The Fast and the Furious Trilogy Blu-ray Review with D-BOXMarch 24, 2009
The Fast and the Furious film trilogy is as bumpy a ride from inside its souped-up racers as it is for spectators. The series got off to a thrilling start with Vin Diesel and Paul Walker taking the lead then veered off into wild tangents as each of the two sequels lost a star and settled for a new director. Even though creative and talent hits diminished the impact of "Furious," sexy cars made up the difference with plenty of "Fast" that has kept the franchise afloat going on close to a decade.
2001's The Fast and the Furious introduced moviegoers to the subculture of illegal street racing threaded through a run off the mill story about an undercover cop infiltrating a circle of friends suspected of participating in illegal activity. Hot bods provided by Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez coupled with the hot cars driven by ex-con Dom (Diesel) and police officer Brian O'Conner (Walker) collided in vehicle stunts that brought back memories of the Mad Max films. Director Rob Cohen even had the energy to wring emotional intensity out of his leads, especially when it came time for Dom to learn his friend is not what he seemed.
The closing moments of The Fast and the Furious set up what should had been Dom and Brian coming to grips with who each other really is in the next installment. With Vin Diesel and Rob Cohen opting to leave the franchise, Paul Walker was left to team up with Tyrese in Sunny Miami to deal with another faction of crime without the benefit of a badge tucked in his wallet in 2 Fast 2 Furious. Any newness and magic The Fast and the Furious brought to the table was immediately flushed by this mindless sequel that set the franchise two steps back rather than pushing it one step forward.
With nowhere logical left for Brian's story to venture after jumping a car onto a yacht to close out 2 Fast 2 Furious, the series reset itself by moving across the globe to Japan for Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift with an all-new cast. As the name implies, the Japanese subculture of street racing focuses heavily on drifting; a fancy word for maneuvering a car around a sharp corner using the handbrake while turning the wheel the opposite direction. American high school troublemaker Sean Boswell learns this the hard way when his American street racing smarts don't translate to Japan.
Tokyo Drift is not as edgy as the previous two films by virtue of its majority high school cast, including Bow Wow, and emphasis on coming of age. The uniqueness and intrigue of drifting lacking in 2 Fast 2 Furious does put the franchise back on track. Almost as importantly, Dom returns for a cameo in the closing minutes that links his past to a character from Tokyo Drift set to return alongside Dom in the upcoming fourth film and prequel, Fast & Furious.
Universal's Blu-ray "trilogy" sets have been highly lauded for their overall presentation thus far and The Fast and the Furious Trilogy fits right into that mold. Starting with the packaging, each film is packaged in its own hard Blu-ray Disc case that slides into a harder outer casing housing all three films. It's not as sturdy as The Bourne Trilogy set but does enough to warrant no complaints.
The previous high-def transfers from HD DVD have carried over to Blu-ray complete with Universal's odd choice to utilize VC-1 encoding for The Fast and the Furious and AVC MPEG-4 for 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift. Unless you bothered to check the codecs the variation is impossible to detect. All three films looked fantastic on HD DVD and are equally strong high-def transfers on Blu-ray Disc.
Judging one film's transfer against the other from a technical perspective is a nearly pointless endeavor. It could be argued Tokyo Drift is the strongest transfer as it is the newest and slightly "cleanest" of the three but any differences are subtle. It earns the highest difficulty as most scenes were filmed at night or in a garage. Taking that into consideration the handling of black levels is excellent with minimal breakup and no signs of artificial enhancement.
Locations and time of day ultimately decide which film comes out on top on Blu-ray and that honor goes to 2 Fast 2 Furious. Abundant bright daylight scenes under the Miami sun are spit shine perfect in 1080p. The cars, Eva Mendes, surf and turf are ideal for bright contrasting colors unlike anything you're likely to see in the "real world." The Fast and the Furious falls somewhere in-between its two counterparts with an even mix of daylight and dark but neither extreme.
All three films were shunned by Universal on HD DVD when given lossy Dolby Digital Plus soundtracks. Given a second chance the studio has righted their previous wrongs by offering 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks across the board that meet high expectations set by previous Universal releases.
The result of moving up to 48kHz/24-bit audio is nothing short of exemplary for all three films. The cars are the stars and every rev, tire screech, nitro blast, brake, turn and crash comes alive through strong LFE and deliberately directional surround use. The HD DVD soundtracks were good but the jump to lossless offers noticeable deeper bass and cleaner top-ends representing aural greatness.
