‘Cars in Space’ or ‘Dumb & Dumber on Wheels’ – pick your title, but whatever you do, DON’T miss it!

So last weekend I saw the latest instalment of the Fast and Furious franchise – Fast and Furious 9-  Cars in Space. I don’t think it’s really called that, in fact I think it’s The Fast Saga, but it should be called Cars in Space. So have I just let slip a spoiler? Probably not if you’ve seen the trailer or if you’ve actually seen the movie of course.

But in any case – I’ll give you a big warning right now, this is one of those rare occasions I will tell you NOT to read on or watch the embedded video, if you haven’t seen the movie or even the trailer (which mostly tells you everything anyway), because there are going to be huge spoilers ahead. On the other hand if you have seen it, or just don’t care, then here’s what I thought of the newest car movie out, which you can actually see now that – Thank God – the cinemas are open again.

So in this latest edition of the franchise, despite the fact that we’ve now known these characters for two decades, we are introduced to Dom’s secret brother, who we didn’t know about before. I think. I mean was he ever mentioned? I don’t recall.

Though I can’t really talk, I’m a massive Star Trek fan, have been watching it since I was a kid, and it wasn’t until the fifth in the original movie series that I discovered Spock had a secret older brother, Or right up until the latest Star Trek Discovery series that I found out he had an even more secreter adopted sister!

Anyway back to Jakob Toretto, played by former American wrestling star John Cena. You know it reminds me of when Danny Devito meets Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins – yeah, he says, ‘sure you’re my twin, as soon as I sat down I thought I was looking in a mirror!’

Even the villain of the piece, who is ultimately once again Cipher – Charlize Theron – points out the very Aryan features of Cena. Isn’t Dominic Toretto supposed to be of South American origin – something he kinda makes a bit of a deal about in some of the previous movies?

Even the script writers are confused, because while Cipher says this, Helen Mirren returning as Jason Statham’s London gangster Mum, Queenie, later in the movie, when talking of John Cena, asks Dom – he’s not a cousin of yours is he? Similar features?

What similar features? Maybe Queenie needs to get some glasses, maybe she should not be blasting through London in a Noble M600 escaping the police. Still some nice drifts and J-turns though – apparently she begged Vin Diesel and the producers to let her get behind a wheel of car in the movie. Yeah, I know she didn’t do all the driving – still, kinda cool though.

Anyway talking about people from the past suddenly turning up – and this won’t be a surprise to people who’ve watched the trailer either – we see the return of Hans. Wasn’t he killed in a horrible car smash in Fast and Furious three – Tokyo Drift, the only one to not have most of the regular characters in it, although Diesel just had to turn up in a old Dodge Charger in Japan. Well he seems to find a Charger wherever he goes – he even has one in Edinburgh in this movie.

Back to Hans though – apparently he wasn’t killed, he was saved by My Nobody even before nobody knew who nobody was – i mean, you know Kurt Russell didn’t appear until the Abu Dhabi instalment right? So nobody knew that Hans was still alive apart from nobody – er… yeah, I think that’s right. Have i somehow ended up in an Abbott and Costella skit?

Anyway there’s a whole convoluted sub-plot to bring back Hans and introduce another young female character to the gang – a kick ass Japanese chick because, well don’t all action movies have to have one now?

Apparently she’s crucial to the main plot, but she barely plays a part. And talking of which, it’s the same deal with brother hans, or should that be uncle Hans, or maybe just baba hans – dude he’s looking well… er.. mature. And he should stop constantly nibbling those nuts or whatever they are because he’s developing a dad belly that I would be proud of!

And what about the other usual characters in the ongoing speed saga? Well settling down to life on the farm, playing mum to Dom’s kid doesn’t seem to be sitting entirely right with Letty, who admits she’s bored. Actually being this is Michelle Rodriguez, that’s kinda convincing. She’s only ever done actions roles as far as I know.

She’s not the only one that’s bored, because the late Paul Walker’s character, Brian’s wife Mia – that’s Jordana Brewster – also turns up, ostensibly because she thinks she might have some pull with brother Cena – even though he, at one point, happily leaves her, Dom Diesel and all the gang to be killed by endless hoards of henchmen.

So what of Brian? We’re to believe he’s happy playing house-husband and baby-sitting the kids. Man, all respect to the late Paul Walker, a proper car guy if even there was one, but maybe they should have just killed off the character in the movies, cause that’s not convincing at all. And we see a GT-R arrive at the end of the movie, supposedly him, before end-credits roll. It’s a bit contrived.

So now the gang is back together, let the carmageddon commence. And you want outrageous car action set-pieces, you know a Fast and Furious movie will deliver, especially with director Justin Lin getting the idea of the magnet plane from his 9-year old kid.

