The Curious Case of the “Furious” Franchise

The Curious Case of the “Furious” Franchise

I myself have not seen “Furious 7”, the latest offering in the popular “Fast and Furious” movie franchise. To be honest, I haven’t seen any of these movies and I don’t really intend to because they are just not my thing.  However, as a student of pop culture, it has been interesting to follow the strange and unlikely journey this franchise has taken over the years as a detached, unbiased observer. The perception of Hollywood sequels is that they often a) overstay their welcome, and b) only exist as an excuse to ring money out of audiences who saw the original. The “Fast and Furious” franchise has proven to be a major exception in both cases. Even more remarkable is that the franchise, which in it’s most recent outing has received critical acclaim and  ismaking a killing at the box office, began as a far less respectable property than it is today. I can’t honestly think of any other major hollywood franchise that has proved an exception to the rule of diminishing returns, so what exactly is the “Fast and Furious” doing so right that others aren’t?

I think the franchise’s success is in many ways the result of its humble beginnings as perceived shallow, exploitation shlock. Though by design not a film aiming for originality or to wow critics (hence a 53% score on Rotten Tomatoes), the first “Fast and Furious” film was nonetheless financially successful and hence a franchise was born. The franchise was heading on the standard Hollywood track for sequels with diminishing returns, with each of the two following films making less money than the previous. It was with the fourth film, “Fast and Furious” in 2009, which also marked the return of original stars Paul Walker and Vin Diesel to the franchise after being absent from the previous film, that the trend was bucked and the movie grossed more than its predecessor. In the following two installments, the trend was flipped entirely, with each successive movie making more than the one that came before it. Though it’s early to speculate, “Furious 7” seems highly likely to continue that trend and become the highest grossing movie of the entire franchise.   

Beginning with “Fast Five”, the last three movies have also proven to be the most critically acclaimed of the bunch. More so than even the box office reversal of fortune, it’s improbable that a franchise would reach a previously unattained level of critical respectability on its fifth outing and then continue to improve from there. It appears that while nobody was paying any attention, the “Fast and Furious” franchise built itself into something that was worth paying attention to. I find the evolution of the “Fast and Furious” from disposable action schlock into highly respected action films fascinating, and I doubt we will ever see such an anomaly like this in Hollywood ever again.


R.I.P. Paul Walker