D-BOX Motion Code
The Fast and the Furious earns its D-BOX stripes every time Dom, Brian or another driver fires off their nitro boosts. Each instance is slightly different than the previous with the initial jolt followed by a quickly increasing sensation of moving forward combined with a subtle rumble. D-BOX is also strong when the drivers shift gears early on in races with a brief but cool back-and-forth sensation as the car is kicked into another speed bracket.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift is tamer by comparison as much of the speed from nitro and shift from the first film is replaced by drifting and tire squealing. The stuttering D-BOX effect from drifting isn't nearly as engaging and grows redundant after about the fifth time. There is one open street racing sequence that provides a couple strong D-BOX moments but the rest of the film is hindered by the racing style.
2 Fast 2 Furious may be the weakest story in the trilogy but it earns not only the best video presentation but also the best D-BOX implementation. The opening sequence sets the tone with shifting, nitro and a killer bridge jump offering a combination of jolts and "flying" sensations. Other strong moments include nitro, trucks running over police car and the aforementioned car flying through the air and landing on a yacht. With nary a breather, 2 Fast 2 Furious is a prime example of immersive D-BOX at its best.
The new Fast & Furious film has prompted Universal to juice up its predecessors for their Blu-ray Disc debut by producing three new featurettes, padding three more with new Fast & Furious content, and offering an all-new BD-Live interactive feature. The trilogy set would probably sell to its core fans regardless if new features were included or not so kudos to Universal for going the extra mile for one of their longest-running theatrical franchises. As a bonus, up to $7.50 in movie cash to see Fast & Furious theatrically is packed into the set.
Quarter-Mile at a Time (The Fast and the Furious, 9:44, HD) – Racing junkies will eat up this condensed history lesson from the 1920s to present that's all about who has the fastest car. Archival footage and animated graphics drown out the often prolonged use of talking heads.
Dom's Charger (The Fast and the Furious, 4:22, HD) – Vin's Charger from the first film returns for the fourth with some special modifications. The crew had to buy dilapidated Chargers and rebuild them for the film. A little over half of this featurette is dedicated to the new film.
The Fast and the Furious Video Mash-Up (The Fast and the Furious, HD) – You'll need a Universal BD-Live account to access this online-only interactive feature that allows you to select a song, clip and ending to create a custom video which can be shared with friends. Girls is a category for clips which guarantees it will garner the most attention and use.
Fast Females (2 Fast 2 Furious, 7:54, HD) – A chronological look at the franchise females but only the last 60 seconds are dedicated to the new film. Most of that is footage from the theatrical trailer.
Hollywood Impact (2 Fast 2 Furious, 13:23, HD) – The companion featurette to "Quarter-Mile" explores Hollywood's history with racing versus the real thing with films like American Graffiti, Back to the Future and Smokey and the Bandit getting sugarcoated by Leonard Maltin and historians.
Making of the Fast Franchise (Tokyo Drift, 17:02, HD) – This featurette is the best primer to soak up before hitting theaters to see Fast & Furious. The interviews and behind-the-scenes footage from the first three films is not new but is entertaining and informative, while the sneak peek into Fast & Furious over the last few minutes is the best glimpse into the new film offered in any of the Trilogy set's new bonus features.
Drift: A Sideways Craze (Tokyo Drift, 1:00:00, HD) – Drifting plays a major role in Tokyo Drift as well as countless facing videogames. This hour-long in-depth featurette reveals what it takes to become a professional drifter and drifting champion as spoken by the sport's athletes. Yes, there is such a sport and subculture and the kid's start really young just like the film. Some kids have an Xbox 360 or PS3 in their room. These kids have car parts.
The remaining bonus features have appeared on HD DVD and DVD and once again are presented in standard definition that pales in comparison next to the new HD extras. Rather than rehash their diverse content, we've provided a complete list you can view on The Fast and the Furious Trilogy Blu-ray Disc details page.
I might have a hard time recommending The Fast and the Furious Trilogy on DVD. On Blu-ray Disc with new bonus features, lossless audio and D-BOX Motion Code, each film and its star cars is a fantastic high-def experience even if the storytelling travels over several patches of rough pavement. Another Universal box set earns an easy recommendation to keep the streak of winners intact.
- Dan Bradley
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The Fast and the Furious Trilogy
March 24, 2009
5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio