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‘F9’: The ride of a lifetime or a goofy franchise returning to form?

‘F9’: The ride of a lifetime or a goofy franchise returning to form?

‘F9’: The ride of a lifetime or a goofy franchise returning to form?
July 05
20:22 2021

“F9” hit theaters about a week ago, and critics and fans alike have been picking apart the film to see if it’s the icing on the cake for the “Fast & Furious” saga, or an unfortunate letdown for a franchise that’s 12 years in the making. Jaden Oberkrom and Will Tarpley both gave their stances on the film this week to see how the film truly measures up to the hype. Jaden takes a look at the film on its own, and Will focuses on how it functions as the ninth “Fast & Furious” movie as a longtime fan. Jaden’s take:

It is time for a confession. I have never been remotely interested in the “Fast” saga. Racing and cars are two things I could not care less about, and for a long time, that is all I thought these movies had to offer. This franchise had nine entries before “F9” being released, and as time went on, I found myself wanting to see what I was missing out on. The second best choice I have ever made was watching all nine “Fast & Furious” movies in a huge marathon before “F9” came out in theaters. But more importantly, the best choice I have ever made was going to see “F9” after missing out on summer blockbusters for over a year.

The number one thing I want this review to do is to look at “F9” as its own standalone film. There are eight other “Fast & Furious” movies and one spin-off, but those films are not the focus here. To sustain a balanced franchise, each entry should be able to stand on its own. My biggest problem is this specific entry misses that mark. There is too much reliance on past films, and to get the full experience, you need to know quite a bit from the previous movies in the franchise. Other than that major problem, this was easily the most fun I have ever had in a movie theater. I genuinely feel sad for people who don’t get any enjoyment from this franchise, as these films have evolved into absolute madness. Everyone involved, from the filmmakers to the audience, is fully aware of that.

It would not be a movie in the “Fast” saga without Vin Diesel trying his absolute hardest to give a serious performance. For some reason, it fits so perfectly. This franchise doesn’t get enough credit for balancing the tone the way it does. There are scenes that are so detached from reality, followed by scenes that are so dramatic and heavy. I can confidently say how unironically good this movie is because there is a whole subplot where the characters commentate on how they are practically invincible. The rest of the cast does what they have done throughout the whole franchise, and the addition of John Cena gets two big thumbs up from me. A lot of people think his character was underused in this film, but after seeing some of his other performances, it is probably for the best his screen time was limited.

This is normally the point in the review where I talk about the plot, but if you have seen one of these movies you know the drill by now. The bad guys have some super powerful weapon, and for some reason, it is up to a bunch of people who drive fast to stop them. It seems like it shouldn’t work, but it works perfectly. Going to see “F9” for the writing is like going to Dave & Buster’s for their food. People see these movies because of the action, and this film delivers in that category on every level possible.

“F9” is not perfect. I am sure that statement is not a discovery. The film is a reminder that pure entertainment should be valued higher than everything else when critiquing a film. We often talk about the cinematography and pacing, when we should be talking about how much we enjoyed the film on the surface level. At what point are you critiquing a movie more than you are actually sitting back and enjoying it? I never thought “F9” would force me to ask myself these life-altering questions, but anything is possible at this point. I was thoroughly entertained from beginning to end, and I can’t recall a time where I walked out of a theater feeling more overjoyed. I am going to rate this movie way higher than I probably should, but I am proud to say this franchise has gained a new fan. “F9” may not be the perfect film, but it came out at the perfect time. Summer blockbusters are back at full strength, and there is no better franchise to announce that than “The Furious Saga.”

Jaden’s final rating: 4.25/5

Will’s take: “Y’all ever thought about the wild missions we’ve been on? We’ve taken out planes, trains, tanks. I’m not going to even think about the submarine. Now we got cars flying in the air!?” Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty Ortiz (Michelle Rodriguez) are living peacefully with their son when they’re called to do a mission. During the sequence, Dom and his team come face-to-face with Jakob (John Cena), Dom’s long-estranged brother. Not only is he in league with previous villain Cypher (Charlize Theron), the doomsday weapon somehow ties back to long thought-dead ally Han (Sung Kang). Together, they must stop a potential doomsday scenario while also focusing on what matters most: family. The ninth main installment in the still-revving “Fast & Furious” installment, “F9” continues to escalate the trademark over-the-top action whilst doubling down on an increasingly complicated mythology. First, this movie is a blast. Franchise veteran Justin Lin has given audiences yet another solid addition to a series that began life as a “Point Break” ripoff and evolved into street racers going up against high-tech criminal masterminds with end-of-the-world stakes on the table. Our heroes survive a minefield, falling from a hundred feet into water with debris raining down, and use giant magnets with the same lethal precision as Bruce Lee. Second, this is definitely an improvement over the incredibly disappointing “Hobbs & Shaw” as well as the just okay “Fate of the Furious.” While the Rock’s contributions to “Fast Five” and onward are very much appreciated, his increasingly self-aware screen presence has turned Hobbs from an overly serious force of nature into a cardboard cutout and took the franchise away from its appeal — it’s straight-faced, sincere approach to increasingly elaborate, explosive Saturday morning cartoon action. Third, Han’s return is mostly well-handled. The cool, snack-guzzling Tokyo drifter comes back in his full glory and Kang’s performance hasn’t missed a step. We actually get some more love for “Tokyo Drift,” an underrated film, which is objectively never a bad thing. Fourth, this is one of the funniest movies of the year. While there are some movements I am certain weren’t meant to entertain quite the way they did, a lot of the banter still had me roaring in delight. There’s this running gag about how invincible the protagonists are and while it is a bit meta, it actually fits in with the universe’s tone quite nicely and didn’t take me out of the movie. All-in-all, some good chuckles to be found. Fifth, they actually give Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) something to do. She was previously just the tech-women and while she made sense for the series’ transition to spy capers, she didn’t really do much. Here, she gets a very endearing action sequence that is simultaneously an action and comedic highlight. So, yes, this twenty-year-old series still has life in it. However, there are a couple of things lacking. Cena’s Jacob, for one. His debut was very much hyped. He’s not just another WWE wrestler coming on — he’s playing Dom’s secret, evil brother. That’s the perfect, ludicrous stereotypical cheese the series is beloved for. However, not only is he somewhat underused in the movie, he’s kind of a dull villain. He doesn’t add much and the fight between him and Diesel is somewhat awful. Charlize Theron has had many great roles. Cypher isn’t one of them. She gets a really funny line involving Yoda’s puppet butt and that’s it. Then there’s the sheer amount of callbacks to previous movies. It’s one thing when there’s a reference to a previous character or event, it’s another when minor characters who popped up a couple of movies ago come back with no explanation or fanfare. Despite being a franchise known for relying on escalating things as far as it can, “F9” seriously cares a little too much about previous franchise lore. While audiences could reasonably watch most if not all previous eight movies on their own, the continuity is unexpectedly thick, and “impenetrable” is an apt description for it. Long story short, the movie relies a bit too much on convenient retconning and rewrites for even this kind of movie. It nears “Avengers: Endgame” in how labyrinthine the story can be. Still, “F9” is a fun movie and a nice little addition. It will certainly entertain with its spectacular sequences of mayhem and lovable characters while making some scratch their heads in certain places. But, hey! “Fast & Furious” is back and I couldn’t be happier. Will’s final rating: 3.5/5

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

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Jaden Oberkrom

Jaden Oberkrom

Will Tarpley

Will Tarpley

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