Watching The Fate of the Furious, I found myself wondering (not for the first time), how did we get here? How did a straightforward street racing movie morph into an eight-film behemoth whose action sequences’ sheer scale put other blockbusters to shame? But for the first time, I found myself a little bored of asking that question, since the series has now been doing it for six years or so. But inevitable repetition aside, how does The Fate of the Furious stack up in the series hierarchy?
Fate picks up where the last movie left off, with Dom and Letty enjoying life in Cuba until Dom is unwillingly recruited as a pawn of the villainous hacker Cypher (Charlize Theron), who uses him to help enact whatever her evil plan is. It doesn’t really matter; the plot boils down to Dom bad, team good, team must save Dom (and the world, I guess). Thankfully the movie skips over the obligatory ‘reuniting the team’ sequence, since the prospect of getting the old gang back together loses its novelty after you’ve done it for four movies in a row. Instead it cuts to the typically insane chase, where Dom turns on his team and steals whatever McGuffin they were after.
What follows is hardly unpredictable, but it’s heartening to see that the filmmakers continue to make an effort to keep things fresh. Dom’s heel turn is a gimmick, but it’s the good kind of gimmick, one that keeps Fate from being a complete retread of Furious 7. And though the series regulars are as likable as ever, it’s the (relatively) new blood that keeps this one afloat: Statham, Russell, and especially Theron, clearly enjoying herself as she chews scenery by the mouthful.
But all the new actors and plot devices in the world can’t hide the fact that this is the series’ eighth movie, and the formula is starting to get a bit stale. Even the climactic submarine set piece, impressive as it is, feels like a plateau rather than an escalation. The franchise is finally showing its age, and like many old-timers, it could really use a Walker.