This week’s Galaxy Brains considers Fast and Furious as a faith-based franchise
The Fast and Furious movies can’t just be about cars, can they? After nine films in the Fast Saga, audiences are ready to accept a higher purpose to these adventure stories. But are they ready to accept … a higher power?
Dominic Toretto, the humble father/petty thief/hired mercenary/international superspy/short king, seems to get stronger and stronger after every installment of the franchise. In F9, he takes on 20 bad guys at once, then rips down a large concrete structure before almost drowning during an extended, surrealist flashback sequence that may or may not be Dom’s entire life flashing before his eyes. How is this even possible, given that Dom is just a regular guy who’s good at driving? Well, maybe he’s not a regular guy.
The Fast series preaches the idea that it’s all about family, but seen another way, where Dom is an actual guardian angel, it starts looking all about faith. At what point does the belief these characters have in their ability to jump a Dodge Charger over a canyon require a parallel faith in God? Speaking of God, Mr. Nobody sure seems like some kind of deity, always watching, and always there to pull the strings.
I’m not just referring to the religious imagery of Furious 7, which was made heavier due to the untimely, tragic death of Paul Walker. Religion is all over these movies, from Dom’s iconic cross pendant to the now-requisite Last Supper-esque barbecues that close each film.
In a new episode of Galaxy Brains, Jonah Ray and I are joined by Los Angeles Times film writer, Asian Enough podcast host, and one of the leaders of the #JusticeForHan movement, Jen Yamato, to get to the bottom of the biblical implications of expensive cars going really fast. Here’s an excerpt of our conversation (which has been edited for clarity). Please also note this conversation goes into heavy spoiler territory for F9.
Dave: There is a moment in this film where Tyrese gives his monologue about how they never get hurt and they have not died throughout years of some of the most ridiculous adventures that anyone could possibly go on.
Jen: You might even call it Tyrese’s Galaxy Brain moment.
Dave: You might call it that! That’s what led me to this idea that Dom is actually an angel, that Dom and all of the Fast Family are deceased and are in Purgatory. Mr Nobody is God. Cipher is the devil. And this is the Book of Revelations taking place in our reality. Am I crazy? Is this madness?
Jen: I’m open to the possibility, and certainly when you lay out all of the religious imagery and symbolism that has been seeded in throughout the entire franchise, you’re like, hold on a second, what is going on here?
Dave: Listen, it’s important that you’re just open to it. You don’t have to say yes. I might convince you down the road in this conversation. But the fact that you’re open to this means that we can have a dialog.
Jen: Let’s hear it.
Dave: Let’s talk about the biblical allusions in this movie, because this is a movie about brothers, right? Brothers fighting, brothers splitting up. So that makes me think about Cain and Abel. There’s resurrections. There’s crosses everywhere. People are always talking about faith in these movies, especially Dom.
Jen: Don’t forget redemption.
Dave: Yeah, there are constantly people turning from being bad to being good. It happens in every movie now. I’m sure when you sat down to watch this, you’re thinking there’s no way Jake stays evil the entire movie. And of course, by the end of it, Jake is a good guy.
Jen: It’s kind of funny, though, if forgiveness is being taught to us by Dom Toretto in the last two movies with the forgiveness of Deckard Shaw, a man who for years now has been explicitly banned from my family barbecues, if this franchise is actually trying to help teach us forgiveness, then maybe I would begin to consider it, but for many years now, I have been deeply resentful of Shaw for what he did to Han.
Dave: Now that we know what we know, can you forgive Decker Shaw? Because he was either a part of Mr. Nobody’s plan to hide Han in Tokyo or he was just really bad at his job and never killed anybody in the first place. So do you forgive him now? And do you think that Han will forgive him knowing that in the post-credits stinger of this movie, they meet up and there’s going to be a reckoning of some sort?
Jen: The continual reckoning of established fact and canon in this franchise has been interesting because it’s then affected how I think of characters and how I think of ideas like forgiveness. So the revelation of F9 tells me that the filmmakers are paying attention to how people receive these films.
Dave: Do you think Vin Diesel actually considers the biblical aspects of this story?
Jen: I think Vin Diesel is a deep thinker. I think he’s open to artistic meaning being laid into this franchise about street racers. The fact that this started out as a story about brawny guys racing cars and a motley crew of DVD player-stealing small-time criminals with cars turned into this thing where cars fly and there are these almost apocalyptic contraptions that they’re saving not just themselves, but humanity from. I feel like you have to think that Vin Diesel has had his eye on a bigger picture for a long time now.
For a deep dive into F9, or to hear our episodes on the way Loki completely transforms the Marvel viewing experience, A Quiet Place Part II taking all the wrong lessons from John Carpenter, Cruella’s Disney-approved punk aspirations, Josie and the Pussycats as an anti-capitalist masterpiece, the animated soul of Star Wars (featuring Patton Oswalt), and the pro-wrestling soul of Mortal Kombat, check out the Galaxy Brains feed, wherever you get your podcasts