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Fast & Furious: The Story of A Multi-Billion Dollar Film Franchise

November 21, 2020
Fast 9 Poster

It’s hard to believe, but when Fast 9 releases next year, it will have been 20 years since we first met Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Connor in The Fast and the Furious. In that time the series has transitioned from street racing to globe trotting spy action. While still maintaing the core of being about “Family”.

The franchise now sits as the 10th highest-franchise of all time. With 9 films released, and several others in development. While the main story is set to end with part 11, it’s unlikely “la familia” will be driving off into the sunset for good. It’s fair to say that the series has lasted longer than anyone anticipated.

“A Quarter-Mile at a Time”

Vin Diesel and Paul Walker weren’t big names in 2001 (Universal, 2001)

Inspired by an article about street racing, the original film “The Fast and The Furious” wasn’t trying to be the next billion-dollar franchise. On a modest budget of around $38 million and relative unknowns starring (Diesel’s biggest credit was Pitch Black). The film did much better than the studio expected, opening at number one and quickly earning over $200 million. A sequel was quickly greenlit.

While Paul Walker returned, Diesel decided to work Chronicles of Riddick instead. This led to Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris being cast as Roman and Tej, who would later rejoin the series in bigger roles. While 2 Fast, 2 Furious wasn’t reviewed as highly as the original, it managed to knock Finding Nemo off the number one spot at the box office, and greenlight another sequel.

The third film The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, has no actors from the previous films returning, despite a brief cameo from Vin Diesel at the end. The original script actually followed Toretto learning to drift while solving a murder but was rewritten to focus on new characters. Introducing us to Sung Kang’s Han, an instant fan-favourite, as well as Justin Lin, who will direct several other entries. The film did well at the box office, but was the least successful of the trilogy, leaving the series future uncertain…

“From Misson: Impossible to Mission: In- freaking-sanity!”

The introduction of Dwanye Johnson’s character Lucas Hobbs was part of the series’ transformation (Univeral 2011)

Vin Diesel’s cameo at the end of Tokyo Drift renewed his interest in the series and managed to reunite the main cast of the original film for the first “true” sequel. Lin directed again, and Kang reprised his role as Han, shifting the timeline to resurrect him. The car culture elements were toned down, giving the series more general appeal. It was a huge commercial success and renewed interest in the series.

The real change came with Fast Five. Featuring only one actual race, focusing on action and heists, as well as introducing Dwayne Johnson to the series. This is where the series becomes how we recognise it today. Considered by many to be the best in the series, it was a huge critical and commercial success, and perhaps the first instance of a trailer being revealed on a star’s Facebook Page. The films continued to be massive hits onwards, during press for Furious 7 Diesel announced spin-offs were being discussed, the first of these, Hobbs & Shaw was released in 2019.

“Let’s make some money”

 Hobbs & Shaw
The first spin off, Hobbs & Shaw was a huge success (Universal, 2019)

After the release of Tokyo Drift, theme park attractions based on the franchise started. While starting as just vehicle stunt shows, they have gradually expanded into full experiences and rides, with characters from the films “appearing”.

Several videogames based on the franchise have also been released, mostly mobile games but several console games. The highest-profile games are arguably the expansion for Forza Horizon 2 and the Dodge Charger in Rocket League. Several replicas of the cars used in the films have been produced by Hot Wheels and in 2020, a LEGO model of the Dom’s Dodge Charger was announced. In 2019 Fast and Furious Spy Racers, an animated series focusing on Toretto’s cousin aired on Netflix.

Against all odds, The Fast Saga has not only survived but it has gotten stronger than ever. Even the tragic death of co-lead Paul Walker hasn’t been able to stop it, with Furious 7 going on to gross $1.5 Billion (£1.1 Billion) worldwide alone and the entire film franchise grossing more than $5.8 Billion (£4.4 Billion) in cinemas worldwide. With the main series set to end with number 11, it seems like there is nothing that can stop it.

Also Read: How To Revive A Franchise After Many Years

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