The Geek Beat: Getting Up To Speed With 'The Fate of the Furious'

The Geek Beat: Getting Up To Speed With 'The Fate of the Furious'

Apr 13, 2017

Do you hear that supercharged hum in the air? Can you smell that potent blend of burning rubber and high-octane fuel? The moment is nigh, fellow fans of fast and furious big-screen adventures.

Over the last few years, I've made my affection known for the cinematic universe of The Fast and the Furious, a franchise that essentially follows a team of superheroes who drive cars instead of wearing capes and tights. So it's with no small amount of excitement that I've been looking forward to the April 14 release of The Fate of the Furious, the eighth movie in a franchise that somehow manages to get better with each installment instead of wearing its welcome.

And yet, for some reason I still don't understand, there are some people who might be jumping into the franchise with this weekend's film. To those people, I say, “Bravo. You have chosen wisely.” And I also say, “This column is for you.”

Rather than recap each of the previous films, here's a brief, relatively spoiler-free primer on everything that you might need to know heading into The Fate of the Furious. However, you shouldn't consider this a replacement for the earlier films, but rather something more akin to a “Previously on...” segment that also encourages you to go back and watch 'em all (even Tokyo Drift) if you like what you see in The Fate of the Furious.

 

Family First

From the very start, the running theme in the Fast and the Furious franchise has been “family.” They talk about it a lot. The word gets mentioned at least once every 15 minutes or so in each film. (Okay, I made up that figure – but you get the idea.) And yet, the characters' use of the word feels totally appropriate for the occasionally cheesy, always exciting world they inhabit.

The story of the Fast and the Furious family begins with undercover police officer Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) investigating a series of high-speed heists in and around Los Angeles, California. His investigation eventually leads him to cross paths with ex-convict and legendary street racer Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), as well as the close-knit family Toretto has built around himself and his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster). As he grows closer to Dom and his family, he begins to understand the bond they share and the loyalty they have for each other – a loyalty that supercedes just about everything else in their lives.

Like many families, the motley group of racers, mechanics, and tinkerers that surround Dom gains new members and loses others over time. New relationships add – and occasionally subtract – from their immediate family, and threats posed to one member end up bringing the entire group closer. A recurring narrative in many installments of the series has Dom's family facing some potential enemy, only to have that enemy turn into an ally (a la Dwayne Johnson's Luke Hobbs) once he or she sees the family for what it is and what they can accomplish as a team.

Sure, it might seem a little trite, but when you have cast with fantastic chemistry and action sequences that somehow raise the bar in every film, it's difficult not to cheer when the heroes inevitably save the day in triumphant fashion.

 

That Tangled Timeline

This week's The Fate of the Furious is the eighth installment of the series, but the actual timeline for events that occurred in the franchise isn't a straight run through all seven prior films from 2001's The Fast and the Furious to this weekend's sequel.

The franchise timeline does indeed kick off with The Fast and the Furious, and continues through 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious. It's after that movie, though, that things get a little confusing.

The 2006 film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was initially intended to take the series in a different direction with a fresh cast. However, in an effort to keep some connection to the previous films, the story has one of the supporting characters fondly recall the time he spent as part of Dom's family. This character, Han (Sung Kang), was so well received by audiences that the studio felt compelled to explore that period in the recent past when Han and Dom were on the road – and that's exactly what they did in the next three films.

Following Tokyo Drift, the next three films – 2009's Fast & Furious, 2011's Fast Five, and 2013's Fast & Furious 6 – were all set in the time between 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift. It wasn't until 2015's Furious 7 that the timeline finally caught up to the events of Tokyo Drift, and now each subsequent sequel is a more traditional, linear extension of that storyline.

But here's the thing: You should still watch them in the order each film was released. There's a reason why the studio's decision to take a step back in the franchise timeline worked out so well. A big part of the appeal of those middle films comes from anticipating the moment when the continuity will finally catch up to itself.

 

Active Duty

Members of Dom's family have come and gone over the years, but the core team returning for The Fate of the Furious appears – from reports so far – to include Dom, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Tej (Chris “Ludacris” Bridges), Leo (Tego Calderon), and Santos (Don Omar), as well as their government agent pals Hobbs (Johnson) and Elena (Elsa Pataky). How much of a role each character will play in the film remains a mystery, but that's all part of the surprise.

Missing from the family's high-speed adventure this time around are Brian and Mia, who are finally settling down to raise their children without the ever-present threat of international crime lords or drug cartels affecting their lives. Brian's exit from the franchise was written into the story after the death of Walker during the filming of Furious 7, but the character's history with Dom and the rest of the team is still expected to shape their adventures down the road.

The team is also missing some fan-favorite family members who reached the end of the road in their respective story lines during earlier installments of the series. Over the course of the last few films, Dom's crew has watched several members die, and others go missing or simply fade out of the picture in the wake of their adventures together, and it's uncertain how many of those characters will (or even can) make a return to action at some point.

Also returning for The Fate of the Furious are a pair of former adversaries in brothers Owen and Deckard Shaw (Luke Evans and Jason Statham, respectively), who tormented the team in the last two installments of the series. The film's trailer suggests that their relationship to the team might be changing a bit, but given their history with Dom and his family, the sins of the past aren't going to be forgotten very easily.

Kurt Russell also reprises his role as black ops agent Mr. Nobody, who assisted the team in defeating Deckard Shaw during Furious 7, and now – like so many other supporting characters over the course of the franchise – seems to understand how effective Dom's family can be when they work together.

With the new film expected to introduce a few new characters to the series' universe, that should bring you up to speed with everything that's important to know about The Fast and the Furious franchise up to this point. What you do with the knowledge is up to you, but here's hoping it means your trip to the theater for The Fate of the Furious is followed by a movie marathon shortly thereafter.

 

This week's question: What are you looking forward to seeing in The Fate of the Furious?


Rick Marshall is an award-winning writer and editor whose work can be found at Movies.com, as well as MTV News, Fandango, Digital Trends, and various other online, print, and on-air news outlets. He's been called a “Professional Geek” by ABC News and Spike TV. You can find him on Twitter as @RickMarshall.

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