Quick Reviews: 'F9: The Fast Saga' | 'Chaos Walking'
F9: THE FAST SAGA
Oh man, where do you even start with this one? Director and co-writer Justin Lin's F9: The Fast Saga, tenth movie in the 'Fast & Furious' franchise, happens to feature all the unthinkable and predictable things you can imagine for an entry coming this far into the series. The crew led by Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) comes back together once again to stop the plans of Dom's long-lost brother Jakob (John Cena), Jakob's sidekick Otto (Thue Ersted Rasmussen) and previously introduced cyberterrorist Cipher (Charlize Theron) which cause a threat to worldwide weapons systems that the trio seeks to control, meanwhile Dom also thinks that Jakob is to blame for their dad's fatal accident. Dom and Letty are joined by Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Mia (Jordana Brewster) and Tej (Ludacris) from the old crew, as well as few other familiar faces from previous films.
Even explaining the setup for F9 felt like a massive achievement since the final effort definitely doesn't make it easy, comprehensible or, worst of all considering the franchise, fun. This time it really stuck out to me that the cast's synergy is really what is enjoyable about these films and there casting director Rachel Tenner and Lin once again find some gold. The ''original'' cast seems to have plenty of fun which translates well, plus the young actors playing versions of Dom and Jakob are well-suited. Other than that, F9 doesn't really get past first gear. Lin and co-writer Daniel Casey's script is terribly disjointed and messy, offering nothing but platitudes and odd relationships between characters. The script also leads to the film's biggest problem: nothing feels to be at stake so you don't care about the situations or the characters as in what will happen to them. Everyone is so invincible that you'd think that the makeup artists barely even had to show up, few ''twists'' that are there you can see coming from a mile away and because nothing is risky, the action scenes don't really feature action, instead they're just loudness visualised. Perfect example is the first action sequence which has amateurish firearm choreography, no sense of space and an awfully staged fake death. Nothing in F9 matters, not even the family.
Frowneys: Screenplay, stunt choreography, makeup, characterisation
Jakob's plan went to Otto pilot.
In recent years we've had several film adaptations of young adult novels which studios always hope to build franchises out of so naturally it is once again time for one, this time it just happens to be Chaos Walking, titled after the trilogy series by Patrick Ness who is also a screenwriter here with Christopher Ford. Director's chair went to Doug Liman while the movie features Tom Holland (as Todd Hewitt) and Daisy Ridley (as Viola) in the leading roles. The year is 2257 and we find Todd living in New World where all the residents, them all being men now after a war with ''alien species'' Speckles was fatal to all women, can hear and see everyone's thoughts through telepathy and smoke-like visions called ''Noise''. One day a spaceship crashes nearby the town and soon Todd finds Viola whose presence has alerted Mayor Prentiss (played by Mads Mikkelsen) and so soon Todd and Viola escape to a new colony as they begin to unravel secrets about Prentiss and the war that wiped out all women.
There's quite a lot to dig into with that setup and Chaos Walking does get pretty far with the mystery element and two charismatic leads who often do make the material better than it sometimes is. With these YA adaptations, you usually get the feeling that you're not trusted to comprehend everything - even when characters themselves don't - so that tends to come out as exposition. That doesn't really happen here and the movie isn't afraid to feel realistically brutal at times (animals often do suffer from mistakes of humanity). Where the script and direction lose the plot a little is when it tries to build the meaning of Prentiss because he is left on the background while we follow Todd and Viola, this leads to the final act not having enough stakes to make an emphasis. There are also clear mistakes in the filmmaking such as the forest chase sequence where the visual effects are lacking or visualisation of the Noise which becomes old real fast. What saves enough of the film is that there are distinct ideas here, therefore making it rise above the surface of merely surviving a situation, or just being drowned in CGI-heavy world-building.
Smileys: Pacing, premise
Fitting title: a lot of chaos and walking to be discovered here.