How Does ‘Furious 7’ Hold Up Against Other Seventh Movies in a Franchise?
Furious 7 has opened in theaters, and its awesomeness is spreading across the land as you read this. Furious 7 is, like any seventh film in any long-running film series, constructed for fans of the series. While one can conceivably walk into Furious 7 cold, that person might be a little confused as to who some of those characters are, what their longtime drama is, and why they have such a strong connection. The Paul Walker tribute segment might also be lost on them.
As it so happens, I have seen a lot of part sevens in many long-running movie series (thanks largely to a CraveOnline feature I worked on called The Series Project), including Furious 7, so I am intimately familiar with the dynamic of sequels, the way they tend to run, and the way part sevens tend to function within the context of a long-running series. When it comes to seventh chapters, I can make the following conclusions: Seventh chapters are when a series becomes totally and inexorably self-referential. With exceptions, of course, seventh chapters are an attempt to put a button on a series. To connect them to something larger, or to wrap things up neatly. By part seven, we are also so deep into the series’ mythology, that they tend to play like service for the fans.
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Star Trek: Generations was an attempt to link the older Star Trek movies with the Next Generation Star Trek movies. Saw 3D was the final chapter in the series. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare was when Craven returned to the series and added a meta-narrative to Freddy Krueger. Diamonds Are Forever, the 7th Bond film, was the return of Connery, calling the who “changing of the guard” element of James Bond into question. Muppets from Space was about the backstory of the Muppets themselves, rather than a “repertory players” performance. Even the seventh Howling film tried to tie all the disparate films together with one of the messiest plot machinations of all time (it turns out Sybil Danning’s ghost was possessing random characters this whole time).
And what was the 7th Star Wars film? If you count TV movies, it was The Phantom Menace. If you don’t, it was The Clone Wars. If you only want to count “episodes,” it will be The Force Awakens. In all three instances, the films tried to take Star Wars to new ground that would allow us to reconsider the films that preceded them.
Below is a specially ranked list of all the part 7s that I have seen. Some of the films are difficult to compare, but I think the ranking stands. What do you think? What other patterns are there when it comes to seventh chapters?