The core of Furious 7‘s argument for being a good film is that it transcends its character’s relationships within the film into a real-life brotherhood and camaraderie. Forget all of the hot cars, sexy women, gigantic muscles, revving engines, dizzying camera work, and surprise guest appearances from Rhonda Rousey and Iggy Azalea (whoops). None of that helps separate Furious 7 from any of the other movies within the franchise. We know what separates it. We know what this movie was really about. Paul Walker’s death, and the effect it had on the long-time cast of actors working within the franchise.
Questions over a particular actor or actresses death, when it comes in the wake of a giant movie franchise of which the particular performer’s character is integral to its success linger on for a long time. Many of them are positive, asking whether it will be a fitting role, if the movie will do due diligence, if the Oscars will commemorate it in some way, etc. Other reactions can tend to be cynical: Maybe the movie was only considered “good” because the guy died. For an actor like Heath Ledger, it was very obvious that the performance in The Dark Knight was not applauded simply because of Ledger’s untimely death. The character was extremely well written and Ledger, who was already considered a world class actor, pulled it off with a panache that shattered the movie screen and brought the Joker into our lives. In the same sense, Paul Walker’s death amidst the Fast & Furious franchise’s continuation brought his character closer to us because the friendship of Dom Toretto and Brian O’Connor was not only an on-screen brotherly love anymore. Vin Diesel and Paul Walker were real people, and they spent 14 years together filming an action film series.
Furious 7 does due justice to Paul Walker, not in its character development or in any of its stylistic beauty, but in the mere fact that they brought him along for one last ride, and they did it with all of the people who Walker had originally worked with from the first film. The film was really about the ride, one which force you to just sit back, take a deep breath and watch the 7 main characters do the most completely ridiculous, physics-destroying stunts and finish a job just like every other film.
Its hard to gage a film like this from a cinematic standpoint because its existence and purpose on a film screen is tied to one of its longtime veterans passing away, its a reality check for all of us that the actors who work on a film are real people, and even outside their characters, when they spend such a long time working on a project together, they really do become a family. I could go into the fact that whoever wrote the script for this movie put in very little effort because the acting was awful across the board and the story made almost zero sense even if it was easy to follow, but for the sake of understanding that this was not more than a tribute and a (potentially) last hurrah, like a final bike ride with your best friend before he moves away to another state, or senior week in college before you all graduate and move to different parts of the country, I’ll just let it sink in and take it for what it is.