Fast & Furious Saga Has Come A Long Way

Fast 9 hits theaters 20 years after the original!

When 2001’s The Fast and the Furious crashed into theatres, it was a runaway hit. Fast cars, beautiful women, as well as well-made and elaborate action sequences brought audiences in droves. It was the vehicle that propelled Vin Diesel and Paul Walker to stardom. Though no one could have predicted just how hard and how high Fast & Furious would go.

Today, the FF franchise is the second highest-grossing original franchise in movie history. Quite the feat to be able to say the only original franchise that beats it is Star Wars! With 8 films (plus one spin-off) and a ninth on the way, the series has become a mythology of its own.

On the surface, it’s a series about street racing. But since the first film, the heart lies in an unlikely bond between two polar opposites, pretty boy undercover cop Brian O’Connor (played by Paul Walker) and buff street racing criminal Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) a zen-like fascination with cars and uncontrolled rage for everything else. Though at odds, in the beginning, the two develop a strong connection that evolves into a brotherhood. Friendship and family continue to be the core theme in the series to this day.

The sequels have seen main characters come and go. Vin Diesel refused to return for the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, viewing the screenplay as vastly inferior to the original. Instead, he opted to star in 2004’s Chronicles of Riddick. Paul Walker was instead joined by Tyrese Gibson as Brian’s childhood friend Roman Pearce. Though the film had double the predecessor’s budget, it saw only a slightly higher box office total and far weaker reviews. This lead to none of the original cast members returning for 2006’s Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

Franchise newcomer Justin Lin saw this as an opportunity to change the setting and introduce brand new characters for the third entry. Lin even brought Han Lue, a character from his previous critically acclaimed film Better Luck Tomorrow, into FF continuity. Han, played by Sung Kang, went on to become a fan favorite.

Director Lin returned for the fourth film, 2009’s Fast & Furious, which saw the return of the original main cast. It made almost double what the original movie made at the box office, so a fifth entry was immediately greenlit.

Fast Five is where some would say FF became an unstoppable box office juggernaut.

Approached as a team-up heist film, it saw the return of Tyrese Gibson, Sung Kang, Ludacris, and future Wonder Woman herself, Gal Gadot. In addition, it introduced Dwayne Johnson as agent Luke Hobbs which helped this film make $625 million at the box office. Hobbs proved to be such a popular character. Not only would he rise up the ranks to become the main protagonist alongside Vin Diesel’s Dom, he even got his own spin-off with Hobbs & Shaw.

Fast & Furious 6 saw the primary cast return again, joined by Michelle Rodriguez, who returned as Leti Ortiz. It made $788 million!

No character absence can compare to the sudden, tragic loss of Paul Walker in 2013. The seventh film was still in production at this point. The studio had to postpone its release to let new director James Wan (of The Conjuring and Aquaman fame) work Walker’s death into the narrative. CG effects and stand-ins (including Walker’s own real-life brothers) were used to send Brian O’Connor off.

Furious 7 introduced Jason Statham as villain Deckard Shaw, who would get his own team-up with Dwayne Johnson. The film received positive reviews and was the first film in the franchise to make over $1 billion at the box office. 

The eighth entry, The Fate of the Furious, saw the primary cast return, this time with Oscar-winner Charlize Theron playing the villain. It also crossed the coveted $1 billion mark and was unsurprisingly greenlit for another sequel.

Franchise veteran Justin Lin returned to direct F9 The Fast Saga. Unfortunately, however, the series saw yet another surprise postponement due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Initially scheduled for release in April 2020, it was stalled out for over a year. But FF fans can finally look forward to seeing the highly anticipated sequel in theatres this Friday!

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Writer, native Texan, DBZ fanatic, and budding Oscars historian

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