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How Fate of the Furious became a global box office phenomenon

???It was a weekend where the threat of nuclear war hung heavily over the world. And at the centre of tensions was a flaxen-haired American megalomaniac.

If you went to the cinema just about anywhere, chances are you’ll recognise this is what happens in The Fate Of The Furious.

Charlize Theron???, as a coolly evil villain who circles the globe in an undetectable private jet, hatches a plan to steal a nuclear weapon to use against the superpowers.

Rarely has a movie so dominated the world’s cinemas at any one time as the eighth instalment in the Fast and the Furious series.

At the risk of sounding like you’ve inhaled the fumes from the scores of high-octane cars roaring across the screen, it took a staggering$US532.5 million ($702 million) as it smashed the record for biggest global opening weekend. It was No.1 at the box office in all 64 international territories it opened in.

So how does a seventh sequel do so well? And could it possibly deserve to sell more tickets than Star Wars: The Force Awakens and other better-reviewed blockbusters?

What started out as a series about street racing has turned into a Bond movie by a different name.

It has exotic locations in Cuba, Berlin, New York and Russia. A supervillain named Cipher who wants world domination. High-tech references to EMP devices, nuclear footballs, cyber terrorism and a global surveillance system.

Implausible stunts including – spoiler alert for anyone yet to catch it – cars being harpooned, cars raining down on city streets after their computer guidance systems have been hijacked and cars being chased across the ice by a nuclear submarine. Yes, there are a lot of cars.

Cartoonish international politics including an attack on a Cold War submarine base. And a villain so powerful even real-life hacking group Anonymous won’t dice with her.

With a casual disdain for logic and physics, rapper Chris Bridges is not the only thing that’s “Ludacris” in the movie. Two scenes have characters on opposite sides of thick high-security glass miraculously exchanging threats at length without the need for an intercom.

If being a car chase movie isn’t enough, Fate of the Furious is also every other kind of action movie. A cyberthriller with a bomb that has to be disconnected before the counter hits zero. A prison escape movie. A plane heist movie. A two-buddies-on-opposite-sides-face-off movie. A submarine movie. A zombie car movie. And, after all the damage, a movie about family being what really matters.

It features just about every action movie star from Vin Diesel and The Rock down to, well, Helen Mirren.

While much of the dialogue appears to have been typed with a shovel, there is something gloriously, crazily entertaining about the whole fuel-injected package.

Its success owes a lot to the brilliant way n director James Wan handled the real-life death of star Paul Walker in the previous instalment, giving it a heart that elevated the series.

It’s also a triumph of marketing with the super-slick trailer chalking up 139 million views in the first 24 hours.

The filmmakers – with F. Gary Gray from Straight Outta Compton now making Straight Outta The Garage – also know their audience. The story is so well-flagged and the acting so big that non-English-speaking audiences will have no trouble keeping up.

And the multi-racial cast has always been key to the series’ appeal to a young ethnically diverse audience. According to Box Office Mojo, American viewers were 41 per cent Caucasian, 26 per cent Hispanic, 19 per cent African American and 11 per cent Asian on the weekend. While cinema-goers were largely male – no surprise given the series is known for gratuitous shots of skimpily-dressed women – the movie still had enough crossover appeal to be 42 per cent female.

A teenage boy sitting next to me in the cinema positively gurgled at times. The formula – putting the “car” into carnage and taking the “act” out of action movie – is working.

Twitter @gmaddox

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