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Is That … a Submarine?

That’s the first of nine massively important questions raised by the new trailer for ‘The Fate of the Furious’

(Universal Pictures)
(Universal Pictures)

From Friday to Sunday, I watched all of the movies from the The Fast and the Furious movie franchise. It was not the first time I’d seen them (and in some cases, not even the second or third or fourth), but I thought it was important to do so this weekend. That’s because there was going to be a very big watch party for the first trailer for The Fate of the Furious, the franchise’s newest installment, on Sunday evening in Times Square. Now that it’s here, there are some questions that need to be answered. But we can’t do that until you watch it, so watch it:

The trailer raises some questions. Let’s answer them, and let’s go with the smaller questions to start and the bigger questions to finish:

(Universal Pictures)
(Universal Pictures)

Is that a fucking submarine I saw?

Yes. In all of the movies since Tokyo Drift, Dom’s team has had to take on a very big thing. The best example is Fast & Furious 6, because in that movie they had to fight a tank (which produced Dom’s diving catch of Letty, easily the single most electrifying moment of all the Fast movies, and possibly of all movies in general), and then they also had to fight a giant plane. In Fast & Furious, there was the impossibly narrow drug-smuggling tunnels. In Furious 7, there was the mountain of death they parachuted onto. In Fast Five, there was the Rock. It’s always something. In The Fate of the Furious, it’s a fucking submarine.

(Universal Pictures)
(Universal Pictures)

What’s a minor part of the story you’d like to have revealed right this second?

I mean, of course the first main thing I want to know is, “What is it that turns Dom bad?” The second main thing would be, “How long will he be bad?” (There’s no way he stays bad for the whole movie. I figure he spends about 90 minutes of the movie being bad.) But since right now we’re talking about the minor questions that came up after watching the trailer, there’s just one thing I really, truly, absolutely want to know this minute: Why does Charlize Theron have white woman dreads? Is it an homage to Angelina Jolie’s white woman dreads in Gone in 60 Seconds, which are the original White Woman Dreads in a Movie Heavily Featuring Cars? That’s a neat little hat tip, if so. I mean, it’s a disaster, too, but also a neat little hat tip.

Will we get all of the best tiny moments from ‘The Fast and the Furious’ movies in this newest movie?

Let’s go through a list of the 10 best tiny moments just to keep everything organized. Will we get …

  • A shot where Dominic Toretto looks out of his car window at someone else in a car? This is the single-best recurring tiny scene in the franchise. The more times it happens in a movie, the better the movie is. He’s gotten so good at it. This will absolutely happen in The Fate of the Furious.
  • A shot where we see Dominic Toretto from behind and he turns just enough that we see the profile of his face? Yes. It also happens in every movie. I imagine Vin Diesel does it in real life, too.
  • A street race where some schmuck loses a car? Movie to movie to movie, there’s been a very clear progression of bigness: As the movies have expanded in cultural importance, the things that happen in the movies have gotten bigger, too. One of the incidental effects of that shift is that street racing — the very foundation of the franchise — has been pushed further and further toward the margins. I’m betting The Fate of the Furious will continue that trend, though it won’t fully extinguish street racing, which is good because it’s always a fun diversion from all of the ultra super mega stuff driving the plot. So, yes. We will have this.
  • A scene where Roman Pearce (Tyrese) is eating a snack while talking? A consistently great gag. He is one of Hollywood’s premiere movie eaters. I’d rate him higher than Brad Pitt, in fact. There’s no way we don’t get a shot of him eating something in The Fate of the Furious.
  • A scene where Roman Pearce shouts, “Briiii-yan” in that twangy way that only he can? No. :(
  • A scene where the Rock calls someone a “sum’bitch”? Yes.
  • A scene where Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) punches someone? I really hope so. Her fight against Ronda Rousey’s character in Furious 7 was excellent, and her fight against Riley in the subway in Fast & Furious 6 was even better. Just as Roman is an elite movie eater, Letty is an elite movie fighter. If we can somehow get a scene in The Fate of the Furious where she fights the Rock, I might pass out.
  • A scene where the team gets assembled? Yes. This has to happen. It always feels good to watch all those pieces snap into place.
  • A scene where the team gets briefed on how impossible a mission is going to be? Yes. And in that scene, Roman Pearce is going to yell in disbelief a lot and then it will end with the Rock saying something like, “Time for daddy to get to work.”
  • A scene where someone says, “This. Is. New. Yooooooork!”? There was a “This. Is. Brazil!” scene in Fast Five. And there was a “This. Is. London!” scene in Fast & Furious 6. And Vin Diesel has long wanted to have a Fast movie set in New York. I think he manages to squeeze this into the script somewhere.
(Universal Pictures)
(Universal Pictures)

Why did Dominic turn into a bad guy?

That’s probably the easiest question of all of these to answer because there is only one reason that Dominic Toretto has ever done anything in any of The Fast and the Furious movies he’s been in: to protect his family (or save his family) (or rescue a member of his family).

We see Charlize Theron’s character, Cipher, ask Dom, “Did you ever think you’d betray your family the way you did today?” That means a version of this scene is going to happen several minutes earlier:

INT. DOMINIC TORETTO’S GARAGE

[Cipher walks in at Dom’s rear. He turns just enough so that his snarling profile is visible.]

DOM: Who are you?

CIPHER: It doesn’t matter who I am. What matters is what I want.

DOM: If I were you I’d turn around and walk out of that door while my legs still worked.

CIPHER: I want you to work for me.

DOM: [his voice sounds like a very big engine idling] I don’t work for anyone.

