Similar to the Mission: Impossible franchise, the Fast and the Furious franchise has been able to endure for nearly two decades now, and unlike most franchises, the entries have arguably gotten better. There are so far eight films in the main series, with two more on the way. But before that, fans are being treated to the first Fast and the Furious spinoff, the appropriately named Hobbs and Shaw, which sees Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham’s respective characters reuniting for another round of beating up bad guys. It looks just like the kind of action-packed buddy comedy you’d want from these two, but more importantly, Hobbs and Shaw reaffirms, if not permanently settles the issue, that the Fast and the Furious universe is no longer operating in any semblance of reality. We’re knee deep in fantastical territory with the potential to go even further.
While the Fast and the Furious movies, like every other action-themed franchise, have been set in a heightened reality, the franchise started off relatively tame compared to the most recent entries. Dominic Toretto, Brian O’Connor and the other starring characters used their street racing skills for fun and to pull off heists, all while preaching the importance of family on the side. Cars were the focus and the adventures were exciting, but not terribly exaggerated.
But then a shift started to occur. For me, the biggest tell that the Fast and the Furious franchise was morphing into a more straightforward action franchise, albeit still revolving around cars, was in Fast Five when Dom and his team dragged a bank vault through downtown Rio de Janeiro. By Fast & Furious 6, the protagonists were working together to stop a deadly device from being sold to the highest bidder, and in Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious, they essentially saved the world, all while driving their badass vehicles; sometimes not even on the ground!
These racers are now basically superheroes, but without the fancy costumes or special abilities. Well, except super strength and endurance. After all, Dominic Toretto was able to life a car all by himself in Furious 7, and in The Fate of the Furious, Luke Hobbs curled a concrete bench, easily shrugged off rubber bullets and pushed a torpedo as it slid across ice. This dude might as well just call himself Black Adam.
Which brings us to Hobbs and Shaw, where the eponymous characters will face off against Idris Elba’s Brixton, a terrorist mastermind. We’d known for a while that Elba would be playing the spinoff’s main antagonist, but the first trailer revealed that he’s been genetically and cybernetically enhanced to be “bulletproof” and “superhuman.” Other Fast and the Furious villains have used special technology, but not to enhance their own bodies. Even if you ignore my comment about Dominic and Luke’s physical feats, the franchise is seemingly using Brixton to say, “Hey, superpowers are officially on the table!”
I don’t doubt that there are folks out there who wish that the Fast and the Furious franchise had stuck to its street racing roots, but the fact of the matter is that Universal pivoting to a more conventional action approach has paid off. Both Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious have grossed over $1 billion worldwide, and the later entries have been met with more positive critical reception than its predecessors. Hobbs and Shaw is building on what the main movies have become and turned the craziness up a notch or two, which also includes driving underneath a semi-truck, knocking over cars with an armored flatbed and jumping out of a window to take down some goons running down the side of a building with cables. Whew, I’m winded just thinking about all that.
Even if you prefer the racing aspect of the Fast and the Furious franchise, there’s no denying that these movies tossing out the conventional rules that opens the door to more possibilities. If Universal had kept these movies strictly about racing and heists, the film series either would have ended a while back or the current entries probably wouldn’t be as well received. This way, even though these adventures are no longer rooted in any kind of realism, these stakes have been raised so that there’s no shortage of challenges the protagonists deal with or weird experiences they could go through.
If Brixton has been enhanced to be more powerful than a regular human being, why couldn’t the same happen to to one of our heroes? We’ve seen certain kinds of computer software put the world at risk in the most recent Fast and the Furious movies, so why not throw AI or even robots into the mix? I would say the sky’s the limit, but since it’s been repeatedly suggested that the Mission: Impossible series should head to space, why couldn’t the Fast and the Furious series do the same?
Right now, there are only two main Fast and the Furious movies left to be released, but thanks to Hobbs and Shaw and the confirmed female-fronted spinoff, this could morph the franchise into a cinematic universe, thus allowing this “world” to continue after Fast & Furious 10 drops. Moviegoers overall are clearly accepting of this new direction the franchise has taken, and Hobbs and Shaw will be a good testing ground for the action can be successfully taken to an even more absurd level. Judging by how many times the first trailer has been viewed online, people are intrigued by what director and action movie veteran David Leitch is delivering.
I won’t go so far as to say that the Fast and the Furious movies should become as outlandish as the MCU, DCEU or Monster-Verse, but this franchise has a good thing going for it right now by tossing out the heightened realism rulebook. If Universal plays its cards right and keeps trying new ways to up the ante action-wise, perhaps the Fast and the Furious lore could live on for another decade, if not longer.
Hobbs and Shaw races into theaters on August 2, so stay tuned to CinemaBlend for continuing coverage on that project and other updates concerning the entire Fast and the Furious franchise. In the meantime, check out our 2019 release schedule to learn what else is hitting the big screen later this year.