The need for stars: “Need for Speed” a good video game movie?

Robert Huelsman, Video Editor

As I stated before, I have a soft spot for action movies and St. Michael Bay, the patron of explosions. While Bay is not involved with this film, the amount of stuff exploding and crashing makes you wonder what influence his work may have had. “Need for Speed” is a film that in essence is either 10 years too late or just on time.

The problem with this film is the behemoth that has become The Fast and The Furious franchise. F&F hit at a time when that particular scene was exploding, and it was at the time considered to be the “Need for Speed” movie. Of course, the future for F&F has come to a screeching halt with the recent death of movie star, Paul Walker.

I never thought that a series of films not based on a book would be able to make it to number 6 and not be direct to DVD with third-rate actors. “Need for Speed” feels as if it’s trying to create a franchise of films and a relevance that its games have been lacking for many years. Perhaps with the tragic death of Paul Walker, this is the franchise to take it’s place. While I certainly don’t see seven films, a sequel does not seem far-fetched depending on the box office numbers.

When it comes down to it, “Need for Speed” is really about one thing: getting a big TV star into a blockbuster movie. Aaron Paul is the draw of this film since his explosion in popularity thanks to Breaking Bad. It’s not all that surprising to find Paul in a movie such as this; while it’s a leap from Jesse Pinkman, he makes the jump successfully. This may not be an “acting” movie, but he still manages to create a new character who, while fairly generic, does not make you think of Jessie.

It may be hard for some to disassociate him with that character, but it does come with the territory when going from a career making TV role into the film world. The supporting cast around Paul keeps up and does a good job helping to create a world even if, again, they are pretty generic character types. Dominic Cooper, who plays the antagonist, makes a good villain. Though his character is really too generic and you are never really sure what his motivations are. He seems to be evil just to be evil.

The same generic comments could be made of the story as well. Hero is well-liked. Villain antagonizes hero. Hero faces tragedy. Hero overcomes tragedy. Hero falls for girl. Hero gets girl. Hero wins the race. (Sorry for the spoiler, but really did you think he would lose the race?) A fairly cookie-cutter story doesn’t kill the film, and it did have one small twist. However, I was hoping for something more, perhaps foolishly. I realize nothing else will be like Game of Thrones, but in a perfect world I would actually be on the edge of my seat during the final moments of a film like this and not calming thinking of how the hero will get out of a certain predicament.

One much more subtle part of the film is the theme of American cars. While American Muscle has a mystique and legend about it these cars were long since passed in technical innovations by their Japanese and European cousins. It seems fitting for most of the movie. Paul’s character spends his time in American cars as a personification of his home boy attitude and behavior. In the beginning, the main characters achieve success in Muscle cars and tragedy the first time European Supercars are introduced.

The message seems to be much more about America in general as the protagonist uses a Muscle car to cross the states to get to the race, yet completes it in European style. Instead of forcing home this idea of American power, it seems to opt for a more realistic setting; though one many may not like. It is something that I have noticed in F&F fans, and one of the great dichotomies of the film. The two main characters used two different types of cars; one is imported and the other is the power of American muscle. Fans’ favorite of the two often has much more to do with their car allegiance than the appreciation of a particular actor’s abilities.

The greatest strength of the film is its stunts and its crashes. All of which we are told are practical effects, and they certainly looked real. These real effects help to bring an authenticity to the movie that makes up for some of the more over-the-top stunts. You may realize you are actually watching cars flip over, but you will not forget that this is a Hollywood action film where those flips will most certainly be exaggerated. Yet at the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter because what you came to see are fantastic stunts and fast cars, and this film delivers on both counts.

Need for Speed may have its issues in a generic story and characters. It certainly is a fun ride that may not win the hearts of Fast & Furious fans, but it will hold them over until the seventh makes its debut. Need for Speed is almost certainly one of the best video game movies I have seen. A buddy and I tried to rack our brains, but we couldn’t think of anything that topped what we had just seen. Overall, the combination of a star people like and action they will enjoy make this film a fun diversion, but don’t expect too much more.