From The Fast and the Furious to Star Trek, Hollywood just «doesn’t respect your puny cars or motorcycles anymore»
I’ve seen films recently. Lots of films. Show me a sci-fi space station and I’ll show you where all of the perilously placed switches are.
I can see where a bad guy’s monologue is going to land him into trouble before he’s even started saying it.
And I’m worried that Hollywood has given up on the car as a serious actor. I say worried – that’s not quite the right word. I’m beyond worry or denial or anger, or any of the other emotions associated with grieving. I’ve reached a desperate stage of acceptance that there’s never going to be redemption for film cars because it’s official: Hollywood doesn’t respect your puny cars or motorcycles any more. It sees them as tools, amusebouches, methods of placing actors in ludicrous situations or moving them from one fight to another. The best you can hope for a film car these days is that it plays no significant part at all, beyond being a mere accessory to the scene, like a table, or a sandwich, or a cigarette nobody finishes.
Woe betide a vehicle if it’s featured. Let’s begin with a Star Trek flick I saw on a plane. Now, there’s this – and this might sound far-fetched – cloaked spaceship on a secret planet inside an impenetrable nebula, where Captain Kirk finds a motorcycle. Well, he would, wouldn’t he?
The bike was abandoned on this ship more than a century ago; conveniently, standing next to the control bridge, obviously.
And, naturally, what with warp drives being all the rage and this being an otherwise barren planet, there’s enough petrol for it and it fires up and works perfectly. Perhaps they don’t make ’em like they will in 2199.
I don’t mind the ridiculousness of the rest of it. The absurd fights; how the USS Enterprise’s captain routinely considers the ship to be disposable; and how alien life forms are, mostly, and conveniently for the make-up department, bipeds with two of everything who stand about 6ft tall.
I don’t mind any of that. But finding a scrambler that’ll work after standing for 150 years is less believable than the CGI landscape it then rides through.
I didn’t expect much from The Fate of the Furious – the eighth in the ‘Furious’ series – either. But at least, I thought, it’s about cars, so hope springs. It didn’t for long.
As the credits rolled at the end, my 13-year-old turned to me and said: “I thought you might leave.”
“Well, there was some realism there,” I said, putting on my best un-disappointed face. “Technically, it’s possible to hijack a car using the internet, if it has, say, web access that is connected to the CAN bus, as is the electrically assisted steering, by-wire throttle and brakes, but to hijack hundreds at once does sound unlikely.” That’s the kind of non-stop fun-loving inspiration I like to be to young people.
“I meant at the start,” he said, “where the slowest car in Cuba beats the fastest car by driving over the finish backwards, and on fire.”
I agreed that this bit was quite unlikely, as was a nuclear submarine outrunning lots of performance cars.
All this, presumably, passes by the cinema goer who has as little interest in cars as I do in computers, martial arts, law, guns, medicine or a million other subjects. They just see drama unfolding. I see an abuse of physics.