For more than a decade and a half, the Fast & Furious franchise has ripped, roared, and pressed every last NOS button on its way to action-franchise preeminence. To mark the release of The Fate of the Furious, the series’ eighth installment, we’re declaring it Fast 8 Week. Please join us in living life one quarter-mile at a time.
Once upon a time, before the movies became two-hour Mountain Dew–fueled, Snapchat-filtered hallucinations, Fast & Furious was a normal action-movie franchise. We forget this now. This was before Dom and Brian jumped a Lebanese Lykan HyperSport through two of the five Etihad Towers before coming to rest in a third. Before Hobbs growled "Daddy’s gotta go to work," and flexed the cast off of his recently mangled arm. Before Letty, freshly resurrected after being dead in two films, was slingshot off the hull of a speeding tank into Dom’s arms. Before Rita Ora’s last successful cameo. Before Dom and Hobbs pile-drived each other through 15 layers of drywall, glass, and furniture. If I have to pinpoint the moment when the series shifted from brazen Point Break ripoff to deliriously diverse fever dream, it’s the climactic tunnel chase from Fast & Furious (2009), which ends when Dom T-bones his car at high speed into the drug dealer Fenix Calderon while Brian holds onto his leg. You know, so he can’t run away. Also Brian walks away from this because who even cares anymore.
Since then nothing has been normal. And the world has been the better for it.
The tunnel chase scene established the three pillars of Fast & Furious: action that defies the laws of physics, labyrinthine story continuity, and heels who turn hero. The first is a summer blockbuster standby, the second is a device lifted from comic books, and the third is pure pro wrestling.
Which is why, after seeing Furious 7, I knew that Deckard Shaw, played by Jason Statham, would be a good guy in the next film. That’s just how the series does business now. At the time, the obvious objections to Shaw joining forces with the family were: He killed beloved series stalwart Han Lue and blew up Dom’s house. Whatever. Two movies after Shaw unambiguously killed Letty onscreen, director Justin Lin resurrected her as an amnesiac in thrall to British special forces über-baddie Owen Shaw. Lin also retconned the three movies he directed (Fasts 4, 5, and 6) into prequels of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, because Han dies in Drift. These movies can rationalize, and have rationalized, anything.
Using the three pillars, let’s game out the next few Fast & Furious sequels.
‘The Fast & the Furiosa’ (2019)
Synopsis: As revealed at the end of Fate of the Furious, Cipher (Charlize Theron) is actually a good guy and Dom going rogue was part of a deep-cover operation to bring down the Shaw family matriarch (Helen Mirren). Now Dom is being held in the one place where his family can’t reach him: North Korea.
Signature retcon: HAN IS ALIVE!
Heel who becomes hero: Cipher.
Action set piece:
‘Fast X’ (2022)
Synopsis: The Fast & Furious franchise goes to space. A mysterious and all-powerful hacker seizes control of every computer in the world — ATMs, cellphones, satellites, video game consoles, everything. He offers to instantly transfer $1 trillion to anyone who kills the family. Civilization breaks down as ordinary citizens, organized crime gangs, bank CEOs, and even nation-states engage in a frenetic hunt for Toretto, Hobbs, Letty, and the rest.
Signature retcon: After the events of Fast 6, a shadow consortium of Eastern European hackers and scientists scrapes Owen Shaw off the runway and rebuilds him as a cyborg.
Heel who turns hero: Magdalene Shaw (Helen Mirren).
Action set piece:
Synopsis: The extended Toretto family are the sole rulers of what remains of earth after the nuclear exchange at the end of X. Dom reigns over Quarter Mileia, a region encompassing the Western United States and Northern Mexico. Hobbs is president of ’Merica. Letty is the queen of Australia and New Zealand. Roman and Ramsey govern lower Italy, the Black Sea region, and North Africa. Han is the king of Northern Europe. Cipher dedicates her time to turning Antarctica into farmland. The world is at peace. Until … the Decepticons attack.
Signature retcon: The film is actually a prequel, taking place 2 million years before the events of The Fast and the Furious.
Heel who turns hero: Michael Bay.
Action set piece:
Synopsis: They live their afterlives a quarter mile at a time. After Dom and Cipher perish on the Decepticon mothership after the Battle of the John Deere, the family will stop at nothing to get them back. Letty, Hobbs, the Shaws, Han, Ramsey, Roman, and Tej, alongside new cast member the hologram of 2Pac (played by Tupac Shakur’s hologram), ride into the afterlife to bust their family members out of a little prison called death.
Signature retcon: Some part of the human consciousness — which you might call "the soul" — remains intact after death. Souls travel the interdimensional pathways to the place of their final judgment, and all their mortal deeds are weighed.
Heel who turns hero: Charon (Michael Shannon)
Action set piece: