Welcome back to Junkfood Cinema; we live our lives a quarter-pounder at a time. Speaking of, did you know that the word “franchise” isn’t always preceded by the words “fast food?” I know, we were just as shocked as you are. It appears it can also be used to refer to the collective sequels of a movie. Sometimes these sequels are fantastic, such as Friday the 13th VI, and sometimes they are just plain awful, such as…admittedly large chunks of Friday the 13th VI. However, the best franchises are those that are able to pull us into their individual universes to the point that we eagerly await each new entry regardless of he absurdity of its ever-rising titular numeral. Take for example, the Fast & Furious films; those drag-racing men in their driving machines (or how we flew from reason to crashing through cargo planes in six movies).
It started out as an innocent remake of Point Break, with souped-up hot rods substituted for surfboards and Paul Walker‘s nonexistent charisma substituted for Keanu Reeves’ nonexistent charisma. However, the films have fastly and furiously become experiments in mayhem and extreme sports, if extreme stupidity is an extreme sport. For this reason, and the tractor-beam-like attraction of Vin Diesel‘s uni-muscle body composition, our initial apathy toward this franchise has morphed slowly into unhealthy petulant sense of ownership of that universe. At this point, The Fast & the Furious is our beloved annual-to-semi-annual visitor; a friendly second-cousin who happens to be equipped with a NOS fuel injection system. And like all overbearing family members, we have certain expectations for our cousin’s future.
As some of you in possession of the faculties necessary to use the internet may have heard, Universal has tasked James Wan with taking over The Fast & the Furious franchise. As this is his first turn behind the wheel, and given the increasingly exorbitant levels of action and destruction that have come to define these films, we feel it’s time to really blow the wheels off. With full deference to Mr. Patton Oswalt, who so ingeniously filibustered an entire manic tirade about what he felt should be the narrative makeup of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek: Episode VII, we’ve decided to look forward at the future of this series and lay bare what we expect from the seventh installment.
We open on a Gothic castle; text informing us that we are in Transylvania. A distant, unnerving scream is heard. Cut to the interior of the castle where Dr. Abraham Van Helsing is driving the final inch of his wooden stake into the heart of Count Dracula. As the fabled vampire dissolves into dust, vowing his revenge as he breathes his last breath, Van Helsing’s team begins sacking his tomb for clues as to his master plan for world domination. Among the scrolls, they find a picture drawn by Dracula…a picture of what appears to be an automobile.
Smash cut to modern Morocco; a seedy hotel room on the rougher side of Marrakesh. Two men remove a briefcase from the back of a car and walk into a grimy tenement. From across the street, a man watches them with high-tech surveillance gear. He passes by a mirror, and we recognize Matt Damon once again playing the role of Jason Bourne. He casually walks across the street, enters the building, dispatches the men and their guards in brutal fashion, and quietly slips out with the briefcase. Close up as he holsters his gun, revealing the B.P.R.D. logo on the side. Bourne has a new employer.
Smash cut to a rowdy street race in Tokyo. As the glistening speed machines fly by, and the latest rap music bumps, we pan through the crowd of scantily clad female racing enthusiasts to see Dominic Toretto and his crew overseeing all monetary aspects of the race. Suddenly, federal agents spring up and rush in from all directions; surrounding and arresting every member of the team and hauling them to a remote penitentiary. While they await their legal counsel, and hopefully the intervention of Agent Hobbs on their behalf, a mysterious figure in their holding cell offers them a proposition. The prison participates in a series of motorized death matches, known as Death Race, for the delight of pay-per-view audiences.
The figure insists that, as a former winner himself, he can secure the crew’s release if one of them were to win the race. As he emerges from the shadows, we see that it is indeed Frankenstein in his metal mask and bearing a cinematically familiar British accent. Reluctant to participate, but seeing no sign of Hobbs, O’Conner decides to give it a shot. He is almost immediately killed, very sad boohoo. Toretto takes over, wins the race, but is ultimately betrayed. Only he, Roman (Tyrese), and Letty are released. Frankenstein informs them that they will have to use their driving skills help him recover some artifacts from a one-handed thief. Toretto asks why his crew is needed for this task. Frankenstein replies, “the thief is using a very special car.” He then hands Dominic a photograph that the audience can’t see. Toretto looks puzzled, and as the cameras pulls in tight on his face, he asks, “what’s so special about a DeLorean?”
