Forever Furious: Fast 8

What a ride it has been, what started as a couple of burglars (and a cop) from Los Angeles has morphed into a multinational crew of mercenaries, pulling off the biggest heists with the best vehicles. From Toyotas and Chevys to giant trucks and tanks, the series is bigger, grander, and more, explosive. At this point, every one who sees this should know exactly what to expect. Universal knows the audience well, continuing off what ‘Fast Five’ did for the franchise and cranking the intensity ever so delicately, adding bigger vehicles to the destruction and bringing in more actors to facilitate the evolution of the Furious.

Speaking of new characters, we see the return of Mr. Nobody, played effortlessly by Kurt Russell, as well as Scott Eastwood as the protégé Little Nobody. Honestly, Kurt Russell is the best actor in this movie, never the stranger to cheesy action movies, he plays the role of Mr. Nobody with a wink of his eye and a demeanor that says, “stand back, let me show you how it’s done.” The fact that he is so laid back and cool goes to show he can add a touch of dry wit, lightening the mood and continuing the vibe of joviality lesser franchises lack in favor of edge-overload. Scott Eastwood is without a doubt the replacement Paul Walker, which is fine, his death opened up a roster spot for someone who was not down with the gang’s antics but eventually goes along with the mayhem. The spin on Eastwood is the subversion of the laconic characteristics his dad was known for and instead he looks like a fish out of water, the new guy.

On the topic of new additions, the main antagonist Cipher played by Charlize Theron was, milk-toast. It was an often-Marvel/Suicide Squad villain level of uninteresting. It was not anything Charlize did, it was more of the scenes in the movie where she was supposed to be menacing had to cut to a different shot since it’s PG-13. On the other hand, Jason Statham’s extended appearance gave him ample opportunity to chew scenes with Dwayne Johnson. Their back and forth shenanigans set this movie off in the long line of kooky action movies. Not only that, Deckard (Statham) gets in touch with HIS family as we see mama and brother Shaw round out the plot of ‘Fast and Furious 6’.

One aspect I will give the current run of Furious credit for is the exclusion of the set-up; we do not need to see where the squad came from, or other tertiary scenes of plot that would only bog down the movie with exposition dumps. I noticed this in Fast Five where Brian and Dom roam the streets of Brazil and challenged the other drivers to a race. This allows extended action or, *heartfelt scenes* to continue for as long as needed or desired. A movie like ‘Ghost in the Shell’ spent an obscene amount of time in dialogue with a snippet of action every few minutes, this works within the genre of a character drama, where the action acts as a release to the tension of the scene. ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’, ‘Dredd’, and ‘The Raid’ are perfect examples of action movies that showed exposition during the talky scenes, and pick up the action immediately; even the opening scenes of ‘Dredd’ and ‘Fury Road’ begin with high octane moments of chase.

In conclusion, I smell another change of scenery in the Furious franchise, while the series has had a revolving door of characters, the main core of the squad were always there to bring them all together. Now that Paul Walker is gone and the squad has no where else to go but space, what is the next move? Will it become Dwayne Johnsons franchise? Regardless, I could live without another Wiz Khalifa song inserted in the beginning or end.


A Shell of a Former Ghost

Short answer: Ghost In the Shell was contrived and predictable. Long answer: in the time between the 1995 animated feature and the 2017 live action feature, there have been several movies released that were influenced by the anime. The thing about adapting non-American properties, is there are aspects of the original source material that are lost in translation; and when a major studio decides to adapt a foreign movie to a western audience, we get movies like Spike Lee’s version of Oldboy, DragonBall Evolution, or even a remake of an American show like The Last Airbender. They are wrong and butchered to a degree that makes you wonder why was this made. If studios are going to adapt or remake foreign movies it should be to the degree of The Departed or Black Swan; or movies that pay homage to the source material while being it’s own thing. Speaking of which, I can think of a couple of movies similar to the ‘95 GitS that had stronger elements that made them better western representations than the garbled mess the 2017 version was.

The main lady hero

     Oh lord, where do I even begin? River Tam from Serenity and Leeloo from the Fifth Element come to mind when I think of sci-fi heroines that were more compelling, whose journeys resonated throughout the movies’ narrative and had me invested the entirety of the movie. The problem with Major in this iteration of GitS is all we are given is the creation of her being and then several scenes of exposition dumps. We are not shown we are told until an action scene takes place, at least with Serenity and The Fifth Element the plot is driven during the exposition. 

The overall design

     While the design of the city and characters were true to the anime, nothing screamed out more than “hey, this looks like Blade Runner,” even the screens over the buildings matched the aesthetic of the iconic lady drinking Coca Cola. One movie in particular which took the design template of Blade Runner and subverted it to a whimsical aesthetic was The Fifth Element. That world looked fun, the retro design of the ships and cruisers gave us the audience the impression that Luc Besson wanted to create a world with familiar elements in past history, and implement these quirks into the narrative.

The combat

     Previously mentioned, every, single, action scene just had to implement a slow motion segment; there is a particular movie where hand to hand combat took an unique approach to the universe. That movie was Equilibrium. Who had seen gun-cata before? Well, that in itself definitely took visual cues from The Matrix, as well as John Woo’s Chinese releases. Point being, if a movie is going to implement past visuals of successful movies why would the slow-motion Zack Snyder fights be the bread and butter of action scenes?

The director

     Why Rupert Sanders? Had I not paid attention to the director I could have been told this was directed by Zack Snyder and took it at face value. Had this movie been in the hands of someone like Gareth Evans, Alex Garland, or Alfonso Cuarón, directors who have made fantastic sci-fi or action movies, would have delineated a different result in regards to pace, and not falling on exposition dumps in order to convey pertinent information.

     There is an already built in audience for a movie like this in western cultures, blanding down the movie to appease the rest of the population was not the right course of action, it comes off as another notch in the ladder of failed adaptations. Honestly, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was a better “anime movie”, at least with that the visuals matched how a live action anime would be translated, not a knockoff of The Bourne Blade Runner.