The seventh Fast & the Furious movie is upon us. This is an exciting time. Lest we forget how this cinematic opus got started, let's take a quick look at some of its defining moments.
Brian And Mia's First Date
Remember how things got started, back in the very beginning? Paul Walker plays an undercover cop who's working a case that has to do with truckers being robbed by some high-tech thieving street racers. He infiltrates known car driver and muscular person Dominic Toretto by showing up at the shop repeatedly, ordering tuna sandwiches, and staring intently at her:
Once he's finally in with Dom's crew, he takes her out to dinner and once again stares at her intently:
He might be roughly as expressive as the cars he drives, but Mia was still caught in the headlights by that steely gaze. Neither could we.
The First Family Dinner
OK, technically this comes before the date scene since it provides the lead-in to Brian and Mia's date (the two of them doing dishes as he continues to stare intently at her). But it was an easy episode to overlook, because we only realised how tear-jerkingly important it would be years later.
When Dom Tried, And Failed, To Save Vince
The final chase scene in the original movie established one of Fast and Furious's most memorable tropes: Vin Diesel leaning precariously out of a car he's driving insanely fast while somehow still managing to steer. More on this later.
When Dom And Brian Said Goodbye
When Brian tells Mia during their date that his goal in infiltrating Dom's gang was to get to her, he's staring so intently that you just know he really means it. But he clearly started to care about Dom a lot, too. Their half-brotherly, half-fatherly relationship comes to a head when Brian casts his undercover cop duties aside and lets Vin Diesel get away from the incoming fuzz. Fin.
Brian handing over his last pair of keys to Dom and the two parting ways was probably just something the original film's masterminds came up with to make the ending seem dramatic and vaguely ambiguous. But it actually ended up working really well. The two of them wouldn't see each other again for quite some time.
Suddenly, We're In Miami. And Here's Ludacris!
2 Fast 2 Furious is more tonally in line with the original movie than the franchise's most recent incarnation, but it's still one of the oddballs of the series. It ditched Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, but added two key players: Ludacris, a guy who owns a garage for fancy cars and organises street races, and Tyrese Gibson, Brian's current frenemy but once and future bro.
I mostly remember 2 Fast 2 Furious for the awesomely tacky clothing its villain wore:
...and the final scene in which Brian defeated said tacky suit-wearing villain by driving a car off a crazy jump and landing it on the guy's boat:
Brian And Roman's Rekindled Bromance
One other thing about 2 Fast 2 Furious I only began to appreciate after rewatching it recently: Paul Walker says "bro" a lot in this movie. Take that as a sign that Fast and Furious was going through some adolescent growing pains, I guess.
When Tokyo Drift...Happened
Ah, the black sheep of the Fast and Furious series. Tokyo Drift has almost nothing to do with the rest of the movies, and only features one of the characters the series is known for -- for like two seconds in the final scene. It's fun to rewatch today, though, because casting the majority of Fast and Furious lore aside meant it could have fun by playing up the playful, often adorable rivalries that drive much of the tension in each movie's plot. I mean, this one is literally a high school drama. Look at how the hero squares off against the jerky captain of the football team in its first scene:
What was his name again? Eh, don't worry about it.
Getting The Gang Back Together
I'm not gonna lie, 2009's Fast & Furious is one of my least favourite movies in the series. Maybe my least favourite. Looking back at it now, it seems like its main value is that it a) reunited the main four cast members for a Fast & Furious movie for the first time in a 8 years, and b) let us all know it was indeed OK to call it Fast & Furious instead of The Fast And The Furious.
When The Rock -- And A Different Ludacris -- Showed Up
Fast Five is where things really got going again. The original four weren't the only ones who showed up for the party. Ludacris and Tyrese came back, too. Also, perhaps most importantly of all, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson stepped boldly into the series. Just look at that strut:
Johnson established his now integral role in the Fast and Furious canon Luke Hobbs, the cop in its ongoing cops-and-robbers shenanigans who has a comical, half-antagonistic, half-friendly relationship with The Family. Only, since this is Fast and Furious, he's not as much a cop as a towering ogre made up of muscle and military hardware.
The Rock's debut highlights a funny aspect of Fast Five, Fast And Furious 6, and now Furious 7: how the series switched gears and started adding more and more standard blockbuster action movie motifs. The camera is given far less time to pan around parties and zoom in on butts, and focuses more and more on big explosions and tank-sized vehicles. Brian, Dom, and co. aren't just criminals anymore. They're international super thieves. The best crew in the world -- i.e., one only The Rock can hope to stop.
Fast & Furious doesn't bother trying to explain the way its characters and storylines keep changing. "How did Ludacris go from owning a garage in Miami to being the dude who sits behind a screen and talks to Vin Diesel and Paul Walker on the radio during chase scenes?" you might find yourself asking. Don't think about it to hard, the movie responds. Just come along for the ride.
When Dom Proved His Love For Letty By Jumping Out Of A Car And Over A Bridge
Probably the craziest single chase scene in Fast & Furious history, except for maybe the one that concludes Fast & Furious 6 in which a car bursts out of the front of a plane. It's hard to call anything involving a tank and half a dozen cars chasing each other across a bridge "subtle." But remember that first final chase scene, from so many years ago?
Think about Dom's motivation in this scene: he remembers how he failed Vince, and how that failure must have played its part in encouraging Vince's departure from The Family and his ultimate betrayal in Fast Five. He won't let that happen to Letty, the only woman he's ever truly loved. And that's why he leaps out of a speeding car just as it crashes, so he can rocket himself over a bridge:
...catch Letti while they're both flying through the air:
...and then crash into another car on the opposite of the bridge:
That's "I love you" in Fast & Furious-speak.
The Second Family Dinner
Well over a decade after Vin Diesel first slapped someone on the wrist and told them to say grace as punishment, the team finally makes it all the way back home. Who else teared up during this scene? I started bawling, personally.
Fast & Furious (The Fast and the Furious? Fast and the Furious? I have no idea...) has been so successful for so long (14 years!) that it's had to perform a number of clever, strategic pivots already. Say, when a star character drops out for a time, or The Rock decides to come in. Looking at the all-star cast and grand spectacle of Furious 7, it's easy to forget where it all started. Or how old this series is. I mean, the token tech guy in the first one used floppy disks:
Floppy disks! This is what constituted "high-tech" for the original movie:
Man, that makes me feel old. Well, at least it's been a wild ride.
Given lead actor Paul Walker's tragic passing, the Fast & Furious series once again finds itself at a crossroads. Where, exactly, will it go next? Who knows. But regardless of which direction they head in, it's a safe bet that Dom and the rest of The Family will head there very, very fast.