This review will discuss the strong female characters found in the Fast and The Furious franchise and why Furious Seven, the latest installment, will probably be the last.
The Fast and Furious franchise had a lot of things that attracted the ‘typical’ male demographic to the theatre: girls slow-mo dancing in bikinis, fast cars & tough as nail characters who can give a beating with their car or their fists. The franchise would evolve beyond fast cars but not until after the second and third installment. The second film did not include Vin Diesel arguably the most popular reason to pay for tickets. 2Fast2Furious brought in Brian’s childhood friend Roman & Tej a tech guru into the franchise who we would see play significantly more important roles in last three films. However Hollywood quickly realized after Tokyo Drift the third installment with out even the blond blue eyed protagonist of Paul Walker’s Brian, that what made the films popular was Dom and Brian working together.
That is when it looks like the writers started thinking in terms of plots for more then one movie. The fourth installment Fast and Furious not to get confused with the first one The Fast and The Furious, brought Brian and Dom back together and started the relationship with Jordan Brewster’s Mia Toretto again with Brian. That story also brought back Sung Kang’s Han (character from Tokyo Drift) and introduced Gal Gadot’s character Gisele into the film franchise. The most important plot point in the film was Michelle Rodriguez’s Letty was believed to be killed. Dom is on a revenge spree and Brian needs to capture the bad guy to get good marks with his boss. It had been five years since Brian had let Dom go ie. end of the first film. By the end of the Fast and Furious we had Brian going rogue FBI agent and rescuing Dom when he was given life in prison with out parole.
This starts the franchise on its new course, the one that has grossed exponentially more money then most people believed possible for a car racing franchise. It also started the plot that most fans would agree made it much more interesting then it had previously been. Fast Five brought in Dwayne Johnson as DSS Agent Hobbs and Elsa Pataky as Rio Patrol Officer Elena. The plot of the movie was a heist, ‘one last job’, so that Mia and Brian didn’t have to run especially when they were going to have a child. The subject of family had undertones in this film that would continue throughout the next two films. They bring back a few characters from 2Fast2Furious. Tyrese Gibson’s fast talking Roman and Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridge’s tech guru Tej are in Rio to help Dom and Brian in Fast Five. We saw an Ocean’s 11 like plot with Rio as backdrop.
To say that Hollywood was surprised by the huge success of Fast Five is an understatement. The plot had ‘grown up’ no longer were they just racing cars for pink slips and the characters were little more fleshed out. We had Dom hugging Brian and Mia after he heard about her pregnancy and a scene where the two men talk about their respective fathers. We also learn that Dom can beat DSS agent Hobbs but because of loyalty and protection for his family he still lets himself be taken into custody. This movie still had the slow-mo bikini wearing girls and definitely had fast cars, but also had strong undertone of family.
Fast and Furious 6 brought back an important character thought to be killed in 4th installment, Letty, Dom’s girlfriend of 15 years. Now at this point the audience would believe they are bringing Letty back because its last ditch storyline. Why do we need emotion and feelings in an action movie about fast car chases? Well of the last four films this one is arguably not the best but it has a few important plot points. We have the gang go after Luke Evans’s Shaw, who has a criminal car racing gang of his own, but has none of the messy feelings Dom carries with him, no family (other then brother) to speak of. Shaw also has Letty’s loyalty which of course makes Brian and Dom very interested in Shaw and bringing him down for DSS agent Hobbs. In the end Dom ends up with Letty and Brian still has Mia, the family is whole again.
Now as I have given a short background of the franchise we are at the latest installment (many think the last) of the Fast and Furious franchise Furious Seven. Letty still has amnesia and Dom wishes to jog her memory, however her PTSD makes it hard for her. Brian is driving a mini van (pretty hilarious scene) and is happy, is a really good dad to his son Jack, but Mia tells Dom he ‘misses the bullets’. Dekar Shaw, the older brother of the man they almost put into the grave in the previous film kills Han and puts DSS Agent Hobbs in the hospital which starts a spiral of events. Mia practically begs Brian to go help Dom, which is a first for action movie wife/girl friends encouraging their partner to go into danger. She states it best, “I want you two to watch each other’s backs and come home together”. A strong female character who can drive as good as the boys but happens to also be a mother and wife to one of the main characters. Unique in the world of action movie woman, and she isn’t the only one.
