I’ll admit it. I was never really a Fast and the Furious fan. It’s not that there was ever anything wrong with the series, it’s just that there was never anything there for me to get excited about. I watched the first movie when it came out, was reasonably happy with it and moved on.
It took Paul Walker’s tragic death for me to realize that there were so damned many of those movies now. I never really paid any attention to them before, so Vin Diesel spouting off in a trailer about family every couple of years only made me vaguely aware that there were more than one of these. Two or three I could understand, maybe four at a stretch, but seven?
What’s more is that it wasn’t some studio-driven behemoth franchise that kept making money despite itself like Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean. It was never “too big to fail.” It’s Point Break with cars, and even the critics seemed mostly behind the franchise by this point.
I kept hearing reports of fans leaving the movie in tears. And this wasn’t just them crying – but being reduced to heaving, blubbering messes. It wasn’t just men, wasn’t just women, wasn’t even just fans that had been there from day one. This was pretty much every single person who bought a ticket to see it.
And after seeing the tribute to Paul Walker at the end of the movie, I totally get it. You knew that it was going to be there. It had to be there. You could even pretty well guess exactly how they were going to do it, too. But the thing was, once you saw it play out in front of you, it actually was a monstrously emotional scene.
Now I’m not an especially emotional guy. I tear up at the end of Schindler’s List, but that’s pretty near it. But watching that last scene of Furious 7 really takes it out of you: even if you haven’t seen a single one of the movies since the first one.
It works because, in the end, it’s not manipulation: it’s commemoration. It’s an emotionally honest farewell to the man that had devoted the last fourteen years of his life to the franchise. And when it’s over and the words “For Paul” hit the screen, you know that that’s exactly what it means. And if a send-off like that, divorced from seven films of continuity, can leave that kind of an impact on me, maybe it’s about time for me to give the series another look.