It used to be very important to have a movie critic, or a set of movie critics, that you trusted. Because, at heart, movie reviews are service journalism, in that I need to know if paying $15 and spending two hours in a theater is a good use of money or time. It’s looking like F9 is going to clear that threshold.
The critics I trusted in the old days were A.O. Scott and Manohla Dargis at the The New York Times, Anthony Lane at The New Yorker, and the late, great Roger Ebert. It is not that I thought that any of them were particularly right or smart about movies, though they were and are, it was more that over time I recognized that we liked a lot of the same things. If Ebert thought a movie was good, it almost always was, and vice versa.
But now I don’t read nearly as many movie reviews as I used to because there are too many shows, and what made movies fun in the old days was arguing about them with friends. Now, media is splintered into a million pieces and everyone has their own favorite shows and YouTube channels, video games, and a lot of other distractions that are just a click away.
This was not how it worked in the old days (the ‘90s), when if you wanted to see a show you had to actively think about when and what channel it was on or there was a good chance you would miss it. DVR made “appointment TV” obsolete, while the pandemic has had the effect of making the situation fully the opposite. I couldn’t tell you, for example, what or when the next big shows will be because we already have so many shows and we’re all drowning in choices.
And yet, there are still some franchises that manage to cut through noise, and the Fast & Furious franchise is one of them. F9 is out Friday in theaters here in the States (not streaming), and it’s looking like it’ll be the first true summer blockbuster in two years, with pandemic restrictions being eased. I’m sure you have seen one of the trailers by now:
I stopped watching Fast & Furious movies after Fast Five — it seemed like a peak at the time — and this new Fast & Furious looked to me like it could be incredibly bad, or like it could be incredibly awesome, or like it could be a combination of both.
I was prepared to ignore F9, in other words, but then I read a positive review by A Movie Critic Whose Taste I Trust — Allison Willmore in New York magazine — and that was all it took to get me amped. You don’t have to take her word for it, though, as F9 is currently at 63 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which to me says “watchable,” and that is enough.
And it’s entirely possible that critics want the first true blockbuster in two years to be watchable, and that everyone is grading on a curve, but I will be, too, when I see it, my first movie in a theater since Before. I’ll also buy popcorn, which I never do, and get a big drink. It will be almost impossible for it to be nothing short of a blast.