While Fate of the Furious may have set global box office records, the sequel’s performance at the domestic box office is well off the pace of Furious 7 and the general sentiment among industry observers is that Universal could stand to pull a Bill Belichick and shake things up one movie too early rather than one movie too late.
To that end, the studio is in early discussions with franchise architect Chris Morgan to write a spinoff centered around Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw after the duo displayed surprisingly strong chemistry in the new movie. Insiders say that Charlize Theron’s villain from F8 could also be part of the plan, seeing as how she escaped into the sunset and is due back for Fast 9 (or whatever the title will be).
So, is it wrong of Universal to plan a new Fast & Furious movie without Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto presiding over the family? Not at all! For starters, while Diesel’s public feud with Johnson may have kept fans engaged with the fate of this franchise during production, it led to negative publicity and it appears to have affected the film for the worse, with critics pointing out the glaring lack of interaction between Dom and Hobbs. Sure, there may be no such thing as bad press, but the squabbling amongst members of the Fast family wasn’t a good look for two image-conscious movie stars.
Meanwhile, it’s hard to overlook the fact that Universal had planned to include a post-credit sequence featuring Johnson and Statham at the end of F8, but cut it at the last minute after Diesel found out about it from his sister, executive producer Samantha Vincent. Studio sources have said that the scene was always intended for the home entertainment release of F8, but the fact that Universal and producer Neal Moritz apparently went behind Diesel’s back to shoot it doesn’t bode well for the harmony of this family, which has been working together since 2001.
That’s a long time for any collaboration in Hollywood, let alone one that has constantly reinvented itself by adding bigger and bigger stars to the mix. The fact is that Universal has been batting around ideas to further exploit Johnson’s character since he joined the franchise in Fast Five, but nothing had stuck until audiences responded to his mano a mano showdown with Statham in a high-tech prison.
Variety has already called for Diesel to make a graceful exit before his character is left stranded on the side of the road wondering how Johnson took the wheel of the franchise. Can you honestly blame Diesel for feeling threatened by Johnson, who is considered the most popular and bankable movie star in the world today? I don’t think so. After all, this franchise is his baby.
Speaking of which, Diesel is a producer on the Fast & Furious movies, so even if there is a spinoff without his character, he will no doubt have a credit on it, though any creative involvement would be another story.
The spinoff is still in the very early stages, and there’s no point in Universal paying Morgan to write a script unless the studio has secured commitments from Johnson, Statham and Theron. All of those actors have very busy schedules, and given the time commitment required for a Fast movie, it begs the question of where the spinoff would fall in the timeline of the franchise.
Would it be the next movie, or would be slotted in between Fast 9 (2019) and Fast 10 (2021), or would Universal kill off Dom after Fast 10 and start relatively fresh with a spinoff after that? And since Fast 9 doesn’t even have a script yet, is Morgan going to write that first, or the spinoff? There’s enough mystery here for Sherlock Holmes!
I still have a hard time buying that the Fast gang would accept Statham’s Deckard Shaw as one of their own after he was revealed to have killed off Han (Sung Kang) at the end of Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift, but hey, if I can suspend my disbelief during every action sequence in this franchise, I can do it again to reposition Statham as a hero rather than a villain.
From a creative standpoint, a Fast spinoff could even experiment and take some risks. Imagine an R-rated spinoff with Statham dropping F-bombs and Johnson smashing skulls left and right, Logan-style, as the duo pursue Theron. That sounds pretty badass, right?
Unfortunately, the studio declined to comment regarding its future plans, leaving the fate of this franchise up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is that millions if not billions of dollars hang in the balance. There’s plenty of gas left in the tank of this franchise, but the wheels are starting to show signs of wear and tear.
Does the studio really want to continue down the lucrative but creatively-uninspired road this franchise has been traveling down, or does it want to get ruthless and take a cue from the Patriot Way. Only time will tell, so stay tuned…
Jeff Sneider | Editor in Chief