To say that the The Fate of the Furious is a dumb movie may seem like the most obvious thing about that franchise. The script is an incredible hodgepodge of nonsense that defies any narrative, physical or even character logic. It’s fun at times, sure, but it is kind of amazing how far the movie wants us to buy all that gibberish. And, of course, how much people are willing to do so as it easily becomes the 12th highest grossing movie of all time. But you don’t earn billions of dollars without reaffirming what your audience believes about the world and what it has been taught by our culture.
The opening sequence in Cuba is so full of sexist and racist clichés, it’s embarrassing. Women are constantly cheering the men from the sidelines, while Havana looks like you stitched together every trope you could think of. There are no real characters or locations here just stand-ins and sets to confirm that the world is exactly the way you imagine it with all its stereotypes. The population of Havana has nothing better to do than to celebrate an illegal streetcar race that is going right through their city and endangers people for no real reason. The way director F. Gary Gray chooses to set his directorial credit is very telling: inside a car in which a pretty woman is as much decoration as the dice dangling from the rearview mirror (which recalls to the overt sexism that tarnished his Straight Outta Compton).
As always, there is so much collateral damage that it is hard to swallow. We blamed Man of Steel for not showing the consequences of the reckless destruction but Fate wants us to enjoy the mass deaths. For one, the victims are faceless and easily forgotten among the heap of crashed vehicles crushed by a gigantic wrecking ball. Second, there is almost no blood seen at any time, so the violence becomes basically invisible. It is also similar to the DC movies as the main characters are invincible and everyone around them is basically just there for their pleasure. Consider the way Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) randomly protects and hurts people during the prison escape. The New York sequence features endless off-screen deaths, mostly people driven over by our heroes as they race through parks, shops and sidewalks. There is a split second where one character weakly says ‘Watch out for the people’ but it’s irrelevant. Normal people don’t matter to these characters and their racing fetishes.
The movie is also great at reinforcing gender stereotypes. All the men constantly have to prove to each other that they are stronger than the other one, in constant competition, an endless dick measuring contest that repeatedly evokes gender biases (because real men are tough and strong, and if you’re not you become someone else’s ‘bitch’). They constantly judge women’s appearance or grade them on a scale. The women roll their eyes, which in this world probably constitutes as feminism.
Women generally don’t get to do much. Michelle Rodriguez gets to drive some cars and has to look kind of bummed because her husband has seemingly become evil (which is okay because she knows he isn’t really evil, so endangering and hurting his ‘family’ and civilians is fine). Charlize Theron has the best female role but doesn’t do much more than hissing through one villain monologue after another and talking to screens (without a clear motive). Nathalie Emmanuel seems to be around only because she was in the last movie and plays no role for the plot in any way, mostly just riding along with the others. And poor Elsa Pataky spends her screen time being locked up, crying and being killed so that Toretto (Vin Diesel) has a reason to fight back. She is the most stereotypical women-in-a-refrigerator you could imagine. What a terrible throwback.
Again, it’s hard to deny that all of this is entertaining, not the least because of its stupidity. Its grand and ridiculous set pieces are astonishing and some few moments are truly funny. But in a way the entertainment factor makes you ignore the sexism, the stereotypes, the glorification of cars and money, the overall emphasis on MORE and BIGGER that reinforces our culture’s most destructive tendencies.