The Sloppy and the Furious

furious7

 

 

This review was written by contributor Michael Lenoch, who surgically broke down The Guardian’s analysis of Jeremy Clarkson. In addition to this review, listen to Matt’s review from TST Podcast #166.

 

By Michael Lenoch

Allow me to begin this review by saying that my expectations for this film were astronomical––better yet––I had hoped for a swansong to commemorate Paul Walker and nurture the series’ characters and further establish their place in the world. In other words, to grant Walker a proper sendoff.

But if you are like me, do not go into Furious 7 expecting any of these things.

Although, to director James Wan’s credit, Furious may not have been more aptly named as it was nothing but sheer fury some dedicated fans felt as they exited theaters.

As the previous two films have demonstrated, street racing is now a sad, downtrodden relic of the past that will seldom, if ever, make a return to the silver screen. Indeed, Walker, Diesel and gang’s days of terrorizing the streets of Los Angeles, Miami and [insert exotic location of your choice] are long gone. And that’s a sad thought because that’s all I ever wanted from a Fast & Furious movie.

I mean, this is not rocket science, James Wan. Street racing has to be in Furious 7 and it is all but absent. I don’t get where the allure for racing––supposedly the sole fiber that binds the franchise together––has gone. To fans’ delight, we are graced with a good sight in the opening scene. Avoiding spoilers, it is the first and tragically last racing scene Furious 7 contains. And. That. Is. A. Travesty.

Out with the old, in with the new, right? For street racing, director of Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6, Justin Lin and Furious 7’s director James Wan traded the reckless hobby for something arguably no safer: guns, explosions, evil masterminds and exponentially more scantily clad women with each passing installment.

What does that then leave us with? In essence, a franchise that is desperately trying to adapt to the times and the increasingly unrefined tastes of the movie-going public. And this, I argue, is where the franchise is going wrong. Without doubt, Wan’s brainchild will do well in box offices. At the end of the day though, is that really the point of art and expression?

Without jumping the shark here, any real craftsman’s goal should be to create the best possible product first and foremost and then wow the crowd later. If these two get confused, well, you ostensibly end up with a politician: a man or woman whose explicit goal is to win favor through any means, which includes posturing and pandering. Yet the true artisan defines his or her craft on the basis that it aligns with his or her vision… not on how many tickets it can sell at the box office.

Sadly, we live in a generation where we place the carriage before the horse. We can witness countless other series that have been squeezed dry for every last penny they could earn. Though, the Fast & Furious series seems to be the greatest perpetrator of this as the Business Insider remarked that it is one that “needs to end now,” while Hollywire ranks it as the single most overdone movie series.

I sincerely believe the series could profit from being done right and could prevent the now-foreseeable disposability of the franchise in the years to come. The series will find increasing difficulty in defining itself apart from the rest if Wan chooses to indeed make more movies. Without street racing, what does it have going for it? More specifically, what does it have unique going for it? The series will experience apathy from crowds and in equal measure, the dilution of creativity.

The issue with Furious 7 is its jarring, incoherent pacing. To add to the list of grievances, audience members are soon bored by explosions––already overwrought staples in the industry that Wan in no way helps––become but a mere bore as hundreds of fiery Hollywood magic balls incinerate the colossal IMAX screen.

Speaking of staples, an array of exotic locales is something that has always been synonymous with the Fast & the Furious. But unlike the immersion factor Tokyo Drift provided, expect none of that. Rather, expect to see stereotypical facsimiles of Middle Eastern culture that serve as paperthin stand-ins for the real thing, banking on audiences not being savvy enough to recognize how underutilized the film’s sense of place truly is. A sensation such as that can feel somewhat patronizing.

Worth noting as well is how greatly James Wan dropped the ball on what was supposed to be the ribbon on top of nearly 15 years’ worth of character development. Instead of tapping into the characters’ potential growth, he chose to keep them in their prepackaged shrinkwrap, allowing them to stale in the face of laughably unrealistic romantic scenes and as they fall back into the staid roles they have routinely performed in films past.

Wan does nothing to move the franchise forward. In fact, without giving anything away, a number of set pieces and camera angles were very clearly lifted from previous films within the franchise. We can of course look at these artistic decisions in one of two ways: either Wan wanted to pay homage to the films past or did so out of laziness.

