After being delayed for about a year, I finally got to go and watch F9 in theaters. This is the first mainline installment of the Fast & Furious series that I’ve seen in theaters since Fast Five in 2011 (Hobbs & Shaw is a spin-off and therefore doesn’t count). After the epic display that was Fate of the Furious, I was very excited to see F9, especially as it revealed two earth-shattering bombshells. One: Dom has had a younger brother this entire time and we’re only just now meeting him and two: Han is still alive! With these two twists alone I was more than eager to see how the film would go about explaining them.
Well….I have good news and bad news. The good news is, the film DOES do a pretty adequate job of explaining how Dom has had a younger brother this entire time AND how Han didn’t die like we thought he did. The bad news is how the film goes about it. A decent chunk of this 2 1/2 hour film is devoted to lengthy flashbacks explaining both of these stories. It’s not that the flashbacks aren’t well done, they’re actually quite good. The thing is, if a film has to jump through this many hoops to explain its current plot…then something has gone sideways somewhere along the way. Perhaps I can explain the issue best if I say that F9 has to try way too hard to explain the existence of Jakob Toretto and Han’s not-being-dead. It doesn’t help that we’re meant to believe that John Cena is Vin Diesel’s younger brother. I tried to believe it, I really did, but it doesn’t quite work, though I will give everyone involved credit for trying.
That’s not the film’s only issue either. After five straight installments of upping the action to another level, F9 finally went too far by going to space. The entire submarine sequence in Fate of the Furious was more believable than this. There is now literally no way for the tenth and eleventh installments (more on those later) to raise the action to another level now without looking absolutely ridiculous. I mean how can you possibly top going to space?? You can’t and that’s going to be a problem down the line.
Also, there’s something about how the whole story is put together that bothered me. And after thinking about it for a while, I think I know what it is. See, at this point I’m used to the Fast & Furious movies jumping around to exotic locales, which F9 does plenty of. But there’s so much jumping around that it dawned on me that the film overall feels very disjointed. So even if most of the individual sections are good (or at least okay), taken together as a whole, it’s rather uneven in many places. I will say I loved the scene with Helen Mirren and Vin Diesel, it was delightful from beginning to end.
One more thing that bothered me: your experience of this film will most definitely suffer if you haven’t seen the early installments of this series. In particular, if you (like me) have yet to see The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, then one whole section of this film is going to make little to no sense to you. I get that they wanted to do a callback, but this one goes so far back it might go over a lot of people’s heads.
Now, with all that being said, I still can’t say the film was terrible because I did enjoy quite a few moments in it. Cipher (Charlize Theron) in particular was a delight to watch, though I do wish her character had gotten more screen time given her current importance to the story. There’s a lot of really good funny spots scattered throughout and the car chases, as always, were the best part of the movie (that stuff with magnets that gets teased in the trailers is just as good as it looks, trust me). This definitely isn’t the worst film I’ve ever seen, though it probably is the weakest entry in the Fast & Furious franchise to date (yes, even weaker than Hobbs & Shaw).
The thing that really gets me is, I don’t see how they can keep the story going for another two entries, I really don’t. This film had the perfect opportunity to kill Cipher off once and for all, wrap everything up in a neat little bow and give our heroes their happily ever after. And I don’t know how it will be in other theaters, but when it was revealed that, spoiler alert, Cipher wasn’t dead, I swear I heard a soft groan in the theater as we all realized the same thing: the ultimate villain lives, this story will continue. Of course I want to see Cipher get what’s coming to her after everything she’s done, but really what more can they do?? As much as I love the Fast & Furious films, they’re getting dangerously close to wearing out their welcome by dragging the story on for too long. No franchise, however good, can last forever, and F9 is proof that you can drag a story too far and make it not as good as it might have been.
Again, I can’t say I hated F9, but it was not as good as I thought it might be. John Cena is an adequate addition to the story, but he’s not the Rock and I hate that he and Vin Diesel had a falling out because Hobbs’ presence was sorely missed in this story, at least by me. If you’ve stuck it out this far with this franchise, then you’ll likely find stuff to enjoy in F9, just don’t raise your expectations too high.
Let me know what you think about F9 in the comments below and have a great day!
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