All I have been seeing lately are Fate of the Furious posts, updates, memes and reviews. While there are varying opinions on the franchise, I’d like to share mine. Firstly, allow me to give you some background info and create a context. I was an illegal street racer in the mid to late 90’s, and things were very different back then. We had just become a democracy and had lots of freedoms. Racing on the street was a regular thing and we received very little resistance from authorities. It was a lifestyle, and it was done mostly for the passion of cars, and for the need for speed. I remember reading an article in a lifestyle magazine when I was in high school about racing on the Cape Flats, which sparked my interest. At the time, the only motoring magazine we were exposed to was CAR magazine, and the internet was, well, not invented yet (yes I’m kak old I realise that).The overriding gist of the article was that the racing was all about the cars. People didn’t follow drivers or race teams as they did in Formula One, but the Fords, the Datsun’s and BMW’s were what got fans excited. Another article at the time, albeit not originating in the New South Africa, was Racer “X”. It spoke about illegal racing in New York, where young Americans were modifying and racing “imports”, which in the States are primarily cars from the East. The Fast & Furious movie, which was released in 2001, was based on this very article, although the location changed from New York to the somewhat more appealing West Coast.
I remember the first time I saw the movie. Before it was released in movie houses in South Africa, my buddy, Mansoer, had a very poor pirate copy. I remember watching it with him and to be honest, I wasn’t too impressed, probably because of the picture quality. The acting too, was average to say the least. I am also not a huge fan of impossible stunts and unrealistic action sequences, so a lot of it was an irritation to me. I’ve been using nitrous in my car before the new millennium too, and the whole notion of nitrous which the movie portrayed, was laughable to me. As a car guy though, I appreciated the cars. While Supras and Mitsubishi’s were beyond my reality, I particularly liked the Hondas featured, Jesse’s VR6 (although my Mazda would have soooo killed it at the time), and of course, the Charger. Sjoe! American muscle has been making me weak in the knees since I was….err…pubertised. The scene when the crew arrives at Race Wars in particular, was reminiscent of my racing at the Langebaan Air field just months before, and is probably my favourite scene from all the movies in the franchise.
Let’s be honest. I’ll say it again, I am not a huge fan, but one cannot ignore the fact that this movie was responsible for the whole car scene exploding. Suddenly everyone wanted aftermarket wheels, and body kits. Fabricators were inundated with requests for fibreglass bumpers and moulds became available all over the place. Every Tom, Dick and Hassan who wasn’t a car enthusiast before, now wanted undercar lighting, people had race stickers on their 130 Tazz’s, Mk1 Golfs were driving around with polished exhaust ‘cans’ and, yes, Toyota Corollas had moerse aluminium wings, and Evo-inspired fins. Suddenly, because of demand, performance shops popped up everywhere, street racers were everywhere, engine importers were suddenly selling Honda and Toyota performance engines, and spares shops became “The Racer’s Edge”. Dare I say it, even a little magazine called Speed and Sound benefitted hugely from the hype created by this one movie? It changed the landscape completely. This also wasn’t limited to South Africa, but with the popularity of the internet too, Y2K and the new millennium created a global world, and everyone was fast and furious.
The second instalment was totally crap in my opinion, although it featured a few of the best cars Detroit, the home of the motor car, has ever produced. Then came Tokyo Drift. The fact that Vin Diesel wasn’t cast in it was a huge disappointment, yet many of the younger generation who witnessed the effects of the first movie, were inspired by this new form of motorsport. Many peeps had seen the Japanese touge vids and clips, and with gaming consoles reaching new heights too, Initial D suddenly became a reality for everyone. Again, drifting took off in a big way, much like street racing did a few years before.
I kinda lost interest because of the hype, and the market and industry became over-saturated in my opinion. I know I’ll get flack for saying it, but although the franchise was responsible for lots of positives in the industry (like the fact that everyone in the scene speaks of “family”), it created a culture which,I don’t quite know how to put it, it became quantity over quality.I thought Fast 5 was pretty entertaining. By now I had realised that the franchise had gone from a reflection of a car culture to an action series, and I accepted it as such. The exotic locations were more of an attraction to me than the car scenes, although a few iconic cars were still present to be ogled. And then…Paul Walker died. While everyone was sad for losing “an icon” I wasn’t too bothered. At the time I thought he was a pretty crappy actor, but my favourite actors are Al Pacino and John Travolta who, admittedly can’t be placed in the same league. Later though, I realised how important the character of Brian O’Connor was to the car scene and that Paul Walker was actually a pretty cool car guy too. Recently one of my eyes and ears in Hong Kong (I have contacts everywhere, that’s how I roll) sent me pics of a Paul Walker memorial, and it was awesome to see, how it brought great cars and great car people together.
The Fate of the Furious is on everyone’s lips right now, with many people saying the producers have completely lost the plot. It is 16 years later though, I think movie makers are trying to push the envelope, and rightly so. They might have lost the plot to some, including me, but this franchise is Universal Pictures highest grossing project ever, and has grossed just less than 5 billion USD at the box office. There are already release dates for sequels number 9 and 10. Some say it is overdone. Others are die-hard fans. Will they ever get tired of it? Well, do you get tired of the VW Golf?