By part 8 of any film series, and not just Fast and the Furious, you would be forgiven to expect any freshness or originality from the product. What you would bank on is familiarity. As Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell; one of the film’s many, many recurring actors) says in the film: “Give the audience what they want” – which is precisely what the expectation is, or has been since 2 Fast 2 Furious, the second film in the series.
The obliviousness of the franchise, however, has not dimmed its audience demand. On its second day, the Fate of the Furious has grossed 7 Crores – just three hundred thousand dollars short of a million.Would you expect another Fast entry, regardless of what happens, and would you care for the story? Yes, you would want one, and no, I don’t think you expect any plot at all. Some of the plot, however, helps – if only to get things rolling.
In the Fate of the Furious, we circle back to the clichéd twist of turning the main hero (Vin Diesel) bad. And, of course, there would be a valid reason for that. And, again, of course, there will be a lot of exploding cars and expensive action sequences.
The plot also throws in everything – and every character – one can think of. God’s Eye, the super tracking spy satellite, yup; Jason Statham, once a villain, ditto (I won’t spoil whatever is left of the plot). A new sociopathic passive-aggressive villain (CharlizeTheron), double-ditto.
This is, however, one of Fast series’ best films when one compares it by sheer scale and entertainment. Remember the rule Mr. Nobody says in the review’s first line? Fate of the Furious will give you your money’s worth. Scantily clad women parade in a car racing event that starts the movie. The heroes get together for a heist for the government when Dominic Toretto (Diesel) sabotages the mission and makes off with an electromagnetic pulse device capable of shutting down automated systems. Scott Eastwood is introduced as Paul Walker’s Caucasian surrogate. Michelle Rodriguez, Chris ‘Ludacris’ Bridges, Nathalie Emmanuel slip into character, and Dwayne Johnson and Tyrese Gibson steal the show.
The film’s real heroes, however, are Diesel, Statham, a surprise addition that got “whoo-hoo’s” from the audience, and director F. Gary Gray.
Gray, who has previously directed The Italian Job, Law Abiding Citizen and Straight Outta Compton, was the series’ missing magic ingredient. Film-making is now stable, there is a balance between comedy and action, and one can seamlessly move over the plot’s misgivings. •
On the off-chance that you are into fairy tales, you would know the story of Beauty and the Beast – the one where a vain and wicked prince is turned into a monster, and who entraps a beautiful young woman, who in-time learns to see beyond his grisly monster exterior and falls in love with his inner self which turns him back into a human being.
In the off-chance someone has not read you the story (or the picture-book), then you may have seen the Disney animated musical from 1991 – the second of the studio’s smash hits that upped the ante for all fairytale movie adaptations.
In that movie, now more than two decades old but still magical, Belle, a socially indifferent bookwork (and a beautiful one to boot), takes her father’s place, and “learn(s) to love a beast” (as the film’s narrator tells us) with the help of Beast’s Prince Charming’s servants. Like the Prince, his servants are cursed as well. All of them transformed into various household items, wait for a young woman to fall in love with the Beast before the last petal of an enchanted rose falls, so that they can transform back to their old selves. Belle, who “becomes their guest” (one of the animated one’s best songs), does in fact look past the Beast’s grisly roaring superficiality (he really was a Prince in his heart), and breaks the curse.
If, for one second, this animated film sounds like the recently released live-action Beauty and the Beast, then that is because it is. Word for word. Song for song. Story beat for story beat. But not emotion to emotion.
This is a copy-paste job that banks on the animated film’s nostalgia, and worldwide success as a brand. Apparently, that is enough for a film to make a billion dollars worldwide (which the live-action film did, just a few days back).
We love to see things we are familiar with and the screenplay by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos (the former is the screenwriter of the Broadway musical Rent; the latter of Hercules and The Huntsman: Winter’s War). The adaptation provides ample moments of reframing screenwriter Linda Woolverton’s excellently fresh and original screenplay of the animated film. It’s not that Chbosky and Spiliotopoulos’s work doesn’t add anything; there’s a brief explanation of the Beast and Belle’s backstory, some expanded bits of why no one has memory of the prince or the Castle, and a few scenes of Belle’s father played by Kevin Kline – because, well, you don’t waste an actor like Kevin Kline.
But then, the live-action film actually does waste its cast and tries to make up for it with the razzle-dazzle of computer-generated effects. The additional 45 minutes do not help this film, and there is actually less familiarity with the supporting cast. One of the biggest facepalm moments happen when we meet the actors who played Lumiere, Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, etc. (Ewan McGregor, Ian McKellen, Emma Thompson, with GuguMbatha-Raw and Stanley Tucci, amongst others).
The special effects are dazzling, mind you, but some of the character designs do not gel. Somethings look better as a cartoon; some cartoons do not look that good in live action – so one could count this as a trade-off.
Of the human actors, both Luke Evans and Josh Gad (as Gaston and LeFou) are excellent. Evans’s actually looks the part of the conceited, self-congratulatory town hero who is actually the story’s main villain.
Dan Steven’s who mostly plays the CGI beast is fine, though he does pick up Emma Watson’s (Belle) penchant to raise eyebrows when acting. Watson play-acts as well. She is bland, mostly unconvincing, and there is a lack of romantic chemistry between the leads which further take most of the magical puff out of this adaptation.
Director Bill Condon (Dreamgirls and both parts of Twilight: Breaking Dawn) also seems overshadowed by the original. He redoes the same scenes with different blocking (the direction and placement of the actors). Alan Menken, who wrote the original song’s returns in full force with some additions – which blend seamlessly; at least someone is in full form here.
Most of the marks goes to nostalgia. Otherwise, you know the story. •
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