What’s under the hood of the Furious franchise?

Review: The Fate of the Furious

Starring: Vin Deisel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Charlize Theron, Michelle Rodriguez, Scott Eastwood

Family. More than fast cars, outrageous stunts and even more outrageous plot lines, the unstoppable Fast and the Furious franchise is all about family.

Family is the fuel of Fate of the Furious, the eighth outing of one of the most unexpectedly successful franchises ever. While they’re known for spectacular car stunts and glorifying dangerous driving, in between paltry acting and LOL stories and dialogue, each Furious movie is getting louder about the importance of family.

That sounds like an excellent thing, until you explore what’s under the bonnet of all the family talk in the Furious franchise. Fate wants us to applaud how main motor man Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) is all about family, but what sort of family is he all about? And just because people talk about family, should we support their definition of it and anything they do in the name of family loyalty? Can’t family become another excuse for people to do whatever they want, such as cause incredible amounts of destruction to the lives of other families? For example, the collateral damage in any Furious movie is off the charts yet we never hear about the value of any affected family outside of Toretto’s crew.

Released at the Easter weekend, Fate of the Furious set a new record by collecting more than $500 million at the world’s box office in only a few days. Yes, the eighth time that rev-head renegades got behind the wheel for more law-breaking adventures has become the fastest movie in history to score half a billion dollars.

What a world we live in.

The continued ultra-success of the silly, OTT Furious franchise is baffling because, like most sequels, every new instalment is more of the same. Fate of the Furious might have Oscar winner Charlize Theron as the clever-clogs villain Cipher and also feature a traffic jam tsunami in New York City, but it’s still the old story about a “family” of speed racers inventing their own laws.

While audiences have accelerated in to see Fate of the Furious, what they are being met with is a big-budget rehash with the handbrake on. Steering the storyline around Toretto betraying his crew is a plot device that spins its wheels with uninspired desperation. While co-stars The Rock and Jason Statham do a swell job of bringing forth the fun side of any Furious movie, most of what’s around them is bloated, wooden or yawn-inducing. From Diesel’s empty posturing to expensive cars being drowned in Russian ice fields, Fate of the Furious is business as usual for a money-making machine that now knows it only has to show up with some tricked-out modifications.

Still, it remains noteworthy that among all the crashes and corny interactions, family takes such a prominent place. So prominent that Cipher sums up Toretto’s code as “your family”. While he might live by an idea of family bonds and loyalty, the picture of family that Furious movies depict is narrow and selfish. Family is totally reduced to the people Toretto loves. Nothing is off limits, if Toretto is doing something for HIS family. Stealing or murdering, speeding or lying, no law or moral boundary exists for Toretto’s family affairs. Doesn’t matter that he and his family are criminals whose high-speed driving shows no regard for bystanders and their families, Furious viewers are invited to embrace the Toretto crew as some sort of model family.

Giving more than a few seconds of thought to family in Fate of the Furious should have you hungry for alternatives. Hungry for a different approach that presents family as a loving and selfless unit. A family we all could be part of, and not one that justifies its terrible behaviour or impact upon others. Perhaps an approach to family like the one Jesus himself revved up, about 2000 years ago.

Jesus thought family was so important that he told a crowd that “whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50) Lots of us want to be in Jesus’ family, a clan of connected people led by the example set by Jesus himself. What Jesus said is that is possible for anyone who does “the will of my Father in heaven”. Possible for anyone who lives their life the way God (Jesus’ heavenly father) calls people to live, and not the make–it-up-to-suit-yourself way of Toretto and his Furious family.

Imagine what would happen if we all tried to live the Furious way. And then imagine the difference, if our family life was driven by Jesus’s model.

Which one should start your engine of family?

Ben McEachen




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