Fifteen years ago my life changed, and for the better.
Last Wednesday marked the anniversary of that transformative experience and so I sat down in a theatre by myself to watch my favourite movie of all time and reflect on it’s impact on my own life – I remember that first experience like it was yesterday, dear readers.
My best and oldest friend, who we’ll call Rick for the sake of the story, was living in the city of Airdrie and I was visiting him for a couple of weeks at the start of the summer. We had grown up on the same block, living in mirrored houses of all things, and we spent most of our free time together, though we did go to different schools and had somewhat different hobbies, we were inseperable. Life was pretty good for two young boys, and we got into all kinds of adventures until he moved to Drumheller for his dads new job after the final year of elementary school.
So Rick and his family lived in Drumheller for the next 3 years and we would hang out for at holidays and in the summer, and we did our best to keep in touch. Initially with letters and phone calls, migrating to MSN messenger as new tech become available. And then Rick and his family moved a second time – now to Airdrie for another 3 years, right at the start of high school. I mention this because it helps bookend those memories for Rick and I and it REALLY helps me in the recall of this tale.
In the summer of 2001 Rick and I had both finished grade 10, hormones raging away. We decided to sneak into an 18A movie, but because we weren’t 18 yet, we needed to buy tickets for another movie first. What did we want to see you ask? Well if your memory is as good as mine, you’ll know that Swordfish had just come out that summer, and Halle Berry was paid an additional $500,000 to go topless in the movie. $250,000 per breast if you want to be specific.
As straight CIS males in the midst of puberty, and who didn’t have high speed internet, money, or legal adult status, nudity was in high demand for us. To put it another way the sexuality supply was short. And so, context given.
But we chickened out, and ended up in the theatre for The Fast and the Furious instead. Thus, my first taste of this franchise was born. On first pass I thought it was a fun action movie, but I didn’t make too big of a deal out of it, because I didn’t drive yet, and the actors were unknown. It was quotable though.
The summer concluded, and I went back to school, though I decided it was high time to get a part-time job at an arcade called Playdium. I learnt a lot about retail, people, and West Edmonton Mall working there, but most of all I watched a lot of partial movies on my breaks. I must of seen The Fast and the Furious in 30 and 15 minutes pieces over 15 complete times that year. This is because one of the older techs at Playdium lived on his own and would record movies from the movie channel onto VHS and bring it in for the staff. And so the quotes and culture of the first Fast became ingrained in my mind.
It was tough to invest in the franchise though, because as the as the first couple of sequels came out, I was entering into university, and getting involved with hipsters and philosopher king types. So my love of movies and brooding love for Vin Diesel and Paul Walker took a back seat. I would tell people it was my favourite movie, mostly under the thin veil of irony, and I also proclaimed that it was a standalone film.
Then I graduated from university and a couple of years later Fast & Furious came out in April of 2009 – I finally had a true sequel with the original cast and the beginnings of a tie-in with the 2nd and 3rd entries. As movies were added, the ensemble cast grew and the relationships between characters evolved. And then I realized that I had grown as well.
As a cultivators of the arts, a student of film, and a fan of this franchise, I can say confidently that The Fast and the Furious instills values of friendship, love, and family from it’s first few minutes all the way throughout its films and into the culture.
Best of all, in watching this limited release I had an opportunity to see advance footage from the set of the 8th instalment, and I was not disappointed. This is a franchise that has grown organically and so has it’s fanbase. I was so happy to see a packed theatre last Wednesday, and you really do feel like part of a family sharing with these actors and their characters.
Most of the already existing posts on this re-release have focused on the scale of the franchise and the “improbability” of it’s success. But what has been ignored time and time again is that at it’s core The Fast and the Furious is about heart and honour, it started out as films about car thieves, and slowly evolved into superheroes, but the heart has always been there, and I think that’s why it’s beaten the odds. But hey, that might just be a theory.