Either way, Furious 7 shares too much with its predecessors for my liking. The past three films seemed as though they abided by this strict formula: we are introduced to flawed, human and somewhat interesting characters, they encounter a problem, they choose to solve said problem together, a body of “evil” (in what way, we rarely find out) persons are identified and the group of unlikely misfits somehow––through thick or thin, through plot twist or monotony––see their goals through.

But maybe Wan is smart. Compared to the general public at large, car fans make up such a tiny portion of the whole. Perhaps Wan and his crack-team of producers have figured out that the American public holds––at the very least––some dormant inkling of petroleum thriving somewhere, deep in their bloodstream. “After all, my dad’s uncle’s brother once had a Camaro once… or was that a Charger? Anyway…” Or so I imagine the average viewer of Furious 7; generally uninterested in cars, but gleefully along for the ride. And there is no shortage of money to be made from these less-than-discerning moviegoers, that is an absolute fact. So maybe Wan is ultimately the genius.

Let’s approach what I don’t like about this film more clinically. Watch a Furious 7 trailer on the net. Any trailer. It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen the movie or not yet. Just watch any old trailer. Through your YouTube window, you see a film that inspires adrenaline. An action-packed, high-octane thriller, where the stars are in equal parts the actors as they are the cars.

But no.

I did somewhat feel deceived walking out of the theater. I was not quite expecting as much of an action movie as I got. And quite frankly, it got quite long in the tooth as explosion number 1000 erupts and insignificant, convoluted plot intricacy x that will never, at any point again be expounded upon wears on you. You simply cease to care because by the seventh goddamn film, you simply know our cast of heroes will live to race another car.

“Hey, it’s a simple, kick-back-and-relax, big, blockbuster Hollywood action film, so why do I care?,” you say inquisitively. And you may be right. However, I have grown significantly since the original the Fast & the Furious in 2001. Call me cynical all you want, but I expected a film that suspends my disbelief, maintains my interest, makes me care about the characters, a film that is not trying to appeal to mouthbreathers, a film that I am not sick of watching by the time it ends, a film that makes sense when I walk out of the theater, instead of making me think, “what exactly did I just watch?”

But maybe there was nothing for Wan to cull from the original lore in the first place. Maybe the characters were indeed poorly-established and unrealistic since the very beginning.

Or equally likely for Furious 7, my expectations were set artificially high due to my own vested interest in the series. At the end of it all, I felt Paul Walker’s departure—both literal as well as metaphorical—was heavy-handed. Dare I say it, it was outright botched.

No, I do not suggest a film in which political intrigue, international affairs, the laws of physics and so on play overbearing roles––thus overemphasizing realism over entertainment––but I did hope for a movie that would tie the series up

 

Breaking down The Guardian’s analysis of Jeremy Clarkson

By Michael Lenoch

Dear Zoe Williams,

 

With regard to your brilliant article about Jeremy Clarkson and the future path of Top Gear, I’m afraid you’re wrong in every single imaginable and unimaginable way.

 

No.

 

What you apparently do not realize is that Top Gear is a television program intended for 18-30 year old males. Such males enjoy making light of an antiquated arrogance only the likes of Jeremy Clarkson himself is capable of satirizing.

 

Have you, for but a brief moment, considered that by any morsel of a chance that Top Gear is indeed programming not suited for you?

 

I’m afraid by citing Mr. Clarkson’s multiple offenses and through your various forms of ranting and venting it becomes blatantly apparent you simply don’t watch Top Gear.

 

Rather, you have paid close attention to the various headlines from the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror and other such “arbiters” of journalistic integrity so as to arm yourself with the appropriate ammunition to discredit Clarkson and all the work he has done.

 

Your ignorance only becomes further evident as you cite the BMW i8 as the “coolest car in the world right now.” Very imaginative; I’m certain no amount of Google searching aided you there.

 

In addition, the statement “Car manufacturing, weirdly, has not just caught up with but superseded the world’s environmental concerns” is not only uninformed, but also outright false.

