Franchise Focus: The Fast and the Furious

Rather than have just a one off piece on an aspect of a franchise, I thought this would be a good way to kick off a new series. As you may have seen during 61 Days of Halloween, I tend to like to take on long series no matter what so here’s a post that can run anytime on any franchise and discuss any aspect of it.

Usually when you say the first film in a series you’ve seen is part 5 that’s a strange thing to say. However, when I tell you that the series I’m referring to is The Fast and the Furious franchise, suddenly that doesn’t seem that odd. It’d be difficult to prove but I doubt there’s a precedent set for a series where part 5 is the most critically acclaimed and where part 6 is poised to be the highest grosser.

The ups and downs on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes are similar: Metacritic: 58, 53, 46, 45, 67 and 61; and Rotten Tomatoes follows suit with slightly different numbers 53, 36, 35, 27, 78, 71.

With those facts in mind I wanted to backtrack and watch the series that I hadn’t seen up to part 5 before taking in the new one. It seemed many people did, only I haven’t been bingeing. I’ve been taking my time, however, getting the discounted double features wasn’t as easy as I thought because I looked at the titles of the first four: The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift and Fast and Furious and was confused. Since I’ve gotten in the bad habit of disregarding the word “The” in titles I couldn’t tell, and had forgotten, that part four had one of lazier more non-descript titles in recent memory.

A lot of the reason that the series has been so successful late in the game, and bigger than ever, is the producers have been willing to change it up from what I can tell already. The ante is upped, the players change, the stunts get bigger the location has changed and so on. What it lacks in over-acing philosophy and narrative through-lines it makes up for with its chameleon-like nature and progressively growing. It’d be nice if the titles matched that shift more though.

Essentially, this is a branding commentary, since the discussion is on a franchise and branding is an aspect of it, like it or not. These titles dilute the brand. The film stands apart as I’ve said, but aside from Tokyo Drift, which was a compelling reason to start the journey, they don’t stand out. This series has split the difference between straight numbering, like Iron Man, and subtitling. If a subtitle is good enough it will be remembered no matter how cumbersome. Just look at the Star Wars series.

I don’t think I’ll come out disagreeing with the overall perception of any of these films as represented by composite scores and box office, but as this series invariably continues and tries to innovate and better itself, hopefully it adds more character to the title it splashes across the poster.