[Cipher hands him a manila envelope with something in it that either incriminates everyone on his team or shows him that they’re all in very serious danger. Dom looks at her. She smirks.]

CIPHER: You work for me now.

My guess: Dominic will have to do some impossibly impossible things. If he completes them then his former team will be allowed to live, and if he doesn’t complete them they’ll all die. We saw them do a version of this in Fast & Furious 6, when Agent Luke Hobbs was able to get Dominic to come out of retirement by dangling pictures of Letty in his face. (Everyone, including Dominic, was led to believe that she’d died two movies prior.) Same thing is what’s going to happen here, except this time they’ll force him to break bad to save everyone.

How good of a bad guy is Dom going to be?

He’s going to make for a great bad guy, and it’ll be for three different reasons.

  1. He has a great voice for a bad guy. It sounds like charcoal briquettes rubbing together, or like someone shoveling gravel. That’s important. And effective.
  2. As the franchise has grown bigger and badder, so too has Dominic. In the first movie, he was just a guy who had some muscles and was pretty good at fighting. By the time the fourth movie rolled around, he’d morphed into an almost mutant (there’s a scene where he gets shot in the back and he doesn’t even wince, he just turns around to look at the guy who shot him, then charges at him and pounds his head into mush). And by the time the seventh movie arrived, he was basically indestructible. (The best sequence: He crashes his car head-on into another car, both of which were doing about 60 mph, then he gets out and gets into a wrench and pipe fight with a rogue special forces assassin, then walks away from a crash where he jumped his car off a crumbling parking tower into a helicopter 300 feet in the air. That all happens in, like, a 10-minute stretch.)
  3. He doesn’t want to be the bad guy, and the only thing more interesting than a truly evil bad guy is a bad guy who’s wrestling with the idea of being a bad guy. Vin Diesel is good at a lot of things, but he’s at his greatest when he’s allowed to wallow in antipathy.

Was turning Dom into a bad guy the perfect play for the franchise to make?

Absolutely. The entirety of the franchise has been built around establishing Dominic as not only a man with an unbreakable code, but a man with an unbreakable code who also happened to be the fastest, smartest, toughest, coolest, most dominant, and most unstoppable man alive. After he’d defeated the Shaw brothers, both of whom were incredibly talented super villains, there was really no place more interesting to turn than inward. This was a great move.

(Universal Pictures)
(Universal Pictures)

Who will fill the A2 spot?

This is another reason why I think it was so smart for them to turn Dom into a bad guy. There’s a part in Fast & Furious 6 where Dom talks to Brian (Paul Walker) about a job that he’s taking. Brian says he’s in. Dom objects, as Brian is married and has a child now. Brian demands to be included. Mia (Jordana Brewster), Brian’s wife, walks over and agrees with Brian, no questions asked. She says something close to, “I feel safer when you two are together watching each other’s back.” The two of them belong together and belonged together. Dom was always the A1 and Brian was always the A2. It just felt right. That’s what made all of their races against each other so much fun to watch, and why it was so exhilarating for those few seconds in Fast Five when Brian finally beat Dom in a race before Brian found out that Dom let him win.

It’s not impossible to imagine that they’d already planned to turn Dom into a bad guy before Paul Walker’s passing. But following Walker’s passing, turning Dom into a bad guy means that he gets to be on his own in a way that doesn’t feel entirely unnatural. He’s still the A1, only he’s on the other side now. It’d make the most sense for The Rock to step into the A2 role, given that he’s the one with the most star power and also that he’s the one on the poster with Vin. That’s incorrect, though. The A2 role will be a group effort taken on by all the other members of his team.

How will they handle Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner not being around?

Well, they mostly handled it at the end of Furious 7 already. After everything that needed to be either retrieved or run over or blown up in that movie had been retrieved or run over or blown up, the team was all gathered at the beach talking about things and just being together. That scene ended with them watching Brian with Mia and their baby boy Jack playing together by the shore. There was a moment where, basically all at once, they all acknowledged that Brian had moved on to a part of his life where he could no longer responsibly be a part of the team (inasmuch as someone can “responsibly” be a part of a team that does excessively irresponsible things). So that’s how they’ll handle it in The Fate of the Furious: They’ll just sail right on past it.

(Universal Pictures)
(Universal Pictures)

OK, but will Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner make an appearance at all?

Well, we know that they can do it, because there were several scenes from Furious 7 were Walker’s brothers were used as body-double stand-ins because Paul passed before they could finish filming it. The question, though, is: Will they do it?

In an interview with Entertainment Tonight, one of Walker’s younger brothers, Caleb, said that Vin Diesel had spoken with them and asked them if they thought it’d be OK to eventually bring Brian O’Conner back into one of the upcoming movies. (As it stands now, there are already plans for a Fast and the Furious 9 and a Fast and the Furious 10.) There was no mention of how that conversation ended, but the fact that it happened would, I’m guessing, lean toward Brian eventually making a cameo. Will it happen in The Fate of the Furious, though? I think no.

(Universal Pictures)
(Universal Pictures)

There will be mentions of him, of course. And we already know there will 100 percent be a scene where Dominic stares at a picture of the two of them together (it’ll probably happen during an especially trying time for Dom). But that’ll likely be all of the looking backward that they do in The Fate of the Furious. So no Brian here. Best guess: He shows up for a brief thing in whatever the last part of The Fast and the Furious franchise ends up being, and let me tell you something: It’s going to be so fucking emotional that I’m getting emotional right now just thinking about how emotional it’s probably going to be.

But we’ll get to that whenever the franchise runs its course. Until then, we’ve got the trailer for The Fate of the Furious.