How the “Fast & Furious” saga went from the mundane “car movie” to the quintessential blockbuster

The ninth film in the franchise was released this Wednesday, starring Vin Diesel. It should still panic the ticket offices of the cinemas. But how to explain such success and such longevity?

Actor Vin Diesel plays Dominic Toretto in Fast & Furious 9.
Actor Vin Diesel plays Dominic Toretto in Fast & Furious 9. © AFP / Giles Keyte

The poster of “Fast and Furious 9 “ sets the tone. Big cars, helicopters, weapons, colored smoke, muscles. Right in the middle, Vin Diesel has his arms crossed, his head bowed, the dark gaze of the unhappy man. Over time, “Fast & Furious” has gone from being a gangster car fan movie toone of the most profitable benchmark blockbusters in cinema, where the overbidding film after film is required.

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Manly man and independent woman

The specifications of the saga have changed little. The men are manly, the women are either in bikinis or very independent with leading roles like Michelle Rodriguez and Charlize Theron. But as time goes by, the cars take a back seat. The arrival of Justin Lin in directing marks a turning point with the third episode “Tokyo Drift “. Then the former wrestler Dwayne Johnson, alias “The Rock” enters the cast in a role of super diplomatic security agent, followed by Jason Statham. They are among the most popular action film actors and add a subtle hint of humor. The saga enters another era, recognizes producer Neal H. Moritz in the monthly Premiere : “This was indeed the turning point of the series: we were focused on an underground street culture and suddenly we became a mainstream film with an international dimension.”

Like “Mission Impossible” with Tom Cruise, “Fast & Furious “ has evolved towards “always more” and exuberance. For the youtubeur Amergame, alias Vincent:

We go to the cinema to see these films as in an amusement park. “

Vincent dedicates a video to the film. Because by going to see “Fast & Furious “, we know what to expect. Incredible stunts, surreal scenes, excess becomes the norm. “There is an aesthetic of carnage”, adds Camille, 28 years old. This Parisian is a big fan of the saga, he has seen them all, and several times. He pursues : “Unlike other action movies, you get your eyes on it every 10 or 15 minutes, just like a horror movie.” The saga differs from the master in the field Michael Bay (“Transformers”, “Bad Boys”, “Pearl Harbor”), because “it’s less vulgar” Judge Camille.

Qaund Dwayne Johnson curls with a torpedo.
Qaund Dwayne Johnson curls with a torpedo. / Fast and Furious

In the sixth feature film in the series, one of the characters jump out of a car to another fair to avoid being swallowed up by a tank, all at full speed. In the room, the public reacts and asks for more. There is also Dwayne Johnson who deflects a torpedo on the ice floe with his bare hand, hanging from the door of a pick-up. The spin-off “Hobbs and Shaw “ reaches heights in the unreal. Jason Statham fled in a car and sneaks between the wheels of trucks, chased by a motorcycle. The trailer for the film on display promises a chase… in space, with a car transformed into a space shuttle. “At first, it was mocked, because the films were taken seriously”, Vincent remembers. “It is now uninhibited.”

A hen that lays golden eggs

The first “Fast & Furious “ at twenty. At the time, it cost $ 38 million, and generated $ 207 million in revenue. Chase, hand-to-hand combat, the DNA was already there and it’s quite an art, says Camille: “Look at Overdrive or Need for speed, these are failures. You don’t just have to shoot cars crashing into them to make a good movie.With each new film, the budget increases and the revenues explode. After 14 years, the billion dollar mark is crossed, thanks to “Fast & Furious 7 “. For the eighth opus, the producers open the floodgates, and spend $ 250 million. It is more than “Avatar”, “007 Specter “and” The Dark Knight Rises “. The film will have the best start in cinema history, before being beaten by “Avengers: Infinity War “. “Fast & Furious “ is “the answer to the dominance of Marvel Studio”, says Frédérick Sigrist. The producer of “Blockbusters” on France Inter defines these films as “The Avengers of Big Muscle and Testosterone”.

And as with Marvel, characters lost to follow-up or deceased in previous films appear later in the series. Frédérick Sigrist calls it a “doudou franchise” : “There is nothing more comforting than finding characters that we have followed for several films”. Because “Fast & Furious “, it’s also a family, gathered around Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, but also Paul Walker, who died in a road accident in 2013. The family becomes a centerpiece of the plot. In the eighth opus, Vin Diesel betrays his relatives, in the following, he has to face his disowned brother. He always ends up doing it, thanks to his friends and some damage. Director Justin Lin entrusts have destroyed more than 250 cars for the filming of the ninth episode. But not the friendships woven between the actors.

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