It’s hard to believe it’s been nearly a year since Paul Walker died in a tragic car accident, one of those events that seems like it just happened yesterday (when it seems like it actually happened at all).
Those memories crop up further with the first trailer for “Furious 7,” which features scenes Walker shot in the weeks before his death. The spot — which Universal unveiled during an E!-broadcast fan event Saturday — offers the first glimpse of Walker before the movie’s April release.
Director James Wan and producer Neal Moritz halted production, Universal pushed back the release date and everyone reconvened to figure out how to proceed when the actor died on Thanksgiving weekend in 2013 with just about half his scenes shot. Executives, filmmakers and screenwriter Chris Morgan decided to keep Walker in the finished cut, retooling the script and using stand-ins (including Walker’s brothers) and automated dialogue replacement (ADR) to fill in gaps. Walker’s Brian O’Conner character will fade out of the film at some point, but the means of that fade-out aren’t clear.
The trailer doesn’t offer a lot of clues: He appears but isn’t a dominant presence. (You can watch the spot above.) Still, there’s something refreshing about seeing Walker back on screen, doing his thing, even if it’s in the stylized, chase-em-down context of the “Fast” franchise. Walker is given the piece-de-resistance moment in the first half of the trailer, a linear car chase that begins after Dom and the crew parachute out of a plane onto the road (parachuting while in the front seats of souped-up vehicles, of course).
“Just when you didn’t think it can get any better, huh,” Walker’s O’Conner says to his pals, before a chase involving an automatic-weapon-equipped bus ensues. The sequence ends with O’Conner jumping onto the bus to take out some baddies, make a rescue and run up and over the roof of the bus as it slides over a cliff, grabbing on to a bailout muscle car that arrives just in time to whisk him to safety.
The second half of the trailer offers a more familiar mix of hand-to-hand fight scenes, Diesel-y proclamations and, just to spice things up, a Middle Eastern theme (camels!). But regardless of how the movie turns out, Walker remains the most newsworthy, and bittersweet, thing about it.
If the sight of Walker in a fast car evokes thoughts of his tragic passing, it also reminds that he left behind a notable body of work, and plenty of reasons for fans to feel close to him. “I don’t have friends; I have family,” Diesels tells a bad guy in the spot, and for once he’s saying some of the most credible words on-screen.