In the middle of the night last night, Vin Diesel, as he does, made a big announcement about the Fast and Furious franchise on his Instagram.
Yes, there will be at least three more Fast/Furious movies. It’s not a total bombshell for those of us who rabidly follow every bit of info about the greatest movies ever made about people driving cars real fast. For months, Diesel has been talking up the idea of a trilogy of films to send the series off into the sunset. Now it’s official. And it’s great news.
Every time a new one of these is announced, people I know inevitably respond with sighs of “another one?” I get it. The Fast/Furious saga began in 2001 with a formulaic ripoff of Point Break with cars instead of surfboards. It continued in 2003 with a clumsy and woefully titled sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious.
Today, things are a little different. Furious 7 was one of the biggest moneymakers in Hollywood history. Though greatly overshadowed here in the US by the success of Jurassic World and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Furious 7 will almost certainly go into the books as the biggest movie of 2015 outside North America.
It’s not difficult to understand why that is — even discounting the fact that these films are all tremendously fun and entertaining and there’s never been anything like them when it comes to ridiculous car chases.
For a Hollywood blockbuster, the diversity of the cast in these movies is unprecedented, featuring ensembles that are mostly nonwhite. It turns out diversity is super marketable; people actually like it when the big movies aren’t just full of white people. That diversity, by the way, goes behind the camera as well. With F. Gary Gray helming Fast 8, the series will have had five different directors, only one of whom is white.
The glue for all this, the reason the people involved are so tight-knit and the reason we fans care so much about what appears to be just another dumb action franchise, is the saga’s earnestness, encapsulated in a line from Furious 7: “I don’t have friends,” Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto says; “I got family.” That sentiment is built into the DNA of Fast/Furious. Our heroes fucking love each other, and it always rings true on screen.
The main through line of the last several installments kicked off with Brian and Mia (Paul Walker and Jordana Brewster) giving up their lives in Los Angeles to break Dom out of a prison transport and flee the country at the end of the fourth film. In the fifth, they reconnect with their estranged pal Vince, putting aside their old conflicts from the original film, before Vince is killed fighting alongside them, with no regrets. And the entire sixth movie is a quest to return Letty to the fold — a quest undertaken in large part by people who don’t know her — after she’d been presumed dead for years.
Fast/Furious is about outcasts and criminals brought together by circumstance. Together, they find meaning that they couldn’t have glimpsed when they were apart. This makeshift family becomes a cause of sorts, because they know nobody else is going to look out for them. Meanwhile, we viewers greatly enjoy their collective love for totally bananas car stunts, and we love that showing their loyalty to each other occassionaly involves driving out of the cargo bay of an airplane at 30,000 feet. At this point, they’re superheroes in cars, like if the Avengers actually liked each other.
That sincere affection is what elevates Fast/Furious from standard action fare to something legitimately meaningful. It holds everything together, even when the films falter in terms of craft, like with the sloppy 2 Fast or the cobbled-together Furious 7. The beating heart is so strong that it can overcome the sort of cynical eye with which we look at Hollywood.
Finally, that familial bond isn’t just on the screen. When Paul Walker died in the middle of filming Furious 7 we could feel that same connection in the real world as his costars mourned the loss of a brother. Walker was an actor who would at best be considered a B-level star, and yet his death was far more devastating than you would expect based on that. It’s a testament to the power and emotional substance of Fast/Furious.
So yes, I’m happy about the confirmation of three more Fast/Furious movies, and I’m happy that Diesel, who is pretty much the series caretaker at this point, is going to bring this saga to a close on his terms. Of course, the brand is so powerful that Universal won’t let it die forever: they’re already planning spinoffs for some of the main cast down the line.
The world is a better place with Fast and Furious movies in it. It’ll be even better with three more.