Smash cut to an especially iconic DeLorean tearing across a desert road. We see vague shadows and glimpses of the thief’s good arm from inside the car, but can’t make out his face. Suddenly, in the rear view comes an imposing Lincoln Continental Mark III. Our driver puts his foot to the floor, but the Lincoln gains ground quickly. We then see the cracked casing of a flux capacitor in the back seat; circuits struggling to spring to life as the driver punches at it again and again shouting, “come on, come on!” The Lincoln pulls alongside, and the two cars trade paint for several miles. Suddenly, the flux capacitor switches on, followed by sparks and a dazzling display of light. Just as the Lincoln is forcing its prey off the road and toward a massive boulder, the DeLorean vanishes, leaving twin fire trails. The Lincoln spins to a halt and as the camera pans back to show the scale of the desert, we hear several angry horn blares.
Cut back to Jason Bourne standing in an elevator, briefcase in hand. The doors finally open, revealing the headquarters for the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. He crosses the lobby and sets the case down next to the aquarium quarters of Abe Sapien. Jason opens the case, and though we can’t yet see its contents, Sapien states that “Red will be so pleased.” Almost as if summoned by the words, into the room strides Hellboy. He and Bourne exchange banter before Hellboy lifts a wooden stake out of the case. The same stake we previously saw plunged into the sternum of Dracula. Sapien suggests that they’ll have to fortify the stake with silver. Bourne asks, “is his ribcage that strong?” Hellboy corrects him, “a ribcage is one thing, an engine block is something else entirely.”
Cut to a warehouse in Tennessee. Toretto and his reduced crew are being shown blueprints and highway maps. Frankenstein informs the group that the thief is using a courier to transport certain stolen items; keeping them constantly in transit so as to avoid Frankenstein reclaiming them. One of the thieves’ favorite safehouses is in the woods nearby, and that the courier is about to make a run. The mission set before our heroes is to chase him down and take back the items in transport, and to kill the courier. When Toretto asks who the courier is, Frankenstein responds, “fittingly, the thief has aligned himself…with a bandit.”
A tease for Fast & Furious 9?
Smash cut to a painted golden phoenix astride the hood of a black Pontiac Trans Am. A raucous chorus of Jerry Reed’s “Eastbound and Down” plays as we pan into the driver’s seat to reveal an older, but still immeasurably cool Burt Reynolds sporting his trademark mustache and happily chomping bubble gum. Next to him in the passenger seat is a six-pack of Coors resting atop a shoebox. The happy-go-lucky country anthem slowly gives way to thumping hip-hop beats as a circular pan from the front of the Trans Am reveals a trio of tricked-out Honda Civics.
What follows is a mesmerizing car chase, culminating in smash-happy demolition derby. The young gearheads find the salty smuggler to be a far worthier opponent than they could’ve possibly imagined. After several insane jumps, spins, and even a moment in which Bandit is driving backwards ahead of two forward-facing pursuers, Toretto’s crew is able to force him off the road. They wrestle Bandit to the ground and restrain him with zip-ties. Toretto reveals that Frankenstein ordered him to kill Bandit, but instead he merely questions him. Bandit implores them to stop helping Frankenstein, and that the thief is actually trying to deter a coming apocalypse. He also makes several jokes about Tyrese’s bad acting; a rare forth-wall break.
It is just then that the sinister black Lincoln rolls up and Frankenstein steps out. Without a word, he fires a blast from the ring of Ming the Merciless wrapped around his finger and Bandit vanishes. As he means to kill Toretto’s crew at this point, and sees no possibility of their avoiding this fate, he then monologues his entire plan. He will finish what Dracula started by raising legions of monsters to reek havoc upon the world. He opens the shoebox during his speech to reveal a number of silver bullets, making reference to the necessity of an insurance policy. He then pulls back his mask to shockingly reveal that he is in fact Jason Statham.