The reason that as a woman, who arguably is not the demographic for this film, loves these films is because of the unique aspect of most of the female characters. Mia Toretto is definitely at the top of the list of unique female characters in the franchise. She is ‘the girl’ who isn’t already with someone in the first film. She is Dom’s sister which means he is protective of her and doesn’t approve of just anyone being ‘with’ her. She is undercover FBI agent Brian O’Connor’s ticket into the Toretto garage and to explore what exactly his team is doing and if they are the ones the FBI is after. That all sounds like typical female character in an action movie, someone for a character to kiss and get jealous over. Yet as the franchise matured so did Mia’s character. That is what this review is about, the unique female characters in the franchise making Fast and Furious not your run of the mill fast car-action franchise.
I’m not forgetting Dom’s ‘girl’ Letty who has subsequently gone from the anti-protagonists girlfriend to the main character’s wife (revealed in Furious Seven they had been married for years). Letty was a character whom everyone talked about in the fourth installment even though she was ‘killed’ in the first 10 minutes and was the woman everyone wanted in 6th installment when her death became a miraculous recovery with just amnesia. In the seventh film we have her dealing with PTSD but also showing her loyalty and love to Dom in emotional scene at the end of the film.
Each subsequent film in the franchise introduces another strong female character. Some are used better then others. Eva Mendes’s character Monica Fluentes who is ‘the girl’ in the second installment and seemed to have some relationship with Brian prior to the film storyline was never seen in the franchise again except for the credit scene of Furious Five where she hands Hobbs the information about Letty being alive. Badly used female character but she could hold her own against Brian and was a police officer too.
Probably the most important female character other then Mia and Letty is Elena. The Rio Police Officer Hobbs chose ‘because of her smile’ and ended up as Dom’s girl in furious 6 and protected Jack, Mia and Brian’s child, from Shaw’s henchmen. She has been a constant character in last few films, she seems to be working with Hobbs as a DSS agent and babysits Hobbs’s daughter in Furious Seven. She is unfortunately reduced to taking care of the kid and just mentioned briefly at end of the movie. One of the few things that didn’t make sense in the Furious Seven is why she wasn’t used like Hobbs was at the end of the film. However other circumstances might have affected the outcome of the film more then adding another strong female character in to the plot.
Gal Gadot’s Gisele was introduced in fourth installment and helped the crew in Rio in the fifth. By the sixth movie it was obvious she and Han were ‘a thing’ the third relationship that was more then one film length long, thats a big deal for an action franchise who usually gets rid of woman as easily as bullets. Unfortunately for the viewers she is killed at the end of Sixth movie, saving Han. Her death is marked with hugging Han in solidarity and Han being reckless. Her name comes up one more time in Seventh movie in relation to Han’s death. It is very unlikely she will come back, like Letty, because Gal is now DC Entertainment’s Wonder Woman. They had basically finished her story with Hans.
There are a few more woman who come into the storyline. Hobbs’s partner in 6th installment who happens to be a mole for Shaw. The woman bodyguards in Furious 7 who fight Letty. The franchise has become well known for not putting woman in the typical damsel in distress scenario. In the Furious Seven storyline their is a rescue of a woman for the first half of the film, but she quickly proves her smarts by being the hacker everyone is after as well as basically breaking down the crew who saved her. It is important to note that with out her the men in the fast cars would not have made it out alive. Don’t get me wrong we still have slow-mo scantily clad woman, sadly most of the men are fully dressed, proving again that this is still dominantly a male demographic franchise.
Here is where I give my reason for the end of this franchise as it has been stated multiple times in other reviews. It is the obvious one and one I haven’t mentioned the entire review because it didn’t have anything to do with my enjoyment or dislike of the film. Paul Walker died in a car accident while Furious Seven was filming. The studio rewrote a few plot points in the film and brought in his brothers to help finish the film off. The release was delayed a year. To honor the memory of Paul Walker who arguably is best known for his portrayal of Brian O’Connor in this franchise, I think they will not try to milk the franchise anymore, at least in its current iteration. Maybe 10 year from now they will reboot or do a Tron Legacy like reboot and use the children of the original character and bring Vin Diesel back to connect the two. The actors seem content with the ending and I know from talking to fans they are happy with the tribute we got for Paul’s character and the way the story ‘ended’ or if you wish to be sentimental ‘began’ for his character.
Family took center stage as an overdriving theme in the last few films of this franchise. Not only does Dom say he doesn’t have friends he has family in a titular scene against Dekard Shaw, the ending for Brian brings family to the forefront of the franchise. In the end if you break it all down this is another heist movie, with fast cars and the family motif woven in. A few surprises and some good new characters make the story an enjoyable one and the ending tribute to fallen Paul Walker makes it emotionally potent. Not everyone will cry at the end and not everyone will love the sometimes convoluted plot, but as a fan I am happy with this film as the ending to the Fast and Furious franchise.