‘Fast and Furious’: Why It’s Time to End the Franchise
When The Fast and the Furious hit theaters in summer 2001, the film was a surprise hit to the tune of $207 million worldwide. However, despite that success, no one could have foreseen that the franchise that followed would explode into one of the most popular film franchises of the 2000s once it brought Dwayne Johnson aboard with the pivotal 2011 hit Fast Five. Each film has subsequently earned more since then, with last years’s Furious 7 bringing in an unbelievable $1.5 billion worldwide and becoming the sixth highest-grossing film of all time. Yet, while Universal was fast to announced a 2017 release date for Fast 8, we think that the series should consider winding down in the near future.
Although the high-octane thrills of the Fast and Furious films have proven to attract mainstream moviegoers, the record-breaking success of Furious 7 could very well mark the apex for the series. After all, the film unites action superstars Vin Diesel, Jason Statham, and Dwayne Johnson, and while the addition of old-school action icon Kurt Russell takes the films one step closer to becoming a sort of “Junior Expendables,” even that Sylvester Stallone-fronted franchise has plateaued. The ensemble approach then has proven to show its long-term limitations, and creating a seemingly endless assembly line of Fast and Furious films under this same philosophy could be a surefire way to ensure franchise fatigue, even among fans.
Moreover, as tragic as Paul Walker’s death may have been, it’s extremely likely that the box office performance of Furious 7 was buoyed further by fans’ desire to see his final appearance in the series and curiosity in discovering how the film would write Brian O’Conner out of the story. Those final poignant moments — set to Wiz Khalifa’s ubiquitous hit “See You Again” — stand as the most emotionally gripping in Fast and Furious history, adding some well-earned sentimentality to a film that was otherwise full of ludicrous action sequences and a melodramatic subplot centering on Letty’s (Michelle Rodriguez) amnesia.
That heartfelt farewell to Walker/Brian wraps up the character dynamic that has always sat at the forefront of these films, and there’s a reason that many fans consider 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift to be among the series’ weakest installments, as these are the only ones not featuring both Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and Walker’s Brian O’Conner.
With the Brian/Dom “bromance” in the rearview and Jordana Brewster’s Mia inextricably linked to Brian’s exit, the franchise will have to shift its focus to the only two remaining original leads: Diesel and Rodriguez. Dom and Letty’s on-again/off-again romance has been percolating to various degrees ever since the two actors returned to the films in 2009, and now that they are (spoilers?) married and reunited, there may be little emotional thrust to keep the franchise running full steam ahead. Granted, Statham’s Deckard Shaw is set to return for the next film, but this cycle of revenge is bound to wear thin sooner rather than later, meaning that drastic measures may be in order for the Fast and Furious series to continue.
Universal has found a tentpole franchise here, and the studio is unlikely to want to let that go anytime soon, but perhaps the powers that be might consider establishing an endpoint for the flagship series in the near future. Some reports have indicated that the 10th film might bring the Fast and Furious universe to a close, allowing the filmmakers the chance to thoroughly explore these characters and wring a few more billion dollars out of audiences before letting it rest. With the films already showing signs of creative fatigue, this might be the best decision, as far as the big picture is concerned. Of course, this doesn’t preclude the development of a long-rumored spin-off film for Johnson’s Hobbs or expansion of the series into a full-on shared universe.
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