Magnet plane? Oh yes, so when Cena  – I can’t call him Jakob, he just doesn’t look like a Jakob, Gerard maybe, not Jacob – anyway, for his first escape, he is driving a Shelby Mustang – which in itself is quite amusing, because wasn’t he sued by Ford a few years ago for selling his Ford GT – you’re supposed to keep it at least two years as per the contract.

He genuinely owns a collection of muscle cars in fact. So anyway, here he launches his Stang off a cliff edge, and it somehow flies high enough, far enough and long enough to be caught by some kind of bespoke jet that appears to have wandered in from the marvel comics franchise, with a giant magnet under it.

You think that’s bonkers. Nah. That’s perfectly logical. What about a big Jeep Wranger racing along a rope bridge as it comes apart and flails to bits and the Jeep still managing to make it to the other side, as if we’re watching a Road Runner cartoon?

No, that’s not crazy either. What is absolutely absurd, is driving a new, raised up, off-roading Dodge Charger off the same cliff, somehow simultaneously hooking it to the remaining tether of the rope bridge, and using that to fling the car, across an ocean to whatever the jaggedy, cliff-facey land mass is on the other side, and to not be either let loose and plunged into the water, or smashed to smithereens on the side of the mountain. Instead it just barrel rolls onto a slim sliver of a rare flat bit, so that he and a manically giggling letty easily survive? Okay she was manically giggling on the inside, you could see that.

What other are there from which this crew should all be dead, but aren’t dead? How about when Cena raids our hero’s secret underground hideaway – yeah they have one of those now, and everyone seems to know where it is. So anyway, Dom gets everyone out and locks himself in to self-sacrificingly and oh-so-bravely singlehanded take on the hoards of henchmen I mentioned earlier. All of which he manages to throw to their doom off a fragile bridge across a bottomless pit.

Except it isn’t a bottomless pit, because eventually he goes down himself and lands in water, where he has epiphanic insights into his relationship with his dad, his brother, and of course death – which yet again isn’t entirely ready for him, as none other than letty has found her way back and dived in to get him.

So they survive, but all the trained mercenaries are dead around them didn’t make it. I was think of the scene in the Austin Powers movie when the hencemen’s families are being informed of their deaths.

Anyway now that the secret hideaway has been discovered by Cena, they team are of course… still based at the same secret hideway! I mean I’m not even a superspy and even I know that once the safehouse is burned you’ve got to find another one!

But it doesn’t matter because they’re in no danger of being killed. After all in one scene, Tyrese – Romain – ends up in a building, on his own, surrounded by armed military soldiers. nothing gets though his flimsy bullit proof wastecoat – like he never once gets hit on the arms, the neck or the head, even though some of these guys are shooting down at him.

Not only that, but – and remember, Tyrese is usually the comic mcguffin  in the series, he’s not really supposed to be the full-on bad ass – and yet with a single gun, he manages to take out all of the soldiers. What’s more, while escaping he appears to get squished by his own armoured vehicle. And yet he doesn’t.

So ludicrous is it, that well, Ludacris himself – Tej in the movie – says directly to him – how are you not dead?

And that’s what we’re all thinking. But you know what, with alarming insight and self-awareness, it is in fact Tyrese’ character that is the most profoundly honest in the whole movie. It’s like he was in the audience with us, and went back into the movie to verbalise the observation that despite all the crazy things they’ve done, launching cars out of planes, jumping into helicopters and landing on a demolishing building not to mention taking on submarines, not only do they always survive, there is never even a single scratch on them. Not even an injury.

It’s like this street racing gang from Downtown LA that started off as car jackers are now somehow invincible superhero types… hmm.. maybe this is the Marvel Comic Universe and they all got hit by gamma radiation at some point off screen.

Of course his suggestion is immediately laughed at by Tej and Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsey – the baby-faced British computer hacker that runs with the fast and furious gang, but apparently doesn’t know how to drive, until suddenly she does.

Or rather learns to drive during a getaway, behind the wheel of a lorry, destroying half of Scotland as she deploys the aforementioned magnet, now installed in the truck, to pull a car through a building. Yes, no consideration about who or what might have been in the building, whether the car might have been folded around a pillar in the attempt, no, the car which was on a parallel road, is sucked through a building into the back of a truck, because of a powerful magnet. Nothing else is attracted, just the car. Riiight.

Of course now the gang are loving these magnets and deploy them to devastating effect creating untold levels of car-nage and car-latteral damage, in ways that don’t make any scientific sense at all. They finally use the magnets to stop a massive train of a heavily armoured articulated transporter dead in its tracks so that it flips head over heals – and what finally causes this?

