There’s always plenty to discuss when a new movie comes out, and that’s especially true for much-anticipated installments of various film series. On April 14, the eighth installment of The Fast and the Furious franchise was released although it was the first to not feature the late Paul Walker, who died in a car accident in 2013. He was the main protagonist of all the films thus far, so the writers and producers were left wondering how to proceed, if they could at all.
Surprisingly, they’ve made it work, and already The Fate of the Furious has surpassed $600 million at the box office in well under a week. But fans and critics alike are split in their opinions of the film. Both have valid points, but what would the former star of the movies have to say about it? Probably not much good, unfortunately.
At its core, the Furious films have always been about family, and even off set, the cast and crew share a family-like bond. But when the figurative head of the family is no longer there, how do those he left behind move on? With a great deal of difficulty, that’s how. And that difficulty shows in the latest installment, which is lacking in several areas that would disappoint its former star.
One of the film’s other big stars, Vin Diesel, says Furious 7 was for Paul and that this one is from Paul. No one will ever know how Paul would really feel about that, but we can do our best to guess. The following are 15 things that Paul Walker would presumably hate about The Fate of the Furious, and with good reason.
15. Car Crashes
Let’s start with the obvious. While it is true that Paul Walker willingly starred in seven of the existing eight Fast and the Furious films, more importantly, a car crash is what ended his life so prematurely. He died at the age of 40, leaving behind a young daughter and the amazing life he was living. I am willing to bet that if we could ask him now, he would not think car crashes are cool like they’re supposed to be in these kinds of movies. His death was a terrible one, as his body was burnt beyond recognition. He ultimately died because of the burns and the other trauma to his body. The Fate of the Furious is all about cars and racing and crashing. But it’s not all fun and games. Crashes may be “cool” to watch, but they can actually happen, and when they do, they can be devastating.
14. He Was Replaceable
Of course, no one could ever replace Paul Walker, who played the series’ lead protagonist, Brian O’Conner. It’s a wonder in the minds of many how the franchise has managed to continue without him, and to do well at it. But even though no one could ever take his place, in a way, someone has. A few people, to be precise. Several outlets have called Vin Diesel the new “heart of the series”, but more concerning are Mr. Nobody and Little Nobody, played by Kurt Russell and Scott Eastwood, respectively. After Paul’s death, Kurt was brought on board to “fill the void,” as many media outlets put it. His character was introduced in Furious 7 as a result of the loss of Paul, and his storyline was carried over into the latest installment. This overshadowed many other aspects of production. But the franchise also inserted another good-looking white cop who doesn’t always play by the rules in Eastwood’s Little Nobody. Popular opinion is that Paul Walker was, in certain ways, replaced. He would have likely felt better about all of this had the news and other media outlets not branded them “replacements” who “fill the void.” Michelle Rodriguez, for one, was “livid” about all of this, according to hollywoodlife.com.
13. Into Thin Air
It’s true that The Fate of the Furious treated the absence of Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner with respect, and in fact, they did not even kill him, as they are so fond of doing with other characters. His absence was explained by saying he had retired from the game as he and his family were already safe from Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) and could leave behind the high-risk street-racing life. The other characters insinuate that he’s alive in the new movie, and mention Brian a few times throughout the film. But the only other time he’s mentioned is at the end when Dom (Vin Diesel) announces that he chose to name his son Brian. Don’t get me wrong; this is a nice tribute to Paul Walker’s character, but overall the explanation for his absence is weak and altogether unsatisfying. This is especially true when you consider the fact that according to everyone who is a part of the franchise, Paul was the inspiration for and the spirit of this latest installment. The problem is, it doesn’t really feel like it.
12. Gray’s Directorial Style
It’s been noted that Gary Gray‘s directing style is quite different from that of the Fast and the Furious franchise’s previous directors. As vox.com puts it, “Gray puts a bigger emphasis on the weight and power of the vehicles during the action scenes. Gray’s sequences focus on the impact of crashes rather than the sleek agility of the cars, making for a more physical movie overall. For example, one scene involving a garage full of cars cascading down onto the many levels below is a colossal spectacle.” Besides the fact that the focus is on the crashes, which we already discussed as being potentially irritating to Paul Walker, he might also dislike the completely different feeling of this movie as compared to the seven he was a part of. As if enough had not changed by his absence, the entire essence of the film feels different, too.
