Furious 706 Apr 2015
Look, I’ll be honest. I’m in a place in life where I can’t really get into action movies like I used to when I was younger. For me, intellectual and emotional films carry more weight and grab my attention. With that out of the way, let’s see if I’m capable of writing about an action film for what it is.
Furious Seven accomplished a few things very well. The top of that list is the homage paid to Paul Walker at the end. The theater I was in went from hooting and hollering after the final action sequence to pin drop silence and audible sniffles. The director connected the world he created on screen to our real world seamlessly in giving tribute to a member of both of those worlds in a respectful way. I was impressed with that, to be sure.
The other thing it accomplished well was to be an action film of and about the times. The multiple sources of threat in the movie are all a mash up of current American anxieties. I’d have to go back to check, but I don’t think the other films in the series were as rooted in present day American zeitgeist as this. Drones, over-reaching surveillance systems, Middle Eastern/foreign bad guys with endless wealth and means – it was all present. Oddly enough, in spite of the fact that these anxieties are often tied to or born of the American government, in this film, the American government turns out to be an ally. I couldn’t quite figure out why this film, on the heels of many in recent years that have villainized the government, chose to be buddies. It was fresh if nothing else.
The other interesting thing for me, related to this last point, was that action movies in the last decade have become engines of global culture. Hollywood depends on action movies to feature little story, minimal dialog, transferable plot lines so that they can release these films around the world without much translation and increase potential earnings by orders of magnitude. James Wan, the Malaysian born director of Furious Seven and other global hits like Saw knows this. So maybe instead of calling Furious Seven patently American, we might rather call it patently global. Global culture is still being formed, it has been around for some time, but spread unevenly (as the quote about the future goes). I, for one, am sad that it seems to be inheriting American love for excess. There are other action films, Pacific Rim comes to mind, that are also part of this global culture, but they somehow eschew American excess in favor of something new. Furious Seven didn’t do that, and didn’t care to. I hope global culture, whenever it is more shaped, has something new to offer, not just more of this.