The Counterculture of "The Fast & The Furious"
I remember seeing the trailer for the first "The Fast and The Furious" movie in 2001. I saw it in a theater, before some other Hollywood movie, with a bunch of my Miami friends. Many of them loved street racing, and customizing their junky highschool cars to be aspiring ricers.
So after they saw that trailer they looked so excited. Finally! A movie that GOT them! There was illegal street racing, hot chicks, strong guys, a sense of excitement & purpose, the innovative movie technology, and the opportunity to vicariously experience the height of the passion: hardcore car porn. The nicest cars, the fastest cars, all in their driven glory, all exploded.
Of course, at the time I thought this movie was just a fad. And when the sequel came out, I thought the same thing: Sure, they're gonna make a crappy sequel, but that's that. Then the third came out and I was like - That's cool, they're finishing the trilogy, get that last bit of money. But now they're on Part 8 ("The Fate of the Furious" - now in theaters) with no intention of stopping. I wouldn't be surprised if Vin Diesel and the gang end up dealing with space aliens soon, driving Lambos through the gravity barrier of Mars and NOS'ing their way into deep space.
Looking back, I think what makes this franchise work is - well, a lot of things. But I believe it starts with that original rush. In this case, the first movie from 2001, starring Paul Walker.
What made THAT movie beloved were two things:
1) The movie revealed a hidden countercultural activity.
2) The movie expressed the height of that activity.
Yes yes yes, there's other reasons: universal themes on family / friendship, continuity of characters, expensive advertising campaigns, celebrities, etc. But these are the big two.
By showing young people the activity they already do on week nights, then for a moment they can see themselves on the screen. So that creates instant rapport.
But then! The movie takes the thing all these people are already doing, and then HEIGHTENS IT: The characters in the movie are more beautiful than us, wealthier than us, cooler than us, more dangerous than us, dates hotter people, drives more expensive cars, etc etc etc...
So the movie is a reflection of the private lives of audience members... And it also exaggerates the counterculture to enviable (unreachable?) heights.
That's why people who got hooked keep coming back for more & more...