F9 has been marketing itself the triumph return for cinemas after the long shutdown caused by the pandemic. The question now is F9 the film to bring crowds back to cinemas?
Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew are called back into action once again when Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) sends them an encrypted message. This leads to the crew facing Dom’s long-lost brother, Jakob (John Cena) who has become a rogue spy. Dom and the crew have to obtain the three pieces of a weapons system called Ares before Jakob can.
By this point audiences know what to expect from a Fast & Furious film: a ridiculous spy plot revolving around a MacGuffin and lots of action and stunts. F9 provides plenty of that and fans will be satisfied with the results. However, the ninth (or tenth depending on how you look at it) entry does have a case of having its cake and eating it approach.
F9 acknowledges that it is utterly ridiculous but also wanted to be earnest regarding its storyline with Dom and Jakob. This was a film that had characters using giant, powerful electromagnets and a car literally being turned to a rocket ship.
There have been jokes that the Fast & Furious would go into space and this was the film where they did it. Roman (Tyrese Gibson) points out all the things the crew survived. The film was self-aware and a tongue-in-cheek tone.
The action scenes in F9 were filmed with a light touch. Civilian causalities and collateral damage have always been treated with little regard in this franchise but F9 added more comedy. Roman marvels at his own death-defying antics in the film.
The car chase in Edinburgh was given a lot of comedy because Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel) was having to drive a truck despite never driven before. She ended up crashing into lots of things and saying sorry to lots of people.
F9 saw the return of Justin Lin in the director’s chair. Lin has proven himself to be an accomplished action director and F9 had some excellent action sequences. The big sequences were the chase in Central America, the chase in Edinburgh, and the finale in Tbilisi. Lin knows how to handle vehicular mayhem and hand-to-hand combat and F9 had plenty of that. He clearly was having fun with the use of magnets to attract and propel all sorts of things.
In the previous films Jordana Brewster has had a bit of a thankless role. She has often been away from the action. In F9 Brewster as Mia got to be more of an action chick. She was fighting highly trained men in Tokyo and Tbilisi.
F9 has become a self-parody due to all its ridiculous spy story, story jumps and breaking the laws of physics. It wants to be seen as a turn your brain off type movie. The franchise has had to contort itself to justify things like bringing characters back from the dead and turning villains into heroes. The trailers showed Han coming back from the dead and the justification was as ridiculous.
The film had to make a lot of retcons. Death is a mild inconvenience in the Fast & Furious franchise. The film also brought back three characters from Tokyo Drift and had the audacity to turn them into makeshift rocket scientists.
The other big retcon made in this film was giving Dom a never before mentioned brother. The film treated this development straight-faced. F9 had flashbacks to show why their rift came about. However, considering how far-fetched this development is and the silliness of F9 made this subplot hard to be seen seriously. F9 was like a story arc in Hollyoaks which just happens to have a massive Hollywood budget.
The Fast & Furious tends to be a great place for modern action stars. Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, and Jason Statham have had great success in the franchise and John Cera seems like a great fit. Cena was cut from the cloth as Johnson: both were wrestlers for the WWE and built like a tank. Cera was a fun presence if it was a bit silly to believe he was an international super spy or related to Vin Diesel.
The Fast & Furious movies are critic-proof. They know how silly they are at this point and fans expect the ludicrous. Fans will be happy whilst detractors will remain set in their way. It’s best just to sit back and enjoy the ride.