- The Fast and the Furious franchise has had its share of celebrity drama and controversy, with conflicts between actors and actresses threatening its stability.
- For those seeking a car-centric, action-packed alternative without the drama, the Death Race franchise offers an otherworldly and violent take on racing that has its own cult following.
On June 22nd, 2001, the world of car racing cinema was changed forever when a little-known movie called The Fast and the Furious made its premiere at the Mann Village Theatre in Los Angeles. Starring Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, the head honcho of a team of thieves, and Paul Walker as an undercover officer in the LAPD who is sent in to infiltrate and investigate Mr. Toretto’s crew, audiences were left in an adrenaline-packed frenzy and just wanted more of this action-packed world.
While critics pointed out holes in its story and questioned its overall sustainability, ten more films, fifteen different video games, and a real-life theme park attraction attest to the franchise’s longevity with audiences all over the world. As with any other long-lasting cinematic universe, some underlying problems have also naturally arisen in conjunction with these unique and undercover racing blockbusters that leave unforgettable stains on the franchise for years to come.
While many of those who love these types of movies agree that sometimes the stunts portrayed can get too unrealistic to be believable in any sense of the word, the Fast and the Furious has also been plagued with celebrity drama since the second film. From Vin Diesel himself starting with the writers over creative differences to the legacy actor having a feud with Dwayne Johnson over opposing philosophies to fellow actor Tyrese Gibson barraging the former WWE superstar with remarks that teased some on-set hostilities, it really seemed the franchise was beginning to implode. Even actress Michelle Rodriguez teased leaving this line of movies at some point, claiming women were being treated unfairly.
Family Memes Plague Fast and Furious
These inside rivalries could be plucked out of The Fast and the Furious and very well put into any other long-lasting big-screen series. Actors, actresses, and production companies not getting along is a tale as old as time, but fans themselves have taken controversies one step further.
Playing with Vin Diesel’s character from Fast X and his over-the-top seriousness regarding the importance of family, moviegoers stormed the internet with memes that connected this particular instance with other non-related topics like SpongeBob, Twilight, and Batman.
With the franchise becoming a parody of itself, fans are looking elsewhere for hard-hitting and message-filled productions of cars and explosions. Surprisingly, just the right type of alternate universe was already created in 1975, with actors Sylvester Stallone and the late David Carradine not only racing for nationwide prestige but also gaining infamous notoriety through some very violent collisions.
Racing For the Thrills . . . and Kills
While the Death Race franchise was also known for sequels and spin-offs, the original release and the 2008 retelling capture an otherworldly dynamic that takes the best concepts from The Fast and the Furious world and turns them on their head. While the former is obviously considered visually and textually cheesy by the cinematic standards of today (one of the main racers is called Frankenstein), story elements from this film would not be woven into any of today’s movies, and here’s why.
A barbaric and dystopian society thrives on this carnage-based cross-country race where not only do finish lines, and checkpoints become the name of the game, but also massive points are given out to those racers who literally run people over (of all ages!) Fan clubs for the drivers willingly sacrifice one another for the fame of getting hit, and hospitals wheel out the elderly right in front of the high-speed cars as a form of extreme cost-cutting measures. It’s car-on-car mayhem with no memes to be had. Also, a plot twist towards the end really cements Death Race 2000 as a racing cult favorite among fans.
Fast-forward 33 years later, and we have the aptly named Death Race remake, starring Jason Statham, Tyrese Gibson (an F&F alumni at this point), and Ian McShane. While most of the more vicious details don’t carry over, and killings don’t instill points, much more realistic detail is given to explosions, destruction, and intricacies of the cars (within a cinematic context, anyway).
A more heroic persona is placed on the main driver, and the characters try to work together in the end to escape the tormented and sadistic circuit. While the look and feel of this movie are more in tune with The Fast and The Furious’s babe-and-car movie recipe, Death Race does bring the original into modern times.
Keeping the Franchise Alive
As mentioned before, there are numerous prequels and sequels that come out after Jason Statham’s version. The next installment is a prequel to the 2008 version; then Inferno falls directly in between the two previously mentioned. Death Race 2050 is a direct sequel to the 1975 film, and Death Race: Beyond Anarchy is a direct sequel to Statham’s film. This franchise really feels like The Fast and The Furious with its confusing timeline and car-based craziness. Well, without the paradoxical memes and parodies, of course.
With all that being said, if you are looking for a Fast and Furious replacement that can give thrills and excitement without a lot of drama and genre teasing, look no further because the entirety of Death Race is just a streaming service away. Just don’t get caught up fawning over a driver because you might find yourself on the wrong side of the track!
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