As the dust settles on the Memorial Day weekend, one thing is clear.
“The Fast and Furious” franchise has plenty of gas left in the tank.
The global box office total for “Fast and Furious 6” is well over $300 million in just a few short days. That puts it at least $230 million ahead of “The Hangover Part III,” and well ahead of it's predecessor, “Fast Five,” which went on to gross $626 million worldwide.
Apparently, there is no end in sight for this series. (“Fast and Furious 7” was set up during the closing credits of “Fast 6.”)
Why, you ask, is this franchise so popular? It's basically a series of live-action cartoons about a “family” of street-racing thieves. I would suggest that “Fast and Furious” continues to become increasingly popular with each successive outing for three basic reasons.
1. It knows what its audience wants.
2. It delivers the content its audience wants on an ever-expanding scale.
3. The original cast is willing to return again and again, and give it all they've got each time.
This is a franchise that is essentially critic-proof. If you don't like the movie, its fans don't care. The only question they might have is: “Yo, what's your problem?”
But, if you're like me, and you enjoy watching attractive people do incredible things involving high-performance cars, guns, aircraft, tanks and motorcycles used to perpetrate ridiculous levels of mayhem, and if you can get behind the notion of what is essentially a crew of thieves with more honor among them than most of the folks in the world who claim to be honorable, then you're probably a member of the target audience.
Let me just offer a few observations.
“Bigger and better action” comes with a price. “Suspension of disbelief” is mandatory when you watch these films, but in the case of “Fast and Furious 6,” you'll enjoy it even more if you have no concept whatsoever of the meaning of the term “disbelief.”
The climactic action set-piece of the film involves vehicles chasing a very large airplane down a runway. If the chase takes place at a speed of only 60 mph (well below the takeoff speed of such an aircraft), given the amount of screen-time the sequence takes, the runway would have to be at least 20 miles long. As far as I have been able to determine, the longest paved runway in the world is just over 3 miles long.
Also, if you write a movie containing unbelievable action sequences, it's probably a good idea to refrain from having the characters actually talk about them afterward. Otherwise, you're likely to come up with lines like:
Question: “How did you know that car would be there to break our fall?”
Answer: “Sometimes you just gotta have a little faith.”
Yep, nothing like those nice soft cars to land on after you have been falling (or flying through the air) for at least 40 or 50 feet.
As far as the cast's performances are concerned, Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Dwayne (“The Rock”) Johnson et al. deliver the same solid performances as they have in previous entries.
For that matter, they deliver the same performances they deliver in seemingly every movie they happen to be in. Johnson even appears to be wearing the same costume that he wore in “G.I. Joe: Retaliation.” If there is a “Casting Director's Guide” that allows one to search by category, if you look under “Ridiculously tough, often extremely angry, but ultimately good-hearted woman,” there is just a photo of Rodriguez on that page.
I will say this for Diesel: In “Fast 5,” I got the feeling that he may have done a bit of extra bulking up to appear credible during his fight scenes with Johnson. In the latest film, Diesel seems determined to prove he's the better actor. (Not a big feat for some actors, but no small one for Vin.) He shares one fairly poignant scene with Rodriguez that I actually found somewhat moving.
On the other hand, perhaps these are the greatest actors in the world, merely based on their cumulative ability to appear as though they believe that what they are doing could actually happen.
Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the film, and the performances, immensely. There is absolutely nothing wrong with sitting-down in a dark theater and being treated to the sights and sounds of a bunch of familiar friends revving up for another over-the-top adventure.
The “Fast and Furious” franchise continues to deliver, and as long as it does, I imagine that a lot of us will continue to show up and buy tickets.