State of the Franchise: Fast & Furious
By Jason Barney
June 12, 2013
I was one of the original movie goers drawn to The Fast and Furious in 2001. I’m not particularly a car fan. I obviously use them, but really don’t care what is underneath the hood as long as it gets me back and forth to work. Sitting in the seats of the small theater in St. Albans, Vermont, I admit I enjoyed The Fast and the Furious 12 years ago. Some of it was ridiculous. Suspending belief was a necessity. Revved up engines. Loud music. Scantily clad women. No cares in the world but speed and automobiles.
The racing scenes on the curiously empty streets of Los Angeles were sorta comic bookish. The vehicles were able to make corners as fast as a birds in flight. Perhaps because of the way the tale was told, I was able to grin and accept the action. Tossing aside the absurdities of the plot, and throwing away the reality of “that could never happen,” I accepted the story and took in the film in very much the same way fellow movie goers enjoyed such far flung stories as The Mummy Returns, Swordfish, Jurassic Park III, and Planet of the Apes during the hot months of 2001.
It was a big summer film and a surprising success. Made for $38 million, it opened for more than $40 million. Talk about revved up engines. From the moment it entered the summer box office race, it was a winner. It crossed the finish line with $207 million in box office receipts.
I didn’t like the film enough to return for 2 Fast 2 Furious. I ignored Tokyo Drift in 2006 and kinda chuckled when even fans of the series panned it. I rolled my eyes when the fourth entry came out. It was hard to follow a franchise based on the concept of “Cars Go Fast.”
Then something strange happened. Universal announced plans for a fifth installment. This series had to run out of gas at some point, right? Typically the only franchises that manage five different films are ones involving bad horror or science fiction. Cars? Engines?
I totally ignored Fast Five; I had no interest in watching the tracking estimates. The franchise was going to fail soon. In 2011, I was more interested in taking my son to see Rio then embarrassingly getting caught up in conversations about Vroom, Vroom. Well, Fast Five did enough business that I couldn’t help but notice its success. It….it…. set the record for an opening weekend in April with $89 million. Being in the movie analysis business I HAD to take notice.
How was this happening? A franchise was expanding its base with each new installment, surviving without some of the original leads in each entry, and adding new substantial talent.
Universal announced there would be a sixth installment. What? Their plans were for it to open in 2013….over the Memorial Weekend break. Huh? I was missing something. Memorial Day Weekend is one of the biggest movie weekends of the year. It is up there with July 4th and Christmas as a cash cow for studios.
The release of Fast & Furious 6 meant that I had some movie viewing to do.