Charging Forward: It’s Time for a Car Movie Revolution

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Hollywood certainly has a way of milking a profitable series for all that it’s worth; just look at Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and last but not least, Fast and the Furious. What started out as a joke among car guys everywhere, the Fast series has snowballed into a billion-dollar franchise that has found its way into merchandising spanning from video games to die-cast cars.

Giving credit where it’s due, the series had created a whole new generation of enthusiasts and brought car customization and modification back into the mainstream – an area where it had been non-complacent for at least a few decades prior to 2001. Suddenly, being a gearhead and owning a hot-rod was socially accepted by the masses – without any stereotypes attached.

Profits of aftermarket parts suppliers took off and it even encouraged those who owned older cars to dust them off and pull them out of the garage after years of storage, showing the younger generation what classic iron was all about. Because of this, you now have guys who were born in the ’90s showing interest in cars from the ’60s, ’70s and even the ’80s. So, we do owe the series that much.

Fast forward a decade or so and Furious 7 is playing everywhere in theaters as I type this. It’s hard to imagine a rumored eighth installment without Paul Walker, one of the lead actors in the series. Inevitably, however, it’s been widely reported that there will indeed be an eighth movie, as well as two more following, making for a total of ten films in the franchise. I think it’s ludicrous (pun intended).

I suppose as long as moviegoers continue shelling out their hard-earned cash to see these films, Universal Studios will keep producing them. On the first Friday alone, Furious 7 out-grossed Tokyo Drift, the series’ third installment, entirely. Although not a huge feat, considering Tokyo Drift almost made for a straight-to-DVD release, it’s still an impressive accomplishment.

I’d like to believe this was largely the result of media hype and Paul Walker’s passing, rather than true enthusiasm for the series. Having seen the movie, I’d also like to think that Vin Diesel’s recent claim that Furious 7 will be nominated for an Oscar is quite optimistic. Granted, it’s great popcorn entertainment, there was non-stop action through the whole movie and the tribute to Paul at the end was a home run, but let’s get real here, “Dom.”

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Solidifying my point, the stunts and scenes in the latest film not only defied logic, but the laws of physics, sanity and automotive crash safety. For example, the last time I checked, a pair of cars rushing straight towards each other at speeds over 100 mph, resulting in an head-on collision and the occupants walking away completely unscathed without the aid of seat belts and airbags is a stretch of realism. I’m fairly certain it’s impossible, “reinforced chassis” be damned.

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Of course I get the reasoning behind keeping the money machine that is Fast and the Furious rolling and I understand why they went away from the street racing plot of the first three films and into this action/heist theme of the succeeding five (attracting a larger audience). However I think it’s fair to say that most of us have had enough at this point.

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As a result, I’m left here wondering, “where have all of the real car movies gone?” Does Hollywood not think we would be interested in seeing modern-day interpretations of Two-Lane Blacktop or even Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry? Do they believe that films like those classics simply wouldn’t be able to pull in the numbers that would justify the studio’s investment?

During the ’60 and ’70s, all you needed were a couple of cars, a few well-known actors and a script that was filled with action, adventure and even a paper-thin plot that explained the madness behind the story. The 1977 film, Smokey and the Bandit, is the perfect example of creating movie history with minimal outlay at its finest.

MOVIEED-5There was barely a script at all and 85% of what you’ve seen the cast speak and portray in the film, was improv – it was the actors, not the characters, add-libbing and injecting their own personalities into the picture. It worked and it would later go on to become one of the best car movies in history and the second highest-grossing film of 1977, right behind Star Wars.

Looking forward, what I want to see is a car film that’s got plenty of action, suspense and proper automotive pornography, but get this, with a solid plot and storyline attached to it. It can be done and with the right people behind it, can be quite a success to boot. While we’re at it, let’s leave out the CGI, phony stunts, completely unbelievable scenarios, incredibly cheesy one-liners and the rapper-turned-actor as a supporting cast member.

Give us a noteworthy cast, a great script and make it at least somewhat realistic. Make it a road movie, like Two-Lane, Vanishing Point or Smokey and you just might have something that won’t be the basis of satire, but could potentially be recognized as a memorable film without any irony attached. After a solid 15-years of the Fast franchise, I think we deserve it.

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