Anghus Houvouras on Fast & Furious 7…
Record breaking box office. Critical praise. A groundswell of support for a well liked actor making his last big screen appearance. Furious 7 has become a massive blockbuster that is getting love from ticket buyers and critics.
But it’s still garbage.
That’s right. Furious 7 is trash. Warmed over refuse. Bad acting. Cartoonish, unrealistic action. Plots that not only defy logic but give it the middle finger. It doesn’t matter how much you enjoy it or how popular it becomes. Just because you find it filling doesn’t mean you’re not eating from the waste bin.
There’s nothing wrong with cinematic garbage. There are a few films that I dearly love that are more suited to the film landfill than the AFI top 100. The problem we face are the legions of lowest common denominators that are trying to repackage garbage as credible art. They’re taking the half eaten fast food hamburger, scraping off the mustard and pickles, placing it on a piece of fine china and calling it filet mignon.
The fast food comparison feels apt as movies like Furious 7 are the cinematic equivalent of junk food. Empty calories, engineered to maximize profits with the least amount of effort. While you might love cramming that dollar cheeseburger into your gaping maw, most would agree that it’s not good for anybody.
I wrote about ‘critical relent’ years ago when discussing Fast Five. That moment when critics realize that their disdain for something is meaningless. Audiences still flock to the theaters in spite of their warnings. Eventually they relent, not wanting to appear to be out of touch with the current pop culture happenings, and movies like Fast & Furious are crucified whereas something like Furious 7 is hailed as genius, even though they are basically the exact same movie. The themes, the structure, the physics defying car craziness.
The danger in this scenario comes from people who want to see the world align more to their sensibilities. I participated in a ridiculous discussion last month when some wonderful buffoon said “Why couldn’t something like Furious 7 get nominated for Best Picture.”
Tap the brakes, Dom. You’ve been huffing too much N05.
A similar discussion took place last year around Guardians of the Galaxy, when the very rabid fan base for the movie used it as an example as the kind of mainstream blockbuster that deserved consideration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Science. Passionate fans pointed to critical praise and exceptional box office as a one-two proof positive punch that Guardians could be seriously considered a contender.
Guardians of the Galaxy was a lot of fun. One of the most engaging blockbusters of 2014. However, if you start talking ‘Best Picture nominee’, you’re going to need to bring more to the table than critical praise and a license to print money. Because that’s how we end up with Avatar almost winning Best Picture. That was a dodged bullet, my friends.
Guardians isn’t garbage, but it’s still fast food. Really good fast food. Most blockbusters are Burger King. Guardians of the Galaxy was In and Out Burger. It’s not, nor will it ever be, fine dining.
Most cinema fans are well-intentioned, and their desire to see a movie like Guardians of the Galaxy nominated for Best Picture comes from a good place. Still, the onus behind it is selfish. People want their tastes validated. Not seeing the crowd pleasing big hit movies get love from the award ceremonies makes them feel invalidated. As if the people who help choose award recipients are still cultivating bias against comic book movies. Though, if we’re being intellectually honest and attempting to be objective, calling Guardians of the Galaxy a deserving Best Picture nominee only proves that your inner child is in need of some serious schooling and maturation.
Furious 7 is one of those critic proof movies. The franchise has proved that time and again. This is a series people love. They love the stars and the cars. The exotic locations and the impossible stunts. No matter how many people love these movies, they’re still at best fast food and at worst garbage. And that’s fine: there’s value in garbage. There are entire species who’s entire diet consists of waste. There’s also a place for junk food. Entire multinational corporations make their fortunes on the production of tasty trash. Lots of people (myself included) find temporary contentment stuffing greasy, partially hydrogenated meat products into their fat faces. The key is, don’t confuse fast food with fine dining. Enjoy that fast food. Appreciate it for what it is: a quick, convenient fix that can be quite enjoyable.
But don’t confuse it for quality, and don’t try to tell me that it’s just as good as a filet mignon. And just because lots of people like it doesn’t mean it’s worthy of praise.
Anghus Houvouras is a North Carolina based writer and filmmaker. His latest work, the novel My Career Suicide Note, is available from Amazon. Follow him on Twitter.