In a new weekly section called Beyond the screen, author AJ Black unboxes what we all discuss in the world of film and television. This time he is discussing Fast & Furious 9 and the conscious transformation of the series behind it …

Delayed for one year thanks to Covid-19, Fast and Furious 9 became the first major franchise blockbuster to return to movie screens as Western countries tentatively adjust to post-pandemic normal.

It is as it should be. Fast 9, as some call it, is a movie made for a big screen experience. It is not great art. It will not be studied by film theorists or students in fifty years. It’s far from the best blockbuster experience of 2021, given that we have a lineup of other movies and franchises—Black Widow, James Bond, Dune etc. — all to come. Fast 9, however, is a blockbuster in every sense of the word. It follows a trend established by the franchise since Fast Furious in 2009, he semi-rebooted the concept and kicked off a pretty natural evolution from a racing melodrama into a modern “superhero” to save the world from the villainous villain saga of good versus evil. Fast 9 is not the culmination of this journey, but the continuation of a path Justin Lin has followed for more than a decade.

Or Fast 9 stands out for the film’s awareness of its position not only as the ninth film in a franchise – even by today’s standards a rarity – but within the larger cultural tapestry of populist cinema.

Much has been written over the years about Fast Furious the franchise’s status as a true cinematic anomaly. An updated 1950s B image, directed by the mundane Rob Cohen and starring a stranger in Vin Diesel, just around the turn of the 2000s, The Fast and the Furious should have remained a forgotten example of post-90’s overhang, in line with a slew of gruesome and brainless films around the turn of the millennium such as the remake of Gone in sixty seconds.

Still, it exhibited elasticity in form and function early on, returning to the original cast for most films only four and picking up what would become a reliable set along the way, while continuing to do so. to earn money. Fast Furious was the turning point. Justin lin came on board. The stunts were bigger and more daring. The format began to eschew simple racing. It was talking about broader possibilities.

It ended up reversing the established trend of sequels, certainly before the rise of the film franchise thanks to Marvel, and lately Star wars, by developing increasingly cheaper films that often went straight to video (later DVD) or languished on a streaming service. the Quickly movies have grown every time. Budgets have swelled. Ambition has grown. The cast went from the central rivalry between Diesel’s rebellious driver and con man Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker’s right-arrow FBI agent Brian O’Connor to a network of interconnected characters who faced the kind of organizations. sinister and murderous global terrorists that Bond would face. or the IMF would crash. Indeed, what has come to be known as Fast Saga has a parallel, in terms of unexpected growth and expansion, with the Impossible mission franchise. They may operate in different worlds with alternate styles, but they overlap in terms of what drives them – the intensity of their main men.

Tom Cruise and Vin Diesel both anchor their respective franchises which, over the course of several decades, have remained remarkably stable in terms of box office revenue and have steadily grown in size, stature and reach.. For each Quickly movie that sees the flight crew take on a nuclear submarine, you’ll have Cruise hanging from the side of a plane for Impossible mission. The intention is expansion, to give audiences a bigger and bolder thrill than any previous film, and for the most part both of these franchises are successful.

The difference with the Fast Saga, a difference made explicit in Fast 9is that the Diesel series seems much more surprised to have survived this long and become one of the most profitable franchises in Hollywood. Cruise and Impossible mission, given the cultural pedigree dating back to the 1960s, somehow takes such sustainability for granted. Fast 9 sees the characters actively discussing how ridiculous it is, essentially, that they’re still on screen.

Taj (Ludacris) & Roman get ready for take off ...

The avatar of such a commentary resides mainly in Roman Pierce (Tyrese Gibson), who along with Taj (Ludacris) serves as a “comic relief” among the Quickly crew. Roman started out, in theory, as another handsome straight man 2 Fast 2 Furious– before the franchise stopped taking itself seriously – but very quickly, once the basic dynamics started to form, to Fast Five From now on, he’s become an anxious spokesperson both for the characters’ worst fears and for existential questions the audience themselves might ask.

