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Why The Fast & Furious Movies Are Better Without Street Racing

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Despite starting out as a street racing title, the Fast and Furious movies have found their footing as a full-on action franchise. In 2001, the first Fast & Furious installment followed Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker), an LAPD officer who cracked down on Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew of illegal street racers. Brian struck up an unlikely friendship with Dom and fell in love with his sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), leading them to become a family.

Every following sequel kept raising the stakes through the roof, with Tokyo Drift expanding the scope of Fast & Furious beyond the United States. By Fast Five, cars had become weapons rather than vehicles, and the franchise had adopted the heist subgenre. Dom's crew, which ended up being composed of weapons experts, tech geniuses, Reggaeton legends, and Samoan powerhouses, started battling cyberterrorists and supervillains without falling into parody territory. With no way to cut back on its ambition, the Fast and Furious franchise embraced its high-octane action with global conspiracies, nuclear weapons, and trips to space. It may not have followed the original plans, but Fast & Furious definitely got bigger with time.

Much has been said about the lack of realism of the latest Fast & Furious movies, but it's unlikely they could have earned the amount of success that they did without evolving. If the franchise had followed the street racing approach, its narrative possibilities would have been limited to the underground world of cars. That doesn't mean the quality of the sequels would have suffered for it, but they surely wouldn't have been able to explore other narrative routes with the same level of freedom. Once the franchise "jumped the shark," a comedic Fast and Furious spinoff starring the baby-oiled antihero and the series' most sadistic villain made sense.

Few other franchises have gone through the same evolution as Fast & Furious. Titles like Mission Impossible and James Bond were conceived as spy movies, and all their sequels have kept following that approach, only with an increasingly bigger scale. Realism aside, the Fast & Furious franchise tells a well-crafted dramatic progression of a street racer who assembles a team of remarkable humans to become the saviors of the world. Quite absurd indeed, but it allows for breathtaking action sequences and a heartfelt - albeit flimsy in terms of logic - plot. What hasn't changed since the first installment is Fast & Furious' passion for car-themed adrenaline, adorned with emotional moments like Brian O'Conner's last goodbye.

Beyond the action-packed stunts that keep getting more elaborate with every new release, the most interesting aspect of the Fast and Furious franchise is how it refuses to stop evolving. No concept is too outlandish to tackle, and every new installment belongs to a previously unexplored genre. Cars are always at the center of the story, but the story always changes. The creative freedom of the movies means anything can happen. A franchise that starts with an illegal street race and ends with a space battle represents everything that the film medium can offer when creativity is prioritized over real-life logic.

F9/Fast & Furious 9 (2021)
Release Date: May 28, 2021
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