If you’re not out of control, you’re not in control. Those immortal words spoken by Dominic Toretto weighed heavy on my mind as I sat on a sixteen-hour flight from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi. The fact that I managed to secure an exit row seat was also on my mind, but slightly less so. Listen, it was sixteen hours spent sitting in a chair in the sky — I had a lot of free time to think. The reason I was making my way to the faraway land where Garfield sent Nermal those many moons ago was because Universal flew me there to celebrate the home video release of Furious 7, which is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital HD wherever fine movies about Vin Diesel riding fast cars and spewing aphorisms about the importance of family are sold. Furthermore, it was a chance for the Abu Dhabi Film Commission to show off its impressive offerings as a potential filming location.
Given that films like Furious 7 and Star Wars: Episode VII turned to Abu Dhabi as their home away from home, one can expect even more productions to take a similarly lengthy flight to make use of the emirate’s extensive resources and comfortable tax incentive. Though I am loathe to see film jobs leave Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi is a tempting alternative, especially because the local government is making a point of investing heavily in transforming itself into an entertainment hub. With plans to construct a massive studio backlot and multiple soundstages, it’s only a matter of time until we see Abu Dhabiwood become a real thing. If nothing else, it’ll make a great filming location if you happen to be producing the seventh entry in a multi-billion-dollar franchise.
Abu Dhabi is a beautiful place full of incredible architecture, seaside views, and cripplingly oppressive heat. People will tell you that it’s a dry heat because it is a desert climate. Those people are fucking liars. It is a moist heat. A damp heat. You will metamorphose into a human cranberry bog in approximately sixty seconds after stepping outside into its beautiful, profoundly inhospitable climes. Inside, however, is another matter entirely. We stayed at the Jumeirah at Eithad Towers, which you may remember as the skyscrapers through which Vin Diesel and Paul Walker jumped a $3.4 million Lykan Hypersport. Twice. They’ve done a bang-up job repairing the damage caused by Toretto and his destructive family, and now it’s just a beautiful luxury hotel with an exceedingly friendly staff and complimentary dates. (The diarrhetic delicacy, not the Tinder variety.) Oh, and if you ever make the trip to Abu Dhabi, look up a man named Stefan Fuchs. He is the general manager of the hotel and may actually be the most interesting man in the world. But as I am sworn to secrecy, you must seek him out for yourself.
Now, being that I am a massive fan of the Fast and Furious franchise, I was thrilled to have the chance to see just how fast and furious I was behind the wheel of a supercharged sports car. After making our way to the Yas Marina Speedway, I was allowed to step into a souped-up Toyota and tackle the drifting course. Considering that I had startlingly little instruction (“So, how do I drift?” I asked, “You simply get in the car and drift,” the instructor replied), I proved that I could Tokyo Drift with the best of them. When it came time to drag race in a jacked-up Chevrolet, however, let’s just say that I should stick to Mario Kart. You can see the results for yourself in the video above, but just know that I’m basically ready to pop open a frosty Corona and join La Familia.
And no trip to the United Arab Emirates would be complete without talking to Tyrese Gibson. (Well, according to Fodors, at least.) You may know Gibson better as Roman Pearce, a.k.a. the guy who really, really doesn’t want to go skydiving inside a car, or perhaps the guy who really, really wants to play Green Lantern. Anyway, before leaving I sat down with Gibson to chat about why he loves Abu Dhabi, what’s next for him in the Fast and Furious franchise, and when we can expect to see a multiversal crossover with his character form the Transformers series.
Furious 7 is available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital HD now.
Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of 100 Things Avengers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die. You can follow him on Twitter (@Osteoferocious) and ride shotgun with him if you ask nicely.