11. No More Walkers
There were once rumors that Paul Walker’s brothers would play him in further movies in the franchise. Cody Walker and Caleb Walker stood in for him to wrap up filming for Furious 7 because there were certain scenes that had not been finished at the time of Paul’s death. Afterward, Cody Walker was rumored to be joining the cast for The Fate of the Furious, but it did not end up happening. The cast and crew of the franchise had said that having Paul’s brothers on set made them feel like Paul was with them, too, and that having them in future movies would be a nice tribute to the late Walker brother. Some sources even confirmed that Cody would, in fact, be in the eighth installment, but that never came to fruition. Given that Brian O’Conner’s character is seen as having been replaced in a sense, they at least could have “replaced” him with the closest person in his life, his brother. Now that would have truly been a tribute to Paul, the so-called “inspiration” for The Fate of the Furious. His name and his legacy could have lived on with the films more than it can now, and Paul would probably be sad to learn that it could have easily happened that way, but for some reason, did not.
10. The Gaping Plot Holes
So, let’s call a spade a spade. The Fate of the Furious, as all of its predecessors in the franchise, is downright ridiculous. That’s part of the fun of it if you can suspend your disbelief. The problem is that it seems as though with each new installment, the ridiculousness gets worse and worse. Now, in the eighth film of the series, it’s practically cringeworthy, as if the writers are not even trying to have it make sense. Some examples, a few of the many: Despite Cipher’s meticulous efforts to remain undetectable, she fails to check Dom for tracking devices; instead of just killing the heroes when she has the chance, she gives a speech, revealing her plan and key information; Dom somehow manages to drive through Times Square in 60 seconds; Cipher can hack into cars, even the really old ones that have no automated features built in; there is no explanation for how Shaw breaks his brother out of the high-security prison; Dom and the crew escape the fireball shielded by parked cars (so realistic). And the list goes on. Paul Walker would surely not be cool with all this nonsense.
9. The Lack of Effort to Make it Even a Little Bit Realistic
The characters routinely walk away from crazy, dangerous situations that would have definitely killed them in real life. Yes, most action movies are guilty of this, but with each new Furious movie, the characters grow more immune to harm, it seems. Now, with the latest film, a timeline has been established that would make Elena pregnant at the time of her falling out of a building in Furious 7. She flew out of an exploding building and landed on a car three stories below. She was barely injured and not even taken to a hospital. Oh, and her baby was fine, of course. To illustrate how silly this is (as if you needed an illustration), even Dwayne Johnson‘s Hobbes, who fell right along with her, wound up in the hospital afterward. You’re telling me The Rock got hurt, but tiny, little Elsa Pataky did not? Give me a break. And this is just one example of the many times they should have been hurt or killed and were not. Paul Walker would be disappointed in the lack of effort in making the film and its characters even the slightest bit realistic, and this film is far worse than the others when it comes to this.
8. A Betrayal of Everything That Made the Franchise Great
Building on the last point, there are many people who feel that this installment is a betrayal of everything that made the franchise great up until this point — family, honor, loyalty, respect, and naturally, the cars. It’s been called the birth of an entirely new franchise and the dawn of a new trilogy that could have been a refreshing new start but instead flopped and lost the essence of what it has been for the past 16 years. According to many fans, The Fast and the Furious franchise has lost itself with this latest film. It’s interesting because while the film holds onto the past in some ways, in others, it makes a great effort to be something new. The sincerity of the characters feels fake, and the scenes feel forced. All in all, it’s a sad confirmation that the days of The Fast and the Furious we know and love have truly come to an end.
7. The F-Word
Any tried and true Furious fan will know that the F-word I’m talking about is “family.” Family is the theme of these movies, after all. But despite the fact that The Fate of the Furious has betrayed its roots, as we’ve discussed, it strangely uses the word “family” way more than in any of the other movies, something both fans and critics have taken note of. There’s even a chart showing the exact usage of the word in each film. In this movie, the fact that the word is so prevalent makes it seem like it’s trying too hard. Family is the most important idea, as well as the most important word, in these movies. It’s the core of the series. So the fact that it’s used more but fails to deliver the theme of family is not good. Here’s what I am talking about: in the first four films, the word “family” is used 0-2 times per film. In the next three, it’s used 4-11 times. But in this latest film? 14 times, and shockingly, Cipher is the one to say it the most at 6 times.
