Sorry to keep you waiting, I've been busy making the excuse of being busy with stuff that I forgot to post more elaborate thoughts of the movie. So many of you did not take an interest in the thread, which means, I guess, that I have to keep spamming it. (Okay, that was a joke.)
Before I talk about the history of the franchise, let's talk about the history of the critical reaction to each movie using the Rotten Tomatoes compilation:
The Fast and the Furious (2001): 53% rotten
2 Fast 2 Furious (2003): 36% rotten
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) (takes place after all the other movies): 35% rotten
Fast & Furious (2009): 27% rotten
Fast Five (2011): 78% fresh
Fast & Furious 6 (2013): 72% fresh
What this tells me is either (A) the critics are so dense and stuck-up that not until the fifth movie have they finally realized what to expect from these movies or (B) the franchise is cheese in every sense of the word that gets better with age. Now I'm not one to arrogantly whine about movies rotting my brain cells and causing me to lose 50 IQ points or what have you, for I believe I'm smart enough to know when to turn the mind off and just enjoy the ride. With that said, I think both A and B are true, and let me tell you why.
The Fast and the Furious, a decent low-budget action flick centering around the underground world of street racing, starring Vin Diesel and Paul Walker back when they were a little less well-known. It was a campy concept that somehow landed under the helm of one of the most pompous directors, Rob Cohen. This man will take something campy and try to make it serious and poetic, and we get, well, this, xXx, and Stealth. Luckily we only see the beginning traces of this tendency and it's not enough to spoil what was otherwise a solid sleeper hit from the turn of the century.
Next we have 2 Fast 2 Furious, which Rob Cohen thankfully sat out of and his midlife crisis was taken elsewhere to the bizarrely EXTREME and pseudo-poetic xXx and Stealth. John Singleton directed this one, which starred Paul Walker and newcomers Tyrese and Ludacris, but Vin Diesel was absent. This was a more ambitious in scope, more bloated, more ridiculous, and ultimately satisfying follow-up. Most importantly, it never took itself that seriously.
And then there's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which has none of the same characters, save for a small Vin Diesel cameo. At first, you might think of this as either a spin-off of some sort of a F&F movie in name only, but in fact, it is later revealed that this movie takes place after both the predecessors and the successors. About the movie? This was the weakest of them all, being less of a high-octane crime movie and more of a high school dramedy with a side of drift racing. It's easy to consider this a completely different movie, but sadly, it shares a continuity with the rest.
Fast & Furious, probably the second weakest of all of them. It was mostly a rehashing of the 2 Fast 2 Furious with Vin Diesel back in the franchise full-time. It wasn't a terrible movie, but it was forgettable, and that's why this one occupies the shortest paragraph.
Fast Five converted the franchise from its humble beginnings as a low-budget racing film into a very effective and entertainingly ridiculous heist film...an Ocean's Eleven without a brain, but at the same time, an Ocean's Eleven without all the boring parts. The action sequences in this one are as over-the-top as you would expect from a summer blockbuster, but it has its tongue firmly placed in its cheek. You forget to care about the implausibility of all the stunts performed, and you know what? That's what a summer blockbuster is all about.
And lastly, we have Fast & Furious 6, which is a continuation of Fast Five in both the plot and the formula. But instead of a group of outlaws taking down drug lords, now we've amped it up to terrorists. Overall, the latest installment was every bit as crazy as Fast Five, and the chemistry between characters is surprisingly good, but I also think that Fast Five was fresher, and most of the action sequences had more of a WOW! factor for me...except for the Dodge Charger crashing through the nose of a cargo plane taking off on a runway so long that you would think that NASA is using it as a new way of launching shuttles into space.
But still, as a person who thought the earlier installments were decent enough, I cannot figure out why the later movies are getting such great reviews in comparison. I thought most of them were fun, escapist entertainment.
It's crazy how this franchise has broken all the sequel rules. They generally keep making more money with each installment instead of less and get more critical acclaim as well.
I wondered if part of it is that the longer you hang around, the more respect you get. Then I remembered Police Academy and Saw. I guess it's just possible that this franchise has bucked the trends and actually improved the quality of the movies over time.
Everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Wang Chung tonight.