This past weekend saw the un-official beginning of the Summer Movie Season with the release of FURIOUS SEVEN. A film that picks up the cliffhanger ending of the last film, Furious6 and also serves as a sad farewell to actor Paul Walker and his character, Brian O’Connor.
When Walker was killed in a car wreck while the film was on Thanksgiving break on November 30th, 2013, many people, after the shock of the sudden and tragic death had subsided a little bit, were wondering what would happen to the franchise as a whole and the movie in particular.
There was talk of scrapping the entire film and starting over. That would have made it even harder to make the film work than it was already going to be. There were also rumors that the studio would just cancel the entire franchise, thinking it would be in poor taste to continue.
Having been an avid Hollywood watcher for many years, I knew this was a fantasy. Beside the Jurassic Park films, Universal doesn’t HAVE any franchises beside The Fast and the Furious films, so they would never cancel the whole franchise because of the death of one member of the cast, even if it were one of the two leads. Also, scrapping the film and starting over was a non-starter as well, because even though the film was only half-way through filming and Paul Walker still had about half of his scenes left to shoot, what they HAD shot had been a couple of the massive set pieces in the film. Anytime you hear the words “Massive set piece” in regard to a movie, what you are actually hearing is VERY EXPENSIVE or maybe MILLIONS OF DOLLARS.
If you’ve seen the movie, you know the scenes I’m talking about. The scenes that have been playing in the trailers….the cars rolling out the back of the plane and falling through the air….the attack on the bus convoy to rescue a girl….all of that is part of one MASSIVE action set piece and in the film, runs almost 20 minutes of screen time, so there was zero chance the studio would flush that money and those scenes (a lot of which were more practical than you would ever think) down the toilet. Aside from the money, they also have Paul Walker front and center and serve as a heartbreaking reminder of how great he really was.
I saw the film Thursday morning with another Manager and on the first viewing, you really can’t tell that Walker has any less screen time than he would normally. His character is a part of every thing that’s happening and at no time is he “knocked out” or sent to another city to take care of a plot point off camera (a trick used in some television shows to explain an actor who has left a show or is somehow unavailable) and he plays a vital part of the finale of the film.
It’s really just on repeat viewings of the film that you notice that even though Brian is in almost every scene and a part of the action, there are a lot of scenes of him from behind, or in the shadows or where his face is obscured in some way. I’m not telling you this to ruin the film for you, or to spoil anything….everyone knows what happened to the actor….I’m really telling you because I am in awe of what the filmmakers were able to do.
They took a situation that, on the surface, seemed like a no-win situation and did what most people, including myself, thought was impossible: they made an amazing film with jaw dropping action and amazing stunts…all the things we have come to expect from these films….and made a film where the effects used to complete the final work of a vital actor in the series is almost seamless.
Some people have been talking about the ending and how emotional it is. They are correct. In the final scenes of the film, it’s almost like they break the fourth wall and drop the characters they have been playing and it feels like the actors saying goodbye to their friend.
It’s done in a tasteful and beautiful way and with a kind of subtlety this franchise, for better or worse, isn’t known for.
This coming weekend brings the release of yet another film based on a Nick Sparks book. This one is called THE LONGEST RIDE and stars Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott Eastwood and Alan Alda. Aside from some rodeo stuff, I have no idea what it’s about but I can almost assure you that by the end of the film, someone will either have cancer, die from cancer or will suffer a cancer scare. Nick Sparks really only has one story and he’s been re-telling it for almost fifteen years. If that’s your thing, then more power to you.
As for me? I’ll probably watch FURIOUS SEVEN (that is exactly how it’s credited in the film) and get ready for the return to Westros on Sunday night. That’s right, Game of Thrones returns for season 5 this weekend and I can’t wait.
We’re still a couple of weeks out from the biggest gun of the summer, which hits on May 1st, so F7 should have the road to itself until then.
Until next time, Keep the projector threaded.