6. Its Existence, At All
And not only its existence but the fact that the ninth and 10th installments have been confirmed. That makes three Fast and the Furious films that Paul Walker is not a part of. This is pretty insulting, considering that for seven films, he was by all rights the main character, and since then, he has been called the heart of the franchise and the inspiration behind any future films. If that were really the case, how could it go on at all? If I were Paul Walker, these are the sorts of questions that would be going through my mind. I would feel left out, hurt, and frankly, kind of annoyed that everyone involved professes how central to the films I was, yet they manage to keep going with it anyway… and with surprising success. Plus, 10 movies? Really? They can only be good for so long (and are already questionable), so why keep going without the main star when sooner or later, the movies are going to start sucking?
5. The New Girl
Paul Walker died during the middle of filming Furious 7, which led to the writers and producers having to change a lot of storylines. But one thing new to this eighth installment of the franchise that Paul never got to be a part of is the presence of an acting legend — more specifically, a beautiful and talented woman by the name of Charlize Theron. Theron plays Cipher, the “bad guy” of the film, who is a cyber terrorist connected to the criminal underworld. Besides being a fascinating new character, to work with Charlize Theron on a movie would have probably been an amazing experience, one that Paul Walker sadly missed out on. Most of the other actors and actresses in The Fate of the Furious have been a part of the franchise prior to this movie, and Theron is the newest member of the group that Paul would have been honored to know and work with.
4. Making History
The Fate of the Furious was one of the first big Hollywood productions to shoot on the Caribbean island of Cuba. In fact, it was partly filmed right in the heart of Havana, a colorful city rich in culture that few Americans have had access to since the embargo was only lifted last year. In this way, Paul Walker missed out on an adventure and being part of a production that’s one of very few to have been made in this little corner of the world. Some scenes were also filmed in Iceland, in the area of Myvatn, which is considered among the best places in the world to watch the Northern Lights. Paul was absent from some amazing trips, scenes, and experiences with the cast and crew while traveling. He would likely not be too happy about that. However, he probably would not have missed filming the majority of the movie — in Cleveland.
3. Bad Blood
Not getting along with your coworkers is par for the course with any job, or at least there’s the potential for not getting along, whether you work in a supermarket or on the set of a Hollywood blockbuster like The Fate of the Furious. Sadly, some of the stars of this film were not the best of friends, to put it nicely, and it would probably sadden Paul Walker to learn of the bad blood between his friends and coworkers during filming. Two of the main stars, Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson, do not get along well at all. They were even kept apart as much as possible during the promotions and premieres held in the last few months. The feud is due to a lot of things, but they include Diesel being frequently late to work, showing up late for his final scene with Johnson, and then Johnson venting about him on Facebook, which just led to more trouble. Paul Walker would not like to hear that his longtime friends were upset with each other for such silly reasons, or at all.
2. The Film’s Identity Crisis
Fans were not thrilled with Dom’s betrayal, and Paul Walker would not be, either. Perhaps, in the end, he had a good reason (like saving the son he didn’t know he had), but still. Did it have to be Dom, Brian O’Conner’s dear friend? And furthermore, good reason or not, Dom still has some explaining to do about his helping assault a Russian diplomat and stealing a nuclear football. It’s disappointing that Dom would turn against his family in any way, and really, it speaks to the betrayal not only of the character’s friends and family, but more importantly, the betrayal of the entire Furious franchise. One of the themes that has stuck through all of the films (until now) is the core belief that loyalty comes before anything else, including the law. This film makes us question — even temporarily — if that’s still true for these people. For this reason, The Fate of the Furious is, according to some, suffering an identity crisis. Paul Walker was the identity, in some respects, and would not be pleased by this.
1. He Isn’t In It
Still, when all is said and done, The Fate of the Furious is a part of the franchise, and it’s sad that the person who was the heart of the series was not in it. Despite everything we’ve talked about — some of which are very significant elements that the latest film lacks — Paul Walker would have wanted to reprise his character of Brian O’Conner, anyway. He was excited about the eighth film long before anyone else even knew it would be made; just weeks before his death he said an eighth film was guaranteed, and he was right. Even before the seventh film was finished, he was already excited about the next one because the Furious cast are a family on and off the set. The Fast and the Furious was a huge part of Paul’s life, and one of his greatest successes.