Personal Preference is a damning thing. It’s really difficult to measure why one car exploding was more thrilling than the next car exploding. Why do the chase scenes in Ronin feel so right to so many people? Why do the chase scenes in Red Line (don’t watch this movie) feel so wrong? The best a person can do is often just compare similar things. The Transporter movies would not exist without the cool european locales of Ronin, The Crank movies wouldn’t exist without the cool athleticism of Jason Statham. The Ghost Rider 2 movie feels so boring because you were expecting the Crank movies. It is a lineage of expectation, and it allows us to have a dialogue about subjective experiences, comparing these subjective experiences to try to arrive at some sort of objective truth.. We are all Jean Luc Picard having a Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra conversation. Jean Luc Picard meets a species of aliens that only speak through extended metaphors based on shared stories in their culture. Hate Ignorance has destroyed that conversation.
Hate ignorance is the practice of choosing not to know about something, because you’ve decided beforehand to hate it. Its personal preference based on public opinion.
It’s an inevitable reaction to the sheer smorgasbord of entertainment that now exists. Combine the viciousness of the internet hive mind, with the impossibility of experiencing the full spectrum of all the content that is available. Even within the nichiest of the niches, you come to develop a xenophobia of content. There is an ingroup, and there is an outgroup, and anything on the outgroup is bad. If you look at the 2013 Box Office Top Ten, there is one thing in common besides a simply racial preference, although that contributes to Fast & Furious’ outgroup status –
|1||The Hunger Games: Catching Fire||LGF||$424,668,047||4,163||$158,074,286||4,163||11/22||4/3|
|2||Iron Man 3||BV||$409,013,994||4,253||$174,144,585||4,253||5/3||9/12|
|4||Despicable Me 2||Uni.||$368,061,265||4,003||$83,517,315||3,997||7/3||1/16|
|5||Man of Steel||WB||$291,045,518||4,207||$116,619,362||4,207||6/14||9/19|
|8||The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug||WB||$258,366,855||3,928||$73,645,197||3,903||12/13||4/17|
|9||Fast & Furious 6||Uni.||$238,679,850||3,771||$97,375,245||3,658||5/24||9/5|
|10||Oz The Great and Powerful||BV||$234,911,825||3,912||$79,110,453||3,912||3/8||7/18|
Every single movie (except 1 other) in the top 10 of 2013 was either firmly in the Science Fiction or Fantasy Genre. These weren’t magic realism or dramas with a sci fi lemon twist. With the single exception of Gravity, Fast & Furious was the only film in the pure action genre. Remember, even Gravity, takes place in space. The next straight-up Action movie in the box office 1oo is #36 with Olympus Has Fallen (pretty meh). What used to be a niche, Scifi/Fantasy, now simply dominates the blockbuster landscape. “But Fast & Furious is just so unrealistic!” How does one explain that it’s just as unrealistic as any other summer blockbuster that year, when you’ve got a man wearing a weaponized armored suit, a talking dragon, and a flying dude in a cape to compare it to.
Nerd culture is pop culture, and there’s simply no space in nerd culture for old fashioned bromantic B movies. Nerd Culture has failed in one aspect, it is historically dominated by white male viewpoints, and more importantly, it strives to remain that way. It also is extremely conservative and prone to nostalgic obsession.
Transformers is probably the most successful Michael Bay franchises, and Michael Bay is most definitely, one of the most successful action film makers. Transformers is one of the most hated geek films there is, but it is undeniably one of the most visually impressive action films there is. This is a property, that 1. began as a toy 2. was a successful toy because kids like robots and cars and its cool to have both and have them transform 3. justified the reason for its existence with a poorly animated, poorly written 80’s cartoon that was a commercial for the toys. Michael Bay’s Transformers movies do not have good acting or good writing, but its damn cool to see a robot from space shoot another robot from space, which then transforms into a panther robot from space on a spy mission. Later in that same movie, that panther gets it’s spine ripped out and dies. Everything in that movie only exists to justify the scenes of robot carnage. Michael Bay gave you exactly what the kid version of you would like. The adult fan can’t admit that they liked some crappy crap, so it elevates their nostalgia into untouchable status. Any further handling reduces its purity. Like clockwork, the same protestations have occurred with the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film. We don’t allow ourselves to enjoy things as children did. We chastise each other and call things ‘guilty pleasures’. Ain’t no kid ever think of a concept as stupid as a ‘guilty pleasure’. Cars transforming into Robots are cool, but we’ve eaten the apple of knowledge, and feel shame now. So the only way we enjoy new movies is through permission from our peer group. The only way we enjoy modern B movies is through the veneer of high cinema and/or foreign cinema.
Drive is one of those movies, that feels pretty good, but then you’re just like ‘Eh, i’m not sure I like it that much at all.” It wears its influences on its sleeve, so much so, that you forget to notice that those sleeves don’t connect to a shirt. You’d still call the Emperor naked if he just walked around wearing sleeves. Look at this wikipedia page that is solely devoted to its accolades. It won the Best Director at the Cannes Film Festival, for effectively directing Ryan Gosling not to speak that much. The only thing missing from this movie is the nostalgic instagram filter. It’s not a terrible movie, but if you eliminate its stylistic flourishes, you’re not left with much a movie at all. Was Ryan Gosling’s performance so powerful, or was he just a weird kinda creepy quiet guy? Was the story so engaging, or was it just a really cool long music video. Because damn, that soundtrack, that soundtrack is killer. Style is the Zeitgeist, and the Zeitgeist is nostalgic obsession.