A Supra. It totally defies physics, gravity, mass vs momentum and any other physics formulas you can think of. Scotty of Star Trek would have a fit. The Supra after all would have been squashed like a soggy banana if you drove it in front of something like this behemoth. And so would the driver. But now the driver is Cena, Dom’s estranged brother, who by this time has been betrayed by the baddies and flips sides – just like that.

He manages to leap free onto the back of Dom’s Charger, which he simply gives to him later so he can getaway, after hugging his sister of course, who he had ordered killed a few scenes ago. So now they’re friends again, and Vin Diesel has successfully replaced Dywane The Rock Johnson, who pretty much was the same sort of enemy-turned-friend, sorry enemy-turned-family character, and actually would have been more convincing as a long-lost brother to Dom.

No doubt Cena will be back in the next movie.

Oh but wait, I’m not done with the crazy stunts yet, nor is the movie, as while all this has been going on, Tyrese and Tej launch into space in a converted Pontiac fiero, because they have to take out a satellite – yes in orbit. Except it turns into a one-way mission, and therefore certain heroic death. Except you know they’re not going to die right?

But wait, wait, let me say this again. They go to space, in a converted Pontiac Fiero space shuttle with rockets strapped to its back, which they must have quickly whipped up between scenes.

Richard Branson you old fool. Did you see the recent news, he finally went into low space in his Virgin Galactic space craft. It took him 15 years and billions to do that. Idiot, he should have just got himself a Pontiac Fiero and some old deep-sea diving suits! Oh and some duck tape – hang on, isn’t that a running gag stolen from Star Trek Discovery?

Actually, for car guys, it’s kind of an in-joke isn’t it? I’m referring to the oldmid-engine Fiero, which should have been Pontiac’s Toyota MR2, it should have been a modern classic. But it wasn’t that great, so instead it’s the car that’s most butchered. Many get turned into Ferrari replicas and kit cars. It’s pretty much the basis for a lot of conversations. So of course what else would you convert to go into space?

So having rammed it into and annihilating a satellite and ending up stuck in space, how do they do, what it took Sandra Bullock in Gravity a whole movie to do, i.e come back to Earth? Well, you know what, I am gonna  leave at least one spoiler out of this for you.

Anyway it just proves that nobody ever dies in these movies, except nobody. Nobody is dead apparently. No really. Except he probably isn’t. Okay I’ve gone Abbot and Costello again, but I suspect that Kurt Russell as Mr Nobody will pop again in a future instalment.

Which brings us to the big question – should there be a Fast and Furious 10? I mean where exactly do they go from here? Intergalactic? Will the Nos button take Dom’s Dodge to Warp speed? Is Cipher a Romulan? Does Letty have a secret estranged alien sister from the Delta Quadrant, who’s a planet-hopping assassin?

Even the action barely feels real anymore. It’s all so clearly faked and digital it does detract from the chair-arm-gripping tension and suspense. I was rewatching Mission Impossible Fallout the other day, and when Tom Cruise breaks his foot for really jumping between buildings you feel it, and when he’s actually flying a real helicopter, you are right there rolling around in the back of it, frantic about the crazy extreme flying. There’s something to be said for doing it for real, even Henry Cavil’s moustache was real!

So has Fast and Furious jumped the Shark? The Franchise is 20 years old! Number 10 is probably a must, confirmed as much by a post-credit scene, but in the words of James Brown – maybe they should hit it and quit?

Ah but here’s the thing…

In a world of environmental catastrophe, raging environmentalist fuelling car hate, where over-exuberant throttle use is considered a waste, revving engines is deemed noise pollution, burning rubber is anti-social, speed enforcement is draconian, and dull driverless battery-powered RC cars seem to be our inevitable motoring future, this is the only franchise that on some level, still gives screen car porn, and professes outright love for the automobile on a consistent basis, even if sometimes they’re only CGI cars being pulled through buildings by a mad magnet!  

But just when you realise you’ve bust a spleen from laughing and maybe you should walk out of the cinema, they throw in a scene like with Dom’s dead dad, staring at a classic Dodge Charger and sagely turning to his sons and reminding them that ‘cars like this are immortal’. And as a petrolhead, you just know that to be the deep, overriding, unassailable truth. Great cars are alive, they have soul, and the best ones are immortal.

And in some ways so is the Fast and Furious franchise.

You may laugh, you may joke, you may poke enough plots holes in it to turn it into a colander, but you just know that not only are you going to watch the next one too, but like me, you’ll watch this farcical fast saga again and again every time it pops up on TV.

Fast 9 is admittedly stupid and absurd and even within the series, it’s probably middling at best. But it’s big-screen action, it’s fun, and hell it’s got a ton of cars in it, doing the stuff we all did with our hotwheels and matchbox toys when we were kids. So what’s not to love?!

Frankly, I can’t wait for 10!

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