It might come as a surprise to learn that I am excited about the release of furious 7 the seventh confusingly named installment in the blockbuster "Fast & Furious" franchise. If you'll forgive me stereotyping myself, I'm a bespectacled superhero fan that spends way too much money shopping online at Bonobos and way too much time rewatching "Mad Men" -- I'm on my second go 'round in a year with that series. The list of Things I Just Don't Have The Energy To Care About includes wrestling and car culture, pretty near the top. If I was to give into the stereotype of me, you would think that I'd much rather sit at home and stream Wes Anderson movies through my Apple TV -- or something else equally tech-y and twee -- than go see The Rock pound his muscle-fists into Jason Statham's muscle-face.
Nope! I'm excited about "Furious 7" and -- after seeing another explosion/stunt/gun/muscle-filled TV spot for the movie last night -- I think I know why. The latter installments in the "Fast & Furious" franchise are basically "X-Force" movies.
And you all know how much I love "X-Force." This column is named after the bombastic way the credit boxes were heralded in the early issues of "X-Force." Of course I'm specifically talking about the '90s series; nothing against the later half dozen iterations of the team, but I see such a comparison between the first decade of that comic's existence and this massive, blockbuster franchise. If Fox ever gets around to making an "X-Force" movie, it would be a very smart move to pattern the whole thing around the last few "Furious" films. They're that spot on.
"How spot on are they?" you ask, in true "Match Game" fashion. See? I'm a fan of classic game shows and "Fast & Furious." I'm pushing the boundaries of stereotypes as hard as Dwayne Johnson's pecs push Under Armour shirts. The first comparison I've thought of actually explains my relatively newfound fandom. Both "X-Force" and "Fast & Furious" are about evolution. They both started out as one thing -- the teen-drama series "New Mutants" and a "Romeo & Juliet" with cars series -- and morphed into a more extreme version of themselves.
"New Mutants" left the '80s and entered the action-oriented early '90s as "X-Force," a series starring a hard-hitting group of young adults who blew things up first and asked questions rarely. I avoided the "Fast & Furious" films for over a decade because I had no interest in everything they put in the trailers for the first couple of films. The first film came out in between my junior and senior year of high school and at that time, yes, I would have much rather watched "Empire Records" for the hundredth time than watch a high-octane romance set in the world of street-racing. To 17-year-old me, "The Fast and the Furious" seemed like a movie for popular kids, and I liked Weezer.
But without me knowing, the "Fast & Furious" franchise changed into something completely different. This is the point I stress to a lot of my peers, who themselves missed out on the series when it launched due to similar stereotype-enforcing allegiances to Weezer, not being mainstream, etc. At some point -- I think with 2011's "Fast Five" -- the franchise shifted gears and became an over-the-top action franchise, leaving all the pretense of being street-racing behind. Suddenly Dom Toretto and his family are world-renowned thieves with S.H.I.E.L.D.-level resources and Black Widow-level training. With "Fast Five," the franchise pulled an "Avengers" before "Avengers" and united characters from previously disparate early installments. This fascinated me and after hearing the film discussed on the "How Did This Get Made?" podcast, I knew I had to watch it. I was not disappointed. The franchise had grown into something completely unlike what it had been before, much like "X-Force" when compared to "New Mutants."
But come on, the biggest similarity between the two is the level of absolutely bonkers action. X-Force has caused property damage all over the world and narrowly escaped form exploding mountains to exploding space stations and everything in between -- and they did so while carrying the biggest guns (Cable, Domino), having the biggest muscles (Cable, Warpath) and brandishing the sharpest swords (Shatterstar). They also brandished a middle finger, directed at all authority figures, while doing this. When the government sent their team X-Factor after the, X-Force fought back hard; after being incarcerated in the Danger Room by the X-Men, X-Force's leader Cannonball negotiated their release and told off Professor X -- nearly slapping the guy, too! -- on the way out. X-Force was angry and rebellious but never villainous, even if Nick Fury thought of them as criminals.
That describes the "Fast & Furious" gang perfectly, and they've enjoyed their fair share of ridiculous stunts. Remember that chase scene where two cars dragged a bajillion ton vault behind them, destroying seemingly every bus stop and car in Rio? Remember the tank? The time the team crashed a cargo jet with just cables and their cars? Remember when Vin Diesel drove a car out of the front of that exploding cargo jet?! This is a franchise that has used the phrase "vehicular warfare" and not only meant it, but had the action to make that ludicrous phrase seem like an understatement. And come on -- have you seen the arsenal Dwayne Johnson is packing in "Furious 7"? He is basically Cable.
I also see a lot of similarities in the cast of both franchises. First, they're both noticeably multicultural -- "Fast" more than "Force," but "Force" way more than the rest of their X-Peers. Throughout its run, X-Force featured the Native American superheroes Warpath and Dani Moonstar, of Apache and Cheyenne extraction, respectively; Feral and Rictor, both of Latin-American descent; the Afro-Brazilian Sunspot; and Jesse Bedlam, an African American. The only white American in pretty much the entire "Furious" franchise was the late Paul Walker. The "Fast" franchise has, with its diverse cast, earned nearly a billion dollars over the past fourteen years, while most other film series struggle to justify not casting minorities in lead roles. If "X-Force" were to get made, I want it to look like the "Fast & Furious" films -- especially because superhero movies can never stop improving their diversity.
Both casts also formed familial bonds based on shared experience and mutual respect. That's what I love most about X-Force, really. I love the way the team never forgets its New Mutants roots; Cannonball and Sunspot traveled across the world to tell Karma about the death of their mutual teammate Illyana and Warpath helped Siryn fight alcoholism. The team even welcomed Dani Moonstar back after years spent undercover with the terrorist Mutant Liberation Front. Heck, the team risked their lives to save Cable's artificial intelligence, Professor! They cared about each other; put every Hallmark-worthy statement grumbled by Vin Diesel into Cable's mouth and it still works.
Lastly, I think the two parallel each other because I've had to make these same arguments individually to evangelize each franchise. People throw hate at "X-Force" and "Fast & Furious" -- at least in the circles I run in. It doesn't matter that "X-Force" #1 was the highest-selling comic for a hot minute or that the "Furious" films beat box office records every time they hit the highway, there's something about both that just demands snark from certain people. Of course, "X-Force" didn't achieve the same level of critical acclaim that the "Fast" franchise has -- check them RT scores -- but it did temporarily tap into something that was felt and enjoyed by a million people. I'd argue that it did so better than most all of its early '90s peers, much like how the "Fast" movies stay fresh while every other franchise catches deadly doses of sequel-itis.
After realizing all of these connections, "X-Force" and "Fast & Furious" will be forever tied in my mind. They're brothers, each possessing a big heart between pairs of bulging biceps.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He makes videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1 and writes for the sketch comedy podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).