Last night, at the South by Southwest Film Festival, several lucky moviegoers got the chance to see the world premiere of "Furious 7," the latest installmant of the "Fast and Furious" franchise, and Paul Walker's final appearance as former federal agent Brian O'Conner.
Producer Neal Moritz and others involved with the film asked audience members not to spoil the details of the movie, but said nothing against sharing their general reactions. And it's no wonder, because the general reactions are generally positive — massively, overwhelmingly positive.
"'Furious 7' is certainly a popcorn movie geared towards delivering big thrills, but it’s also oozing with heart and passion," Collider.com's Perri Nemiroff writes in her review. "The energy in the room and the deep, heartfelt reaction to the movie’s subtle yet very moving way of honoring Walker was truly electrifying."
Walker's tragic death in 2013 occurred before production had wrapped on "Furious 7," leaving filmmakers with the unenviable task of figuring out how to keep the actor's involvement in the movie intact. According to The Hollywood Reporter's John DeFore, director James Wan and his team managed to pull it off.
He writes: "[V]iewers trying to spot the scenes in which stand-ins and CGI played Walker's part for him will find it hard enough that they may do the right thing: Stop trying, and instead go along with a reworked screenplay that ushers him off the stage with as much grace as any other development in this muscle-car-melodrama saga."
While "Furious 7" marks Walker's final ride with the franchise, it's not likely to be the franchise's final film. But ScreenCrush.com's Matt Singer writes that "at times it feels like the series’ farewell." Based on the reactions pouring out of SXSW, it certainly sounds like a fitting sendoff for a certain era of the "Furious" franchise — the Walker era.