The number of franchises that have been more and more popular and respectable after six films can be counted with one hand. And since Harry Potter was based on a book series that got more popular with every volume, the movie franchise cheated a bit.
On the direct opposite of the spectrum is a little epic series called Fast and Furious, which was supposed to be dead and buried after the first two sequels. But two more sequels later, Fast and Furious 6 has taken its place as an early summer tent pole alongside Iron Man and Star Trek – with even more physics defying action.
Dom and Mia Toretto, Brian O’Conner and their extended family are living comfortably overseas, with their shares of the $100 million haul from Fast Five. But two things are still missing – the chance to go back to their real homes, and Dom’s dead girlfriend Letty. Yet improbably, former arch-nemesis Agent Hobbs has discovered that Letty’s alive, and is working with a crew even more notorious and much more deadly than Dom’s. As such, Hobbs offers full pardons to the team if they help him track down Letty and criminal mastermind Owen Shaw, in a chase that results in vehicular warfare through London and Madrid.
The first movie of this series wasn’t supposed to be a hit, and the next two sequels were supposed to have put a nail into it. Even bringing Vin Diesel back for Fast and Furious didn’t make anyone believe the franchise could get this big two movies later – or even make it to two more movies. Everything about the Fast and the Furious legacy has defied convention and logic – on and off screen – which makes it ironic that Fast and the Furious 6 is almost predictably fun and epic.
The big reason Fast Five took the franchise to another level – other than stuff like dragging a tank through the roads of Rio and letting Diesel and Dwayne Johnson pummel each other – was that it united all the stars of the series in one big Ocean’s 11 like adventure. So for Fast and the Furious 6, they take it a step further and bring the one missing star back from the dead – amnesia and all. But that kind of leap in logic is what comes with the territory in this series.
If Fast Five was like Toretto’s 11, Fast and the Furious 6 finishes the job of turning the series into The Avengers, with car crashes. The superheroics on the road this time involve a weaponized car that looks like something out of The Road Warrior, several impossible jumps from one car to another, a tank that barrels through the roads of Madrid, and a climax that throws about five kitchen sinks at once on the world’s longest runway.
Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness had the same approach, only with more CGI and shaky cameras. The novelty of the Fast and the Furious franchise is that it doesn’t need CGI or Michael Bay-style action to make jaws drop. Even as he keeps throwing all kinds of explosions, crashes and improbable leaps at the screen, director Justin Lin still manages to keep it refreshingly old school.
Since Fast Five was the first to have the franchise’s all-stars and even more epic destruction, Fast and the Furious 6 is a little less fresh by comparison. After it hits the ground running with the first epic chase through London, the movie goes through a long stretch of comedic banter, token nods to plot and drama, and smackdowns between Letty and series newcomer Gia Carano before it gets back on the road. It’s also a bit unfortunate that a lot of the jaw dropping stunts, fighting moves and chases were already given away in the trailers.
Nevertheless, seeing the action come together is still enough to make audiences turn off their brains, throw up their hands and go full speed ahead. In fact, the various hand to hand battles are almost as bone crunching as the car crashes. And while the last act doesn’t quite match the “Wow” factor of dragging a giant safe around Rio, Lin throws in enough to come somewhat close.
Along the way, there’s also the old pleasures of Dwayne Johnson swaggering around as Hobbs, the comic relief of Tyrese Gibson’s Roman and Ludacris’s Parker, the super team of Han and Gisele, and of course, the return of Letty – regardless of how it comes about. For good measure, Fast and the Furious 6 also adds a hissable Luke Evans as super genius villain Shaw, a team of his that’s basically Dom and company’s evil twins – or perhaps from a Community like darkest timeline [which would fit since Lin directed its famous paintball episode] – and another post credits jolt that ties some Fast mythology together and sets up its next major newcomer.
Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness were also out of control epics that still wound up short of their franchise’s best efforts, just like Fast and the Furious 6. But at the least, they all aren’t being trashed as much as The Hangover Part 3, which has no future left, unlike these series. And since the Fast saga never had the high expectations of an Iron Man or Star Trek, detractors may be slightly more forgiving.
It may still be stunning that Fast and the Furious is approaching the bankability and power of Iron Man or Star Trek – and it might not exactly say good things about the state of Hollywood. Regardless, any sixth movie of a series that still makes audiences and critics wanting more is still a Hollywood miracle.