“Fate of the Furious” has been out a little over a week, and already I’ve heard the following question uttered in just about every conceivable form: ”But…why do people like those movies?”
Well, I’ll tell you why.
It’s because they’re Avengers movies minus the superpowers. The Fast franchise is literally “Ocean’s Eleven” without the suave subtlety, “The Italian Job” with an east L.A. gearhead running the show instead of Mark Wahlberg, “Mission Impossible” with NOS, and just about every other successful action movie built around a star-studded cast refined into one final, perfect form.
And you know what? They’re better than the Marvel movies.
Marvel, the untouchable money-printing machine responsible for the record-setting sprawling superhero universe that’s essentially paved the way for other connected universe-type movies for the past decade, comes up short in nearly every conceivable category when stacked head-to-head against the Fast films. Not to say the Marvel movies don’t have their merits — they’re pretty consistent at delivering a colorful action-packed formula set forth by the release of the first “Iron Man.” I’m as excited as anyone for the handful of funny quips that haven’t yet been leaked from “Guardians of the Galaxy 2.” The Marvel universe is awesome.
“The Fast and the Furious” is just better in every way.
First, the strength of each universe rests on the authenticity and diversity of its characters, and the Fast films win out here through sheer variety. Don’t pretend like Doctor Strange and Iron Man or Falcon and War Machine aren’t the exact same guy. Plus, Marvel can’t get Captain Marvel and Black Panther into theaters soon enough, what with every one of their 15 films so far following the same pattern of “generally likable white dude has friends of a different race or gender and they need to save the world.” Looking for strong women and non-white leading roles? The Fast universe is the better bet.
The Fast films aren’t merely diverse for diversity’s sake, either. Every major player in the movies is necessary to the success of the makeshift family’s latest mission. The driving force of each film revolves around taking care of their own in some way or another, adding emotional depth to movies that started out being purely about tuning cars and L.A.’s underground racing culture. Each character, from Vin Diesel’s harsh background as a son watching his father die in a crash to Tyrese Gibson’s history with Paul Walker, progresses from one film to the next in meaningful ways.
What’s more, the whole idea of the team-up action flick is the team becoming more than the sum of its parts. Throughout the entirety of “Captain America: Civil War,” the film tries to manufacture reasons for most of the characters not named Tony, Cap or Bucky to even be there. Half of the cast had basically nothing at stake. Conversely, the Fast universe made Ludacris a viable recurring character, watched Paul Walker and Vin Diesel grow up as cringey early-2000’s actors into solid leading men and saw Michelle Rodriguez and Gal Gadot make a name for themselves.
If that’s not enough for you, redirect your attention from the protagonists to the villains. Through 15 films, here’s a comprehensive list of legitimately memorable Marvel bad guys —
Loki. And maybe Ultron.
That’s it. Iron Man movies are great, but there’s no nemesis there. Thor? Nobody’s even watched “Thor: The Dark Word” 1 or 2 since theaters. “Winter Soldier” would’ve been a great one if he’d stayed the villain, but he didn’t.
But in the world of irresponsible gear-shifting you’ve got dudes literally using Game of Thrones torture techniques to threaten cops, Luke Evans and his team of mobile terrorists, Braga the drug cartel leader, Jason freaking Statham, Charlize Theron’s frustratingly hateable Cipher and the guy in Rio they steal all the money from.
Each Fast villain makes for a unique challenge, differentiating each film from the others but also directly leading to the events of the next. Like them or not, the Fast films are each solid stand-alone movies in the sense that they don’t rely on knowledge of the others to be great — they’re just much, much better for hardcore fans. They’re perfect for channel-surfing and determining yes, you do have an hour to watch a supercar drive off a skyscraper.
Ever since “Phase II,” Marvel has sunk too deep into its own self-promotion, to the point where each film is just an extended trailer for the following films. They no longer build toward the team-up concept — instead, the team-up movies try to set up each individual hero’s next adventure in under two hours.
There’s no reason you can’t enjoy both franchises — from the amount of money they each rake in every year, it’s obvious most people do. But the stigma around liking Fast films because they’re somehow dumb dude movies has no bearing anymore.
Also, the Fast universe has the Rock, which should honestly be enough of an argument on its own.
— Logan Jones is a junior majoring in creative writing. He’s been to midnight showings for both Winter Soldier and Furious 7, so honestly, maybe he just likes movies. Contact him with feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org