It’s the opening sequence to Django Unchained. It’s the soundtrack to Drive. It’s Urban Outfitters. It’s Portlandia, whether good or bad, faux-vintage is definitely a style of the 2010s. Personally, I believe its as fake as wood panelling on a PT Cruiser:
We want to love those movies that played on Saturday morning, but we can’t admit that they just aren’t all that good. Star Wars is the best example of this; George Lucas made no excuses for making his prequels for kids in mind. Here’s some blasphemy, C3PO is as annoying as Jar Jar Binks. :-O It is why Battlestar Galactica had to be reimagined as grim & gritty. It is why Superman Returns is so shitty, because we forgot why the original Superman films were charming. It is also why Man of Steel is so shitty, because we forgot why Superman is so powerful. A child understands you can be powerful and not homicidal, but instead, we get Lenny from Mice & Men. A man that doesn’t comprehend his own power and ends up smothering and killing puppies, bunnies and women alike, because he just wants to touch something soft.
Fast & Furious doesn’t try to be grim & gritty, it doesn’t try to be deep and moving, it doesn’t pander to nostalgia or try to reinvent a genre. It is an old fashioned, big explosion, fast cars, strong sexy dudes and kick ass fierce women. It’s not ironic Americana, it’s not a continuity-obsessed fangasm, it’s not filled with clever easter eggs for sharp-eyed viewers, or a post-credits cliffhanger.
It’s part of the shrinking genre of non-genre Action films – one that is losing its cool. Nerd Culture has taken over American Culture. In the 80’s & 90’s, kids loved WWF, He-Man, Transformers, and MacGuyver, unapologetically. Now all we have is MMA (devoid of theatrics), Lord of the Rings (devoid of cartoonish glee) Transformers (still pretty much the same, but now you hate it) and MacGruber (a mostly uninspired SNL parody 20 years too late but ironically on time). We are increasingly shrinking the pool of what’s cool to like. We used to get one or two blockbusters a summer, and there was no apparatus to quickly share why you were gonna hate those two films. Imagine if Star Wars was released today (UGH. TOTALLY A RIP OFF OF KUROSAWA! LOL!)
Now, dozens of films are released per month alone, and as much as we bemoan franchises and remakes and reboots, the undeniable fact is that those are the films that can be relied on to make money. As much as we rant and rant and rant about the title of Batman v. Superman – Dawn of Justice, it is a sure-fire money maker. The echo chamber does not provide insight, and it is not real criticism. The echo chamber actually reduces critical thought, and reduces our choices to established sci fi and fantasy properties. Stories that come prepackaged with not only years of continuity, perfect for franchising, but legions of fans.
Children don’t see genre, they move seamlessly from a the sci-fi western post-apocalyptic vision of Mad Max to the neon science fantasy of Masters of the Universe. They empty their box of toys on the floor, and John McClane can have a fight with a Terminator (wouldn’t that be an awesome cross-over?) But as adults, our preferences have become increasingly restrictive. We don’t even bother to watch the Robocop remake, because we’ve already decided that there’s only one way to tell that story. Like yelling at your little sister for putting Robocop in a barbie dress, “NO! THATS NOT ROBOCOP! YOU DONT EVEN KNOW ANYTHING! ROBOCOP IS A POIGNANT SATIRE OF REAGAN-ERA AMERICA CULTURE, OBSESSED WITH CORPORATIZATION OF ALL ASPECTS OF OUR LIFE, FROM OUR SAFETY TO OUR VERY SOULS!” Your sister laughs at you and keeps playing with Robocop in a dress.
Ultimately, Fast & Furious is gonna keep on trucking for at least 1 more film (Paul Walker’s death kinda puts that all up in the air) and the careers of Vin Diesel, the Rock, Michelle Rodriguez, and others will continue in pretty balls-out movies. The question “Why do they keep making these movies?” will stop being asked, when they stop being made. Will genre-films take a page from FF’s playbook? Maybe we’ll see a more diverse Avengers line-up, where War Machine and the Falcon aren’t just side kicks. Maybe Star Trek’s final frontier will be a future where women exist as more than just an “It’s complicated” relationship status. There’s always speculation that we’ve finally had our fill of sci fi and fantasy movies. Did the Hobbit kill the fantasy genre? Did the Golden Compass kill the young adult genre? Did Green Lantern kill the superhero genre? It appears that genre blockbusters are here to stay.
A Good Day to Die Hard (Die Hard 5) was so over-the-top in its action, it looked like an old ass man having a heart attack while trying to keep up in a marathon of supermen. But the original Die Hard is one of the earliest, genre-defining films for Action. To see where the franchise ends is a sad commentary on all-american action films.
A lot fewer Dirty Harrys, an overpowered John McClane, but Fast & Furious will always have The Rock vs. Vin Diesel punching each other a whole lot. People can go ahead and ironically love their movies, and have their guilty pleasures, and say “its so bad it’s good”. And you can avoid the new Robocop like someone shit on the virgin mary’s chest, and love old Robocop and be totally cool with the cognitive dissonance needed to keep those opinions because new anything = bad. A Classic B movie still is a B movie. It ain’t A+ material, and you admit that. Fast & Furious are a good couple of movies. They are great action movies, and great B movies. And future movies will look more like it, than Star Trek looks now. But you won’t admit that, just like everyone forgets Blade 2 when they think those shitty X-Men movies started the superhero craze.
In the end, just like Blade 2 set the standard for verisimilitude in superhero films, F&F has set the standard for what all blockbusters will eventually look like. This will go unnoticed, unacknowledged, because Fast & Furious is the most successful, yet critically ignored, film franchise.
Read Part 1 Here
Read Part 2 Here