Just before FrankenStatham kills our heroes, Hellboy drops out of the sky and onto the hood of the Lincoln. He moves to plunge the stake into the engine, but the car suddenly springs to life and roars into reverse with no driver. Toretto knocks FrankenStatham to the ground, the ring lost in the dirt. Hellboy rides the bucking Lincoln, which is now speeding down the highway, and tries valiantly, but vainly to slay the car. FrankenStatham commandeers Bandit’s Trans Am in the melee and escapes. Hellboy is eventually thrown clear of the Lincoln, which disappears into the horizon. Toretto and his crew meet up with Hellboy who tells them that the car is a vessel for Dracula’s ghost and that the “thief” is an agent of B.P.R.D.
The key to Dracula’s plan is an ancient book, one which serves as a conduit for the entrance of pure evil into our plane of existence. The book itself has been bouncing around temporal destinations, gravitating toward villainous types across time. It is at this point we cut to the DeLorean parked outside a half-completed pyramid in ancient Egypt. The shadowy thief enters a sacrificial chamber just as a high priest begins to read the dangerous words, “klaatu barada nikto.” Stepping into the light in time to scream “no” is Ash from the Evil Dead films. A mummy rises from a nearby sarcophagus and lays bandaged hands on the Necronomicon; causing a cosmic event that rips a hole in the time-space continuum. It is clear that the forces of darkness have been fully unleashed. “Not again,” quips the wide-jawed hero.
The mummy vanishes, but Ash follows him back to the present. He joins Hellboy, Jason Bourne, and Toretto’s trio, all of whom must now prepare for a fight. FrankenStatham unleashes the full payload of his evil army. Werewolves from London (where they apparently keep all the werewolves) are the first wave, followed by more mummies and the actual army of darkness from Army of Darkness. Ash contends with his old rivals, his chainsaw appendage having been locked in place for battle-readiness, Jason Bourne occupies himself shooting mummies, and Toretto’s trio drive through advancing hordes of werewolves. Hellboy meanwhile spots the Dracula car and their battle continues.
Our heroes best these monsters and Hellboy is able to drive the fortified stake through the engine block of the Drac-racer. Enraged, FrankenStatham uses the Necronomicon to summon dinosaurs from the past…later to find out they were merely transported from John Hammond’s facility on Isla Nublar. As if that weren’t enough, the evil tome also conjures the towering ape King Kong. All hope seems lost, but just then the roar of several more fast and furious street machines is heard. Lead by Agent Hobbs, the entirety of Dominic’s team races into action; Hobbs having secured their release from prison.
The team decides the time has come to test the latest feature to their collective autos. With coordinated driving, they line up their vehicles, which then begin to lock together. The cars form a giant, standing robot fueled by pure fury…and actual fuel. Armed with their motor-strosity, the crew begins to take out the dinosaurs one-by-one en route to Kong. The climactic battle is nothing short of stupidly epic. Finally, when the Moto-Robo manages to swat Kong off the top of the tallest building in whatever the last city of their globe-trotting battle, only FrankenStatham remains.
Hellboy administers a hellish beating, which sounds like an obvious joke but in fact no other word would due justice to this thrashing, but is stopped short of killing him by the intervention of a team of futuristic police officers. They are a strike team sent by the Time Enforcement Commission (TEC). Originally there to arrest Ash for his unlicensed time-jumping in the DeLorean, the timecops now recognize that FrankenStatham is the real villain and place him under arrest.
Another successful mission completed, our heroes ride off into the sunset with Hellboy and Jason Bourne tipping their cowboy hats in gratitude and respect. Did I mention they wear cowboy hats now? Because they totally do. But just as Don Omar’s franchise anthem “How We Roll” begins to play, we fade back to that lonely Tennessee highway. Slowly the camera pulls in tighter to the ground near the asphalt until we finally see the glint of Ming the Merciless’ ring. Just as the words, “the end” appear on the screen, a hand picks up the ring and the somehow unmistakable cackle of Riddick is heard. A question mark is added to “the end” followed by the phrase “Our Heroes Will Return in The Fast and the Furyan 8: Space Race.”
…or something like that.