Editor's note: this article contains mild spoilers for Furious 7.
The Fast and Furious movies were once about a rag-tag group of car enthusiasts with a penchant for pulling off daring heists... and basically anything else cool they could do with a bunch of expensive cars. Some crazy shit has happened over the course of the past six films, but at least Dom and the gang were all humans made of flesh and blood. After watching Furious 7, I'm not so sure that's the case any more.
Dominic Toretto is Superman
Seriously, this movie starts looking a whole lot like a superhero film. The film's new villain, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), is basically Jason Bourne by another name. But even Bourne got bloodied up and knocked off his feet a couple of times. Shaw is a one-man killing machine who somehow conveniently zips around the world to greet Dom's crew wherever they go. And I'm pretty sure he's invincible.
But it's not just Shaw the Invincible. If Shaw is a super villain, Dom is Superman. The two just can't die, and since that's pretty boring, they have to find other things to do with their time. So they have endless fist fights. I think Shaw takes a tire iron to the face at some point, but it just leaves a little scuff on his forehead. When they graduate from that, they decide to crash their cars head-on like a pair dueling rams with testosterone pumping through their veins. No need to worry about either of them getting hurt though — car crashes can't kill superheroes.
And Dom knows this. After he's cornered during one chase scene, the criminal — once a mere street racer — decides his best escape plan is to drive off a sheer cliff, tumbling and crashing his way to the bottom. But, you know, since there wasn't any kryptonite at the bottom, he's able to brush it off. One-thousand-foot drops? Ain't no thing.
This is what happens when you have an endless series of films that are held together with hardly a semblance of plot. Unlike other epic film sagas, say, Star Wars, in which each sequel ostensibly serves to develop a larger storyline, the Furious films are stuck playing a juvenile game of one-upmanship. There's nothing wrong with stupid fun at the movie theater, but it's as if the filmmakers decided there was nothing of value in the Fast and Furious franchise other than the crazy stunts. Therefore, they must have reasoned, the only way to make a better movie is to make it bigger, crazier, and even less realistic.
Seven movies in and it's now a silly game of one-upmanship
Does that sound familiar? It should — with the deluge of superhero flicks over the past decade, nearly every one has resorted to bigger fights and even more destruction to try and get noticed. If you want an example, just look at the progression from Batman Begins to the mess that is The Dark Knight Rises.
The thing is, at a certain point, outlandish stunts are self-defeating. If it's too much, too over-the-top, the audience just doesn't buy it. There are no stakes. If Dom and the gang aren't carefully straddling the thin line between life and death, there isn't much to get the adrenaline pumping. And once the filmmakers blast through the audience's suspension of disbelief, there's just no getting it back. At that point, we know there's no risk to jumping between Abu Dhabi's skyscrapers or parachuting out of a Boeing C-17 in a muscle car. At least those set pieces are fun — but when we know there are no stakes and Dom and Shaw engage in yet another machismo head-on collision, it's just pointless and mind-numbing.
The filmmakers' self-imposed mission to one-up previous entries like Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 also just leads to some awful decisions. In Furious 7, it all culminates in a preposterous fight across the streets of LA. Some sci-fi drone jet with an endless supply of rockets blows up everything, Hobbs picks up a gigantic minigun, and half of LA gets reduced to rubble. Oh, and Dom survives a building collapse after getting blown up by a missile. The filmmakers abandoned what made the earlier Fast and Furious films good in the mindless pursuit of bigger explosions.
Furious 7 is afraid of death
And, it must be said, this all comes with the eerie backdrop of Paul Walker's tragic death. His likeness wanders through the movie as a stark reminder of our mortality. All the while, Furious 7 appears to be in complete denial of that fact. Like a ghost, Paul Walker seems to fade into the ether at the end of the film. He's gone forever, but he's not dead. It's like they decided to honor his death by ignoring it. For a movie with so much destruction, Furious 7 seems awfully afraid of death.
Verge Video Archives: Every Fast and Furious movie plot in 10 minutes.
Correction: an earlier version of this story suggested it would take "krypton" to kill Dominic Toretto. Krypton was the planet Superman was born on; kryptonite was his weakness. We regret the error.