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on Fast & Furious and how I love Justin Lin

omg (donna), dw donna omg
I have a long sordid history with the Fast & the Furious franchise. I have zero interest in cars (love of Top Gear notwithstanding) and am picky about action movies - not that I have good taste with them, but I get bored with straight action; I need to like the characters. They don't have to be good or well-written characters, just ones that appeal to my fangirl heart. (Also obliviously outrageous slashiness doesn't hurt.)

I watched The Fast & the Furious because I saw a slash vid for it. The movie lived up to the vid; it's one of those amazing cases where one cannot tell whether the subtext was intentional or accidental, and can't decide which way would be better. Either way it runs thick enough to be a delicious meal for the fannish soul. While I never got actively into the fandom, I read most of the fic that existed, bought the DVD, inflicted it on people. Good times.

I ignored the sequel because Vin Diesel wasn't in it and I didn't want my 'ship broken up (Only recently did I discover that 2 Fast 2 Furious is, if not 2 x as slashy, at least as slashy as the first movie - old boyfriends reuniting for the win!) The Fast & the Furious 3: Tokyo Drift I wouldn't have bothered with except my uncles and cousins, being major gearheads, were fans of the franchise. And since it was set in Tokyo, and my sister and I were living in Japan at the time, they thought it'd be fun to show it to us when we were State-side for the holidays, so we could laugh at the sure-to-be ridiculous depiction of Japan.

Which didn't go according to plan. While the movie itself wasn't great for a non-drifting fan, it astonished us by being the hands-down most accurate depiction of Japan that either of us has ever seen in an American production. This wasn't the Hollywood-fetishized exotic Orient; this was Tokyo, looking and feeling like the Tokyo we knew (from the perspective of a white American boy, so particularly matching our own experiences; it may play different to someone Japanese, but still more familiar than most US films, I'd bet.)

I only just found out that Tokyo Drift was the first F&F movie helmed by Justin Lin, and that he agreed to direct on the condition that he could do a movie in real Japan, as opposed to the Hollywood-ized version in the original script. That he had to fight for subtitles so characters could be speaking in their native tongue when it was natural to do so, and that the portrayal of minorities/Asians especially in cinema is one of his major focuses. To which all I can say is mission accomplished, sir.

It also explains a lot about where the Fast & Furious franchise has gone since Lin took the reins. Fast & Furious (#4 for those keeping track, and yes, every single entry in the series so far has a different title scheme, which tickles me) we watched a cam-rip of since it either wasn't theatrically released in Japan or else was months behind, and while like the first movie it took itself way too seriously, the characters and chemistry both were back, to our fangirl delight.

Then came Fast 5, which the sis and I went together to slash-fangirl on, and came out astonished. Not only was it a great fan-movie - it was a genuinely awesome action blockbuster. Completely over-the-top ridiculous and epic stunts combined with great character moments, and so much team and family-ness that we didn't even miss the slash. All that, plus oh-so-casually blowing past the Hollywood racial status quo without even blinking or making a big deal about it. With Brian demoted from protagonist to sidekick, their gang is nearly a dozen guys (and girls), of which only one is white - and he's the loyal right-hand-man of leader Vin Diesel. And they're all family in the sweetest of ways.

Fast & Furious 6 upped the ante again. The movie itself is fun, unabashedly and spectacularly ridiculous (Justin Lin clearly believes physics are for the weak and have no place in cinema!) And not only is the multi-racial family of awesome back, but they have two more female characters on board, kicking ass and taking names and defying stereotypes without breaking a sweat. That's maybe the best part - these movies never feel like they're trying to be politically correct or making any kind of statement beyond "cars are cool!" What they do, they do more effortlessly than a driver drifting around a corner at a hundred miles an hour. They prove that if you have fun characters doing badass stunts, their race or gender doesn't matter; the audience is still going to be cheering them on. (Which apparently paid off at the box office - here's hoping Hollywood will take the hint in future franchises!)

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( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
acchikocchi
Jun. 17th, 2013 10:15 pm (UTC)
I have VERY fond memories of watching the F&F 4 rip in your apartment in Kyoto, which was my introduction to the series. Which I have loved and been shockingly impressed by, for all the reasons you and Ta-Nehisi Coates describe. Thanks for that! :D :D :D
xparrot
Jun. 19th, 2013 05:16 pm (UTC)
Hee, I forgot you watched 4 with us! It was always fun but yeah, it's become so much better a series than it has any right to be...

(Oooh, where does Coates talk about it? Reading articles on F&F is lately a hobby ^^)
acchikocchi
Jul. 1st, 2013 08:20 pm (UTC)
Argh, I can't find the link -- I'm sure I didn't imagine it, but I'll have to ask the friend who dabbled in F&F fandom, she kept me updated. :) This was in my bookmarks, though, which maybe you've read?
xparrot
Jul. 3rd, 2013 01:47 am (UTC)
Thanks for the link! I'd seen that article back when it came out, but it was a good re-read now - well, disheartening in that a couple years later movies aren't improving yet; but at least all it says is still true for the F&F movies (long may they drive!)
kristen999
Jun. 17th, 2013 10:28 pm (UTC)
I can't wait to watch FF6. Oddly enough, I only watch the newest installments with mom who is 67 years young and we love them for all the ridiculousness and lovely family-friendship. Alas, I won't see her again util Sept, but it should be out on DVD by then :)

xparrot
Jun. 19th, 2013 05:17 pm (UTC)
FF6 is worth the wait, so much fun! (We've been thinking of showing the movies to our mom, for the same reasons - our father is not an action movie fan, but our mother would love the family-ness, too!)
winter_elf
Jun. 18th, 2013 02:42 am (UTC)
did you read/see the Entertainment Weekly article on F&F (may 17 issue # 1259). LOL! The had a 'chart' of info for each movie = locations/characters/cars crashed/key scene/bad guy/etc. The best - Pitch. F&F6 they called 'James Bond joins the Dirty Dozen'. LOL! And yea, who needs Physics when you can get totally wild stunts. :)
xparrot
Jun. 19th, 2013 05:34 pm (UTC)
Aww, no, I missed that article - sounds amusing! And yeah, physics has no place in an action movie, other than to wave a cheerful goodbye in the opening stunt! XD
feikoi
Jun. 22nd, 2013 01:35 am (UTC)
Tbh, I've only watched part of Tokyo Drift -- in a burger shop, in Tokyo -- and I was really confused by the stereotypes they chose for all the high school students. (I'm used to schools being a helluva lot more strict on dress code, etc., though I suppose that's not the case for the, ah, "bad" schools.) Also, I had a hard time getting past the fact that the movie is about teens, yet you can't get a license until you're 20 here. Yes, yes, I shouldn't be looking for logic in my action flicks, but since the movie was muted at the time, I didn't get the benefit of handwaving, hah.
xparrot
Jun. 24th, 2013 12:06 am (UTC)
Well, the actual high schoolers who drive I believe were all foreigners (the Japanese chars you don't see in school so all could've been 20+), so I was handwaving that they had international licenses (I don't think that actually works legally, but eh, none of them were exactly legally minded sorts anyway...!)
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )