Today in intellectual property: Deadline reported Friday that a Fast & Furious spinoff centered on Dwayne Johnson’s and Jason Statham’s characters is in the works. That theoretical film is a depressing idea for a few reasons. Fate of the Furious is the most soulless entry in the series, and Johnson’s and Staham’s interactions in Fate are astonishingly empty, despite being full of ridiculous lines ("I will beat you like a Cherokee drum") and even more ridiculous fight sequences. Their pairing felt forced and presumptuous — as if the movie were demanding viewers buy in simply because two huge action stars were hanging out.
Counterpoint: None of that matters. A Fast & Furious universe is inevitable and necessary, and if it begins with a Luke Hobbs–Deckard Shaw two-hander, so be it.
Franchise-building is a tenet of blockbuster filmmaking at this point. Disney has Marvel and Star Wars movies planned into 2020; Warner Bros. is building a universe on the shoulders of Kong and Godzilla, and another on the various superheroes that make up the Suicide Squad and Justice League; Universal is bringing back a bunch of very old monsters. Using intellectual property that’s already wildly successful as a foundation for the future is about as risk-averse as you can get. And damn, Fast & Furious is successful: Furious 7 has made more than $1.5 billion internationally, and Fate of the Furious is headed into its second weekend with a record-setting gross of $685 million worldwide. Vin Diesel may not like to hear this, but there’s clearly a demand for the Fast franchise to grow beyond its original cast.
But here’s where things get weird: Excepting the Statham-Rock film, which feels like a cash grab reverse-engineered from Fate of the Furious reviews, a Fast universe actually sounds like an incredible idea. An expanded, blown-up world of Fast movies has the potential to be bizarre and great, and to transcend a feeling of economic necessity.
A film universe like Star Wars has rules to adhere to and source material to mind. A Han Solo spinoff is a box office layup, but it’s also hamstrung by long-existing canon stories. Comic book universes, meanwhile, are full of shifts and restarts — but when the Batmanverse shifts course, it’s interpreted as a lack of direction. But Fast has already established that history is completely subject to change. Han (not Solo) died at the end of Tokyo Drift and returned a movie later, but it was all OK because of a slapdash adjustment of the movies’ timeline. And besides, Sung Kang was a dope addition to the cast — we’re cool with the Fast producers breaking the laws of time and space to get him into more movies. That sort of "content over logic" approach saved the Fast franchise and, if continually implemented, could produce an endless string of satisfying movies that barely have to be related to the original Fast arc.
A Johnson-Statham buddy-cop movie is just the beginning. Give us a Love & Basketball–style romance prequel about the start of Dom and Letty’s relationship. Cast Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez as teenagers, because why not? You want #JusticeForHan? Give Sung Kang his own, In the Mood for Love–riffing movie. Go the Ocean’s Eight route and let Jordana Brewster recruit an all-female driving team. And here’s how you actually get to space: fast-forward 25 years to when Brian O’Conner’s and Dom’s sons are of age and the planet earth has been abandoned. On Alpha Centuari, Dom’s son, Brian, can be a by-the-book intergalactic policeman, and Brian’s son can be a low-budget criminal/auto body shop owner who boosts VR headsets. GUESS HOW THAT MOVIE ENDS.
The possibilities of a Fast universe are boundless, and the margin of error is massive. Bring on the Johnson-Statham movie, and then bring on about 50 more.