How the Marvel Cinematic Universe radically reshaped the Fast & Furious movies

Over the past decade, record-breaking box office grossing for Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe films has ensured that blockbuster cinema has become almost exclusively the domain of the superhero. All the big studios have tried to go the gold brick road: some outright, with superhero franchises of their own, like Warner’s DCEU and Sony’s. newly renamed SPUMC, and some tangentially, creating an interconnected universe of recurring characters to draw, or applying the Marvel format to movies that used to be ordinary action movies.

The heart of this format is the MCU’s bright, polished, and CGI-driven aesthetic, allowing for only the lightest flavors from the directors of each entry, while maintaining a smooth and consistent visual style supported by vivid color palettes, great settings that make full use of your characters. ‘super-state, and a direct approach to film time, cinematography, and editing. The heroes of the universe are attractive and confident, they do and survive things physically impossible for the average citizen, aided by all manner of futuristic technology and suitably altered physical laws. This brilliant, all-encompassing mode brings together marketing, merchandising, and everything on screen in a neat, easily digestible package, using simpler cinematic language that funnels features into a seamless flow of cinema without limits.

Avengers: Infinity War characters

Photo: Marvel Studios / Disney

In this age of superheroes, some of the bravest franchise vehicles, like James Bond and Jason Bourne, have managed to maintain their unique style and sense of danger. Others, like the Mission: Impossible movies, whose characters fit comfortably into a world of superweapons, martial arts, and feats of inhuman resistance, have been adjusted accordingly. But where the Mission Impossible series has maintained strict internal consistency with its action and character abilities, the Fast & Furious franchise has grown loose and amorphous, going where no suburban Los Angeles street racer has gone before.

As the Fast & Furious series has developed over the past decade, Universal Studios, director Justin Lin, and producer and star Vin Diesel have imitated, challenged, and attempted to outperform Disney’s core franchise, all in the name of one day. unprecedented pay. Not only did the Fast series embrace Marvel’s approach to teaming and universe building, but it has been imbued with the dominant scale, style, ethics, and aesthetics of MCU cinema, making it almost indistinguishable from a superhero franchise. But in the process, it’s ended up awkward and episodic, and the trend toward physics-defying superhero actions and scenarios never quite rings true. Although 2021’s F9 It’s not the first example of Universal playing the Marvel game, its box office returns suggest it won’t be the last either.

The Fast franchise started 20 years ago with The fast and the furious, a testosterone and gasoline movie that follows underground street racer and notorious electronics thief Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), his crew, and Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker), the undercover LAPD officer trying to catch them. Sleek cars and low-stakes action thrills were the established template for early installments, with Brian returning alongside new faces Tej (Ludacris) and Roman (Tyrese Gibson) for 2003. 2 Fast 2 Furious – a film whose title alone earned its place in the pop culture canon, followed by the 2006 indie Tokyo drift, which brought Sean (Lucas Black) and Han (Sung Kang).

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker sit in a car together in 2001's The Fast and the Furious

Photo: Universal Pictures

After the critical and commercial failure of the third film, Universal had nothing to lose in a sick property, and left Tokyo drift director Justin Lin takes the helm again. By re-enlisting the original cast, Lin broke all-time records of that time for the highest-grossing spring opening weekend with 2009. Fast and Furious, which left the series open enough to admit a sequel, while also setting the stage for the gun-grade nonsense that followed.

At the same time, the MCU was gearing up with 2008 Iron Man and The incredible Hulk, From 2010 Iron Man 2and from 2011 Thor and Captain America the First Avenger, bringing together a universe designed to provide a solid foundation for the franchise’s fundamental image: 2012 the Avengers. While this release was planned from the beginning, promoting the largest film crew ever seen, 2011 Fast five beat it with your punch.

It’s largely regarded as the series’ transition film – Justin Lin used this entry to ditch auto racing and lean on the franchise’s more accessible action elements, with an all-star cast bringing Gisele back ( Gal Gadot), Han, Roman, Tej. and Vince (Matt Schulze) from the previous films. Fast five set new financial records for both franchises, and Lin even included a mid-credits stinger (Michelle Rodriguez’s resurrection of Letty), a device that the MCU movies had made a mainstay, starting with Nick Fury poking fun at the Avengers Initiative. on Iron Man.

Untethered from its roots as down-to-earth street racing films, Fast films now had free rein to give their core film competition a taste of their own medicine, bringing into focus that CGI-driven aesthetic with which the franchise had been flirting. Where F5 was an evolution, 2013’s Fast and Furious 6 started a separate species. Though his world was always neon lights and glistening skin, the Fast & Furious aesthetic turned brilliant to the core, his lavish and otherworldly settings, his nearly invincible characters now defined by their ability to defend themselves against army-trained supervillains. in every corner of the world. world, rather than by his skill with a tuner, a quarter mile, and a NOS boat.

