I don’t know if Vin Diesel’s conventionally earnest (and yet still passive-aggressive) plea for Dwayne Johnson to bury the hatchet and return to Fast & Furious 10 was a genuinely of-the-moment declaration or part one of a PR campaign which will see The Rock declare all forgiven and that Special Agent Hobbs will return for Dominic Toretto and the Deathly Mufflers Part I (April 7, 2023). Regardless of whether all feelings are legitimate, it’s time for both sides to mend fences. I don’t care about the Fast Saga fandom I’m not sad when two of our more colorful muscle-man movie stars squabble. However, Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson reuniting in Fast 10 would be a commercially mutually beneficial outcome.
While Johnson will be fine as a multimedia superstar, Red Notice is getting justifiably lousy reviews, and Netflix barely bothered to promote its theatrical engagement (a guestimated $1.5 million in 750 theaters this past weekend). It may well set records for Netflix viewership thanks to sheer star power (it also co-stars Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds), but it’s not anyone’s best work. Jungle Cruise is getting a sequel, despite the $200 million film earning $200 million worldwide (it opens in China on Friday). To be fair, Johnson doesn’t “need” Fast 10, but it certainly won’t hurt. However, it’s not like Vin Diesel’s non-Fast Saga projects (RIP Bloodshot and The Last Witch Hunter) have been setting the box office on fire.
The skewed timeline, which made Fast & Furious, Fast Five and Fast & Furious 6 a prequel to Tokyo Drift (so that Sung Hang’s Han Lue could continue to co-star despite his death in the third installment), also gave the films a forward momentum. More importantly, the skewed continuity (whereby 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift were closer to spin-offs than sequels) gave each installment a narrative function. Fast & Furious reunited the core cast (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez), while Fast Five brought in almost every supporting character from the first four films and pitted then against Johnson’s fiery lawman. Furious 6 repositioned Dom and friends as lawful heroes alongside Hobbs.
Furious 7 saw our crew reuniting to avenge Han’s death (at the hands of Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw) and implicitly say farewell to Brian O’Conner following Walker’s off-screen death. By all rights, the story was done after Furious 7, but $1.515 billion worldwide demanded otherwise. Fate of the Furious ($1.236 billion) and F9 ($721 million) both invented strained family-specific melodrama. Dom discovered he had a secret infant son and then fought against only to reconcile with his hereto unknown estranged brother (John Cena). Fate set up a Johnson/Statham Hobbs & Shaw spin-off while F9 brought Han back to life as an answer to fans upset that the guy who killed Han was retconned into a good guy for that spin-off .
Sure, this is all fair play in a franchise that has long since become a soap opera mixed with dungeons and dragons-style role play, but F9 was also the first Fast film since Tokyo Drift to feature neither Agent Hobbs or Brian O’Conner. I’m not arguing that’s the reason why F9, which was a not-exactly-beloved sequel to the not-exactly-beloved Fate of the Furious, earned “only” $173 million and “only” $721 million worldwide compared to $759 million for the spin-off and $1.236 billion for Fast and Furious 8. However, it may be an issue worth rectifying, especially as even the opening of Furious 7 was starting to look a little like Andy’s room at the start of Toy Story 3.
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Attempts to replace Brian (Scott Eastwood in Fate and John Cena in F9) haven’t exactly riveted the fan base. The #Justice4Han movement was another example of a studio capitulating to a small demographic which didn’t represent general audiences. Moreover, with Han back, Brian retired and Dom’s brother free and clear, the franchise has run out of story left to tell. The notion of Hobbs and Toretto actually sharing screen time in F10, essentially for the first time since Furious 6 (they did have one charming scene together at the start of Furious 7), will offer something of a hook to sell to general audiences (the film’s two biggest actors/stars/characters together again) beyond “Oh, it’s another Fast Saga sequel.”
Diesel wants Fast 10 to be another blockbuster, especially since he hasn’t had a non-Fast domestic hit since The Pacifier in 2005. Johnson could always use an easy hit or two, especially if Red Notice proves one-and-done while Jungle Cruise 2 doesn’t perform much better than Jungle Cruise. Moreover, if Fast 10 over-performs compared to Hobbs & Shaw and F9, Johnson can position himself as a commercial savior/key element of the Fast Saga. Both parties are rich enough to do whatever they want to do. But Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson should bury the hatchet and take one last ride in the Fast Saga. At worst, it’ll be good advertising for Hobbs & Shaw 2 and xXx 4.