DNX Movies | From F9 to Black Widow : Treading the familiar

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Hannah A. Papasin
Writer. Critic. Professor. She started writing since primary school and now has two published textbooks on communication. A film buff, she's a Communication, Media Literacy and Journalism Professor of the University of St. La Salle-Bacolod, and has a Master's Degree in English.

From spinoffs to sequels, the entertainment scene has been banking on retreads, familiar faces, and niche markets.  Who needs an original story, and introduce interesting characters when formula has proven to be bankable?

Thus, the month has not been over, and yet we have so far a sequel from a major action movie franchise, and a spinoff movie from the biggest superhero franchise ever, bar none.

The ninth installment to the Fast and the Furious franchise, stylistically named F9, has Vin Diesel and the gang reprising their roles and then some.  The gorgeous Charlize Theron is also back, as well certain characters that fans had written off as dead.

The plot has something to do about a brother, a device called Ares, and shifting alliances. A new character was introduced, and the concept of family is reinforced.  Yes, I know I am being vague as hell here, but the FF franchise is soooo bankable and marketable, the story could as well be about monkeys being sent to space, and people will still watch it.

F9’s showing was overshadowed for a time by Black Widow, the much-awaited and long-delayed standalone movie of the lone woman Avenger from the OG.  The pandemic has pushed back the release date of the film, with fans joking that the film might be released once the star, Scarlet Johansson is infirm and on a wheelchair.

BW at least has a more streamlined story, more coherent, and perhaps because it has not been saddled by the need to cram every scene with stars (like what the FF franchise did – even bringing in a few screen time of Gal Gadot) – but instead focused on matters that need to be focused on, like a bit of a back story of the Black Widow and her ‘sister’ (played with loveable impishness by Florence Pugh, fresh from the success of Midsommar).

Adding acting heft to everything are reliable thesps David Harbour, and Rachel Weisz as the pseudo-parents of the sister-assassins.  Like the F9, the BW’s core theme is about family.  Unlike F9 however, said theme is handled with more coherence and panache without necessarily compromising what the fans also came for – high-octane action.

Both are replete with metareferences and humor, leaning precariously on the fourth wall, which is wise. F9’s stunt work and action scenes are getting sillier and sillier (but no less entertaining with a lot of suspension of disbelief) but the silliness gets a bit damped out with a bit of metahumor.

At this point, after all, people need a little familiar, a little comfort.  Much ink has been written about the utter lack of originality in Hollywood right now, but there is a little bit of comfort in the familiar.  Thus, the success of films like F9 which has a paper-thin plot but has a cast of characters that the fans have grown invested in, and spinoff movies that make us more invested in relatively marginalized characters.

The family theme is replete in the movies, like anvils dropped to ensure that the audience got the message right.  And it is precisely these central theme that has pulled audiences into these films that make fans devour them, because familiar after all still brings comfort especially during the pandemic.

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