The cast of Fast Five walking together in a promo image, which includes Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, and Gal Gadot.

Photo: Universal Pictures

While the money and audience grew, the Fast series continued to contort with each new chapter, retcounting to suit the plot’s conveniences and connections, setting up catchphrases and executing gags, but relying on increasingly narrow narrative points. He had been late into the universe-building game, and several useless scenarios had already been etched in stone: Han’s death was the greatest of all. To please fans hungry to see their favorite characters on screen, the story had to be reworked, resulting in many less-than-ideal metaphysical predicaments. For instance, F6 happens before Tokyo drift, which means that the series allows the vehicles of the early 2010s and the already futuristic technology of 2013 to pre-date the car and folding phone models of the mid-2000s.

Justin Lin left the series in 2013 after Universal. insisted on speeding up the franchise, apparently to compete with Marvel, which dominated the box office as the only franchise to produce at least one movie per year. Unfazed by the series’ waning integrity, Universal moved on, retaining Vin Diesel as producer (a role he has held since 2009). By then, Diesel was playing Groot in Guardians of the galaxy, and having seen what was possible at Marvel’s camp, I was willing to follow suit. For Furious 7, the on-screen “family” was recruited by Mr. Nobody in the style of Nick Fury and sent in search of an Infinity Stone McGuffin named God’s Eye. With higher stakes than ever on and off the screen, Furious 7Box office grossings transcended to dizzying heights, surpassing all MCU films up to that point with a global box office of $ 1.51 billion.

With this film, the aesthetics of the series completed the transition from something slightly sexy and dangerous to something the whole family could see, based squarely on the MCU’s ethic of pairing team-level melodrama with global but ultimately narratively safe moral dilemmas. instance. Just as the MCU was never going to allow Ultron to wipe out humanity, there was no way supervillain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) would wield the Eye of God. In both series, viewers know at the box office that everything will be fine and that the few characters who die are not gone forever.

The notably excessive triumph of 2017 Fate of the Furious, which defeated the MCU releases of that year, and the 2019 spin-off that expands the universe Hobbs and Shaw, it meant that the money kept coming. But Universal’s thirst for Marvel success led to increasingly baffling on-screen results. Gone are the days of a small group of street racers rushing to buy a bigger engine, and here to stay are the super antics like Dom flying freely through an abyss to catch Letty in midair, Brian and Dom jumping. the Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi. in the supercar of a billionaire prince, and agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) skates on ice with missiles while being chased by a nuclear submarine. Explicitly sci-fi elements are now expected, such as Idris Elba’s genetically enhanced villain in Hobbs and Shaw, and the texture and definition of movies, like Marvel’s, have become so fluid that it’s hard to separate one movie from the next, no matter who’s directing them.

Idris Elba in Hobbs & Shaw, shirtless and with blue electronic lights above and below his face

Photo: Universal Studios

On F9, Justin Lin’s return to the series, the vague details from previous entries are used as a lever in new amenities, including Han’s resurrection and the arrival of a super spy brother Toretto (John Cena). Like Marvel, the Fast family has now found full superhero status – there’s no fall they can’t survive, no explosion they can’t escape, and literally nowhere they can’t go, including the space, the last refuge of every lost franchise. . However, unlike Marvel, the franchise has failed to carry its narrative dilemmas through the movies. The stakes were lower in the early days of the Fast movies, but there were real-world consequences for the characters’ actions and moral choices: Brian sabotaging his career to save Dom; Sean sent to Tokyo to avoid prison; Jesse (Chad Lindberg), Han and Letty dying. And all of this seemed to mean something.

Phase Three of the MCU demonstrated the ultimate storytelling possibilities of the superhero age by bringing together 30 important heroes to Infinity war and Endgame, two overwhelmingly CGI-led features whose $ 4.83 billion box office has guaranteed a quick ending it will also be a two part story. These entries will undoubtedly make a killing: despite the shaky state of cinema attendance due to the COVID-19 pandemic, F9 He has already received more money than any of his first five siblings. But without a steady guiding hand, the borrowed Marvel mode has spiraled out of control. The fundamental qualities of the Fast series have been lost. And the studio and audience are now caught up in an ever-growing ourobolic cycle, with the box office of every previous film dictating the budget and thus the overblown, unsubstantiated, Super nonsense – of the following.

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