Roman in Fast 9 actively and openly wonders if the characters in the franchise are protected by some sort of cosmic force of luck, an invincibility that explains how they continue to survive, through thick and thin, the increasingly hard-to-believe missions and stunts that the series is delivered. Roman brings up the idea that Dom and the characters around him have become modern superheroes, simply without magical or cosmic powers.

This is also where the Fast Saga differs from Impossible mission, because this franchise never quite reaches such a meta-level of textual analysis. Sometimes characters can take a peek at Ethan Hunt’s resilience, intensity, and ability to overcome the greatest challenges, but we as audiences understand Ethan not as a superhero, but rather as the result of Tom Cruise’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of action cinema. the Fast Saga may have beaten Cruise in the fist by putting multiple characters into orbit, but Cruise intends to be the first Hollywood to shoot a movie. in space.

the Fast Saga At this point, presents Vin Diesel and his entourage as superheroic human beings who, if Roman’s theory is to be believed, survive thanks to the Hand of Fate. They are capable of feats, mostly with technology, beyond what normal people would be capable of. They have turned into saviors of the world, deployed by shady government agents to take down extremists and cyber terrorists, with no training or experience in espionage or global security. Dom and his crew exist in a hyper-real space.

How we see the saga transforming, as it nears the expected conclusion in Fast 11, is one who recognizes his position as a well-known piece of blockbuster and superhero mythology. Dom is no longer just a reformed crook turned American murderous weapon, he’s a tragic hero with a Shakespearean family tragedy underpinning his hero’s journey. Fast 9 layers of flashbacks showing the death of his racecar driver father, his younger brother Jacob’s descent into darkness and the super-villain, and Dom’s own internal calculation with fatherhood.

The secrets and sins of his own father and his position as a father himself come to the fore, with the adult Jacob, played by John Cena, who, much like Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, enters the loaded franchise. preconceptions of the public about it. as a personality, serving as a dark reflection to Dom. It all follows comic book mythology much more than just a blockbuster action movie, and positions Dom and his team as potentially tragic heroes caught in an existential battle to save their families from an assortment of more antagonists. large than life.

Dom and Jacob Toretto (John Cena) go hand in hand ...

It’s also interesting to see how the villains of the play – Charlize Theron’s Cypher or the whiny billionaire rich boy Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) – seek to bring chaos back to order with their MacGuffin in Project Ares: A Technology That would allow them to control global weapon systems, and subsequently turn the world into a world of control. We saw the same in Impossible mission in Christopher McQuarrie’s last two entries, extremists like the Syndicate and ‘John Lark’, who just want to burn the status quo and start over.

The latest James Bond film, Spectrum, saw the revamped Blofeld undermine global intelligence by seeking “information,” taking control of global networks as a means of covertly running governments and agencies under its quiet rule. The extremism in these films is presented in an obscure web of high-tech criminals and sinister payers hidden in plain sight except in the Fast Saga these people are exacerbated in the vein of mythical cartoon cod stereotypes.

Fast 9 therefore fully cements the Quickly franchise as a series fully aware of the transformation it has undergone, from an auto racing series designed to appeal to teens and 20-year-olds looking to get their pulse racing, to an example of a 21st century blockbuster which picks up on the increased examples of action cinema from previous decades – the high concept efforts of the 90s such as The rock or Air conditioning, and the sublimely ridiculous vanities of an ’80s man’s army personified by the Schwarzenegger or Stallone films – and merges them with the stamina of the overall superhero franchise.

Basically he understands his place in such a tapestry and plays up to it. Sending Taj and Roman into space, in an old rocket-propelled car, to destroy a satellite, is the ultimate expression. Space has always been predicted as the Quickly The series’ inevitable borderline by fans, and Lin’s film gives it to them, albeit in an unexpected and comedic vein, where Roman openly questions the madness of the whole company. It’s us, the audience that laughs at the show and wonders how impossible everything that happens in this franchise to these people is.

There, of course, lies the charm, and why even if the Fast Saga not having the cinematographic competence, the quality of actor or the narrative spirit of the films on which it is based, it will undoubtedly endure within the framework of the evolution of the populist cinema and of escape during the twenty last years. He is as knowingly ridiculous as the world in which he lives.