 

If car manufacturing in fact “superseded the world’s environmental concerns,” cars would no longer rely upon petroleum at all and the fear of global warming would be but a mere false alarm in the past, no different from Y2K.

 

The part where you said, “Vehicles that give off few emissions and use modest amounts of petrol look like dinosaurs now, compared to the ones that use no petrol at all,” doesn’t help your cause either, I’m afraid. The number of fully-electric vehicles on the market at the moment is a staggering 20.

 

“I’ve sat in cars whose electric cells were regenerated by the kinetic energy of the car going downhill, while feeling like I was in a Hummer.” What? You do know that kinetic energy regeneration is nothing new and hybrids are capable of it too?

 

“The solar industry’s work on battery storage is about to rip the whole industry a new tank.” Did you stay up all night thinking of how to somehow parse the phrase “rip a whole new” into your “article”?

 

Then comes the Shakespeare-level line, saying,

Top Gear, being so far behind the curve, would only be able to catch up if it undertook a radical rethink of its value system. I suggest an eco-feminist approach. In the first place, they need to incorporate the obvious concerns of the entire industry, to produce cars that get you places without needless waste.

Do you even know what Top Gear is about? Reviewing cars and the joy of motoring. No one wants to watch a mumbling bloke point out how the Coda (you can use that stellar, new model in your next brilliant article) regenerates its battery under braking.

 

What you suggest is a clinical, antiseptic and lifeless version of Top Gear that incorporates completely zero of the elements that made the series enjoyable to watch in the first place.

 

Another step further and one might be actually fully convinced that you have bothered to watch Top Gear a net total of zero times: “Feminism is relevant because only a macho culture would have allowed a bunch of idiots to elide heedless fossil fuel use with mindless racial slurs and scientific illiteracy.”

 

No.

 

You say “idiots [plural]…use…racial slurs and scientific illiteracy.” If you watched Top Gear, even at least once, you might have realized that Jeremy was the single member of the show to do any of those things.

 

Ultimately, here’s why your plan would fail: “What would my Top Gear look like? Cool cars. Some cars that were not cool. Intelligent people saying things that were not facile. A vision for the future; a vision that baffled belief, a little like Tomorrow’s World, except, you know, just around the corner. Realistically, possibly, about to happen tomorrow.”

 

Nope.

 

The thing about humor is that it favors slapstick themes such as obesity, irreverence and obscenity. No one goes to any comedy show to be bombarded with unfunny, politically correct jokes and laughs merely as a sincere and polite gesture. Likewise, no comic is going to alter his or her humor simply so as to conform to the increasingly sensitive tendencies of “Tomorrow’s Word,” whatever that is.

The ideal of “Tomorrow’s World” (whatever that is) is just that: an ideal. What makes Top Gear, rather, so topical, so on-the-ball is the way the producers and presenters say “bollocks” to the trends of today and do the polar opposite of everything you suggested, complete with a burning rubber fanfare going on in the background.

 

-Michael Lenoch

 

Find Michael on Twitter

TST Podcast 133: Jonny Lieberman

 

Oh what a podcast! We left this one with hurt ribs and exhausted voice boxes.

 

Jonny Lieberman is one of the busiest journalists in the automotive world. He’s constantly flying here, driving there, comparing things and jumping something. He gets to drive all the pretty, expensive stuff, but isn’t jaded to the simple things in life. He loves old cars, racing lemons, and just bought his wife a Fiesta ST (which really means he bought himself a Fiesta ST.) He’s one of the coolest people in the game, with a knowledge that is humbling and enthusiasm that is inspiring.

 

Today, he has a lot to talk about. Motor Trend has a Dodge Challenger Hellcat loaner, Jonny is shopping for old Jaguars, and driving old Lamborghinis. We discuss the Porsche Turbo we’ve all driven, wonder how the hell the Vector came to be, hate on Chris Harris for shattering Zack and Thad’s love of the Ferrari 550, and Jonny defends daily-driving the Camaro Z28. Like we said, lots of stuff.

 

Stream the podcast right here


The Smoking Tire – Atkinson Diet

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DOWNLOAD it for your device.

 

 

 

For all his articles are videos, follow Jonny on Twitter.

 

Follow us on Twitter: @thesmokingtire @zackklapman @hayesdata