Face-Off: The Fast & Furious series vs. The Transformers series

Welcome, welcome, my friends! Glad to see your shining, desensitized faces around here after all the chaos this series has put you through. There's been a lot of bloodshed, but also a great deal of triumph. Today will be no different with our competitors, two movie franchises that appeal to gear heads, destruction lovers and popcorn munchers alike: The FAST AND FURIOUS franchise and the TRANSFORMERS franchise.

Both series have movies coming out this year, with THE FATE OF THE FURIOUS arriving this Friday and (upcoming) TRANSFORMERS: THE LAST KNIGHT making its way to us June 23. After all these years both have entertained us beyond measure with grand, absurd set pieces and testosterone out the wazoo, and neither seems to be slowing down. The FURIOUS series already has been greenlit for a ninth and tenth outing, while 14 more TRANSFORMERS movies are on the table. I'll be dead by the time they all come out, and not from some accident either...just from becoming an old fat man.

However, we may have seen the last of one of these two franchises, as this contest will pit the two against each other until only one is left standing. Who will stand tall as the mindless-action series to end all mindless-action series?

Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto
Paul Walker as Brian O'Conner
Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz
Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto
Tyrese Gibson as Roman Pearce
Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as Taj Parker
Sung Kang as Han
Gal Gadot as Gisele
Dwayne Johnson as Luke Hobbs
Kurt Russell as Mr. Nobody
Nathalie Emmanuel as Ramsay
Luke Evans as Owen Shaw
Jason Statham as Deckard Shaw
Elsa Pataky as Elena
Shia LeBeouf as Sam Witwicky
Megan Fox as Mikaela Banes
Josh Duhamel as William Lennox
Tyrese Gibson as Sergeant Epps
John Turturro as Agent Simmons
Kevin Dunn as Ron Witwicky
Mark Whalberg as Cade Yeager
Stanley Tucci as Joshua Joyce
Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime
Hugo Weaving as Megatron
Mark Ryan as Bumblebee
John Goodman as Hound
Ken Watanabe as Drift
The series began with director Rob Cohen as
bringing us the first movie about some street racing criminals (led by Diesel) and the undercover cop who goes in to bring them down (Walker), only to succumb to their testosterone-filled antics. Since then the series has been helmed by John Singleton (2), Justin Lin (3-6), James Wan (7), and F. Gary Gray (8). Those are all talented directors in their own right, but the second they get behind the camera of a FAST movie their work just seems to mesh in with each others. Lin has done the most work on the series, and is responsible for both the for most forgettable in the series (TOKYO DRIFT), while managing to bring it new life (FAST FIVE). Despite all these different directors, the movies all feel the same. Singleton's failed to distinguish itself from Cohen's, while Wan's felt like Lin's Hopefully Gray's FAST 8 can buck the trend.
Now I know you see the little check mark above this paragraph, meaning I've done something I'd never thought I'd do in my life: give Michael Bay the win in a director's contest. Ah, it's like fire on my hands! Now I do so against my better judgement because what goes for the FAST franchise is the opposite here. TRANSFORMERS can't help but feel like Bay movies. His use of lens flares, ability to film gorgeous people against beautiful landscapes (all while having often great lighting) and having a gift with constructing absolute mayhem are all on display here. Yes, the movies are loud, the destruction is almost too much and the dialogue and plots are terrible, but Bay knows how to shoot his movies and among all the blockbuster directors working today has a style all his own, for better or worse. The TRANSFORMERS movies are his babies -- the absolute showcase of his work.
What would these movies be without the recurring exploitation of the human form? In FAST's case that comes in the form of hot girls driving girls, hot girls in bikini's dancing and shaking to Latin music, and Johnson never wearing a shirt with arms. No matter how dramatic these movies get there's always a place for scantly clad women who were tricked into thinking they were gonna be in a Pitbull video. As for the cast of women starlets like Rodriguez and Brewster have been with the franchise forever, kicking ass along with the boys and looking gorgeous doing it. Since then women like Gadot, Emmanuel, and Pataky have joined the ranks and proven just as capable and gorgeous.
No doubt Bay knows how to shoot beautiful women like does asteroids pummeling the earth, and in through the TRANSFORMERS he's introduced us to some stunning marvels of the female form, like Fox and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Boys young and old (and women too, I'm sure) fawned over a particular set of shots of Fox in the first film, of which the world got a little brighter for them. Hell, even all his extras look like they were plucked off the Victoria's Secret runway! Sure, Bay's quest seemingly obsessive need to shoot his leading ladies in a certain way is near ridiculous (when are they finding time to put on lip gloss while the building their in is falling?), but he has very good reasons for doing it, like...um...well...women's rights...and...uh...etc.
In the beginning these movies relied heavily on slick looking car chases for their action, which were decent but ultimately tiresome. By the fourth film you could see they were migrating to bigger and bolder things, and by FIVE they were in full-on blockbuster mode. The FAST movies took nearly a decade to get to that point, wherein gnarly, absolutely bonkers set pieces are at the forefront of the marketing campaign, but now when we think about the series that's all we think about. People turning out for these movies is less about seeing where the characters are going and less about what mad stunt they'll get themselves into. Oh, and to watch bald action stars beating each others bald asses.
TRANSFORMERS, on the other hand, has been living in the realm of crazy, larger-than-life action since the very first movie. Every major action sequence across all four films plays out like a Michael Bay cocaine dream. Cities are leveled, entire ecosystems are demolished and there's robo-blood splashing all around. The FAST movies have certainly caught up to this series in terms of ludicrous action, but the TRANSFORMERS movies will always have that large scale, sci-fi element that allows everything to be kicked up a notch. BAM!
Even though the new slate of films like to throw around the word "family" like a deranged monkey with it's own waste, we all know these movies are about revving engines, smashing pedals to the metal and driving supped-up super cars through insane set pieces. The love of the wheel has been the most consistent aspect of this saga evolving the use of fancy cars from street races to expensive CGI heists...and street races. It's hard to make car chases seem exciting after so many movies, but the series finds ways damn it.
The robots at the heart of the series use various automobiles to disguise themselves from the world, all before engaging in destructive combat in populated areas. But the cars are mostly just means of getting from one place to another in stylistic, commercial-quality fashion. The real action happens when the cars morph into giant punching robot aliens.
When you look at the certain scenes in these movies, like when a quadrillion ton bank vault is barrelling down the road, when a horde of cars (with people in them) are thrown out of a plane, or when Johnson is unleashed to bash some fools you can't help but laugh at the utter nonsense. But overall I find these movies take themselves almost too seriously. The attempt at heart by shoving the idea of "family" down everyone's throat gives some complexity to the characters that may please some die-hard fans, but for casual viewers it may come off as a little hammy and overbearing.
Whenever I watch a new trailer for these movies I get the feeling that the apocalyptic nature of the story is being used to give the series an emotional weight and gravitas. But Bay's sensibilities often get the best of him, and he can't help himself from playing up the silliness of these movies whenever he can. There are more attempts at humor (which often come off at laughably bad), and I never feel like he's trying to make a serious movie. This may be seen as a fatal flaw in the movies for fans -- the fact that they don't know how to be crazy action films AND good movies -- but even the worst ones offer blatant, mindless entertainment in between moments of pure stupidity.

1 Golden Globe nomination

3 Golden Schmoe nominations

Total franchise gross: $3.9 billion across seven films.

7 Academy Award nominations

12 Golden Schmoe nominations and 6 wins

Total franchise gross: $3.7 billion worldwide across four films.

Both series have defined themselves in the modern era as reliable, popcorn-movie franchises where all we can do is wonder how they'll stack up to their predecessors, both in quality and spectacle. What the FAST franchise has going for it is overall filmmaking quality. The movies on a whole are more well made, with more well-rounded scripts and solid stories accompanying the action. But, let's face it, no one is seeing these movies for the "complex character development", no matter how hard they try to convince themselves it is. It's all about the loud action, destruction and badassery. If the TRANSFORMERS movies win it's because there is simply no other series like it, and does all the above with gleeful abandon. Other franchises have fallen when trying to duplicate the movies' success (like TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES), but audiences continue to flock to TRANSFORMERS because even though the movies are often bad, nonsensical and mind-numbing there is an effortless entertainment value in them that you can't get anywhere else. No other series does robots punching like this series, and at the end of the day a Mustang that morphs into a robot is always better than a regular ol' Mustang, even if it does have Dwayne Johnson inside.

Which your favorite car-loving action franchise? Is it the parade of bald or the robo slugfest?




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