Fast Cars & Families

I have never seen a Fast and Furious film start to finish.  I’ve seen maybe a half an hour of the 8th film (Mark happened to be watching it when I got home from work) but that’s about it.  That, and Mark gave me a 10 minute synopsis of all of the other films that came before this latest installment. It’s not that I think I won’t like them, it’s just one of the many film series I’ve never actually gotten around to watching.  So, knowing next to nothing about this franchise I went to see Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

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The opening of the film was actually much better than I was expecting, and it had me hooked right from the start.  After the initial introductory action sequence, the opening credit sequence and introductions of the heroes were really well done. Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) were introduced via some wonderful parallel editing and cross cutting. Each character was going about their daily routine in a similar way, and the editing and use of contrasting colours in each scene highlighted both the similarities and the differences between the two characters.  And this effect continued almost non-stop throughout some of the early scenes of the film right up until around the time Hattie (Vanessa Kirby) joined the “team” and they all began to work together.

Overall, this was very much a “guys” movie where the heroes and villains are tough men, women are often objectified (even if they are kick-ass heroines), and any other men in the film are seen as weaker and/or inferior due to a lack of physical strength compared to that of the heroes and villains. This is the kind of film that almost always has the male gaze in mind. So on one had, the types of cliches and stereotypes present in the plot and characterization in this film are certainly unoriginal.  On the other, this all isn’t quite as bad as it sounds because of one of the main themes: family. Before watching the film, I joked with Mark about how all Fast & Furious films are basically about fast cars and family. Hobbs & Shaw was no exception. Each of the smaller story lines and back stories of the film essentially have to do with family – both biological family and the concept of brotherhood among friends. And even the main plot revolves around family too.  Hobbs doesn’t want the virus to spread because it will put his daughter in jeopardy, and Shaw is invested in this scenario because his sister is at the heart of it. So between the use of the male gaze, and the fact that I am clearly not the target demographic for this film, I found that the characters were all fairly two dimensional.  That being said, I really enjoyed the family dynamics in the film.

On that note, a recurring theme of mending broken family relationships contributed to what was probably the best part of the film for me. Having the final climactic scenes take place in Samoa was really unique and fun. Hobbs’ family members were definitely weaker characters overall compared to some of the others in the film, but their inclusion in the plot really helped to enhance the family related themes of the film.  Also, by using Samoa as a backdrop for the final showdown against Brixton (Idris Elba), it really made those fight scenes stand out from the rest of the action sequences in the film.

Brixton’s motivations as a character are a little troubling to me because I feel as if there is a trend developing and I am not sure if it is a good thing.  It is common for movie villains to want to “change the world” but what makes them villainous is how that change can cause harm. But what is concerning in Hobbs & Shaw – and even the most recent Godzilla film – is that the “change” is preventing destruction on a global scale.  Whereas the villains in Godzilla wanted to prevent humans from destroying the planet and the natural world, Brixton wants to evolve the human race.  However, Brixton mentions that things like capitalism and climate change are to blame for what could lead to the destruction of the human race.  I do not condone the actions of any of these villains in either film, but it does worry me that characters advocating for a fight against climate change are being vilified.  It will certainly be interesting to keep an eye on the motivations of the villains of any upcoming action films over the next year(s).

Because this film is from a franchise known for high speed chases and action packed sequences, seeing it in DBox was the obvious choice. And it turned out to be a good choice.  Most DBox experiences will have movement to accompany camera movements, but there was none of that for Hobbs & Shaw. During the opening, when my seat didn’t tilt to match the movement of the camera, I was a little worried that this would end up being a sub-par experience.  It turns out, the movements were just being saved for the action.  Any time there was a vehicle, a gun, or a punch involved – if anything was hit, shot, driven, or ridden – there was movement. It ended up being really fantastically planned because there was so much action in the film that to include seat movements to go along with non-action related camera movements would have been excessive.  There was definitely a lot of rumbling and shaking, but there was the right amount of rumbling and shaking.

So will I watch the other Fast & Furious films? Most likely. As much as I love action films, this isn’t exactly the type I’ll go out of my way to watch, but if they happen to be on tv or Netflix or something then I’ll certainly give them a try.  And would I watch another Hobbs & Shaw movie? Yeah, and I’ll even spend the extra money to see it in DBox.  (Given the number of Fast & Furious films in existence, I will be very surprised if the studio doesn’t try to turn the Hobbs & Shaw spin off into it’s own franchise). All in all, was an entertaining movie.

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