film honor Paul Walker perfectly, it is a box office success of epic proportions. It was the fourth highest grossing film of all time before it was overcome by the behemoth known as Jurassic World. That said, Furious 7‘s current position at fifth is nothing to sneeze at, and it still has a chance of passing The Avengers to allow it to stay in the top five by year’s end (considering the new Star Wars will likely pass it as well, once that film comes out in December). This franchise is one of the things that revitalized Universal, and is only getting more popular with each passing film. The cast genuinely likes each other, which is why it will be worthwhile to see how the films look going forward now that Paul Walker can unfortunately no longer be a part of the series. Still, this franchise keeps evolving, and is likely to be an Anticipated mainstay for years to come.
Would I recommend it to others?
Hmm, yes, though there are degrees to this. This is the seventh movie in a franchise, so to appreciate it fully you need to have seen at least some of the previous films. It holds up on its own because, well, it’s loads of fun, but if you aren’t already a fan of the Fast franchise, watch some of the earlier films first–or just watch Mad Max: Fury Road instead.
How does this film measure up in a post Mad Max: Fury Road world?
So a funny thing happened on May15th: Mad Max: Fury Road came out, and it was amazing. It set a new bar for what to expect from a summer action movie (and really a summer movie in general), so going forward there will always be the question about whether films on this year’s list actually stack up in the post-Fury Road world. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “But Furious 7 came out before Mad Max, so this standard shouldn’t be applied to it.” Well, yes, that is true, and that is really a good thing. Furious 7 is a fun movie with a lot of awesome stuff in it, but it really did benefit from being released before Mad Max: Fury Road. Mad Max took one of the Fast series’ main strength, car action, and amped it up to the max (no pun intended). So while Furious 7 couldn’t have lived in a post-Mad Max world, it does quite well in the pre-Mad Max one.
How would I rate it?
On our handy dandy made-up anticipation meter, Furious 7 would rate 8 ten-second cars out of 10, because it is both good and an absurd box office success. This film definitely belongs on the list.
For an actual rating: This film hits all the right level of feels in combination with furious fun and action (I mean, how could you go wrong with Vin Diesel, The Rock, Jason Statham, and Paul Walker?) to make a great viewing experience. The actors are all very likable, and have great chemistry, but unfortunately the script didn’t work as well as it could, making it hard for the film to feel like a cohesive whole and limiting the film’s ceiling. So I would give it 3 out 4 stars, which makes it a good movie, but not a great one.
That’s it for this edition of The Anticipated. Next up, we return to Barden and its Bellas for Pitch Perfect 2. After the surprise critical and financial success of the first one, how will the second movie hold up in comparison? Find out the answer on the next The Anticipated.
Until we meet again:
Will David Be Watching Crimson Peak?
Hmm, it looks so good… but I really hate films like this, so… damn, still no answer.