“Bro, you’re a good driver.”
With insightful dialogue like this, I have trouble imagining why anyone would consider the sequels to The Fast and The Furious to be failures. Financially, of course, no one could make that claim. The two follow-ups cost roughly $150 million to release while earning worldwide receipts of $380.5 million. Bro, that’s a lot of currency. Just imagine how much money could have been made if the movies were good. Presumably, this is the thought process Universal Studios had in considering whether or not to do another release in the franchise.
The key to this discussion is Vin Diesel. After co-starring with Paul Walker in a legally dissimilar but thematically identical update of 1991’s Point Break, Diesel announced his intention to make more money on his next film. The Fast and the Furious had earned $144.5 million domestically, still the best performer in the series in this regard, and he felt that his performance of the Patrick Swayze role as well-intended, complex criminal was the key. After all, it couldn’t be Paul Walker drawing them in, now could it?
During a tense series of financial negotiations, Universal execs eventually double-dog dared Diesel to try to launch another big paycheck franchise, which is exactly what he did in xXx. Sure, that film was a train wreck and Diesel was again not a part of the sequel, but it did earn $267.2 million worldwide including $141.2 million domestically. Meanwhile, Walker’s work in 2 Fast 2 Furious brought in $234.5 million worldwide, $127.1 million of it stemming from domestic receipts. The problem that both Universal and Diesel faced was that neither of the movies made in this period was good. They had spited one another at the cost of serious career derailment on both ends.
Universal tried a new tactic with their third film in the franchise, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, but even the promised absence of Paul Walker was not enough to make people want to take another chance on the car movie series. Meanwhile, Diesel’s next would-be franchise, The Chronicles of Riddick, sequel to the marvelous Pitch Black, earned only $90.6 million worldwide, a brutal result for a product with a budget of $105 million and a negative cost much more than that. Clearly, the two parties needed one another. Otherwise, Universal was out a franchise and Diesel was stuck changing diapers in The Pacifier movies for the rest of his career.
Recognizing that they needed one another, the two sides came together once more and an accord was reached. Diesel’s brief cameo at the end of Tokyo Drift had opened the door for both parties to make amends and also make another movie together along the way. This is important in that the original film, The Fast and the Furious, had an open-ended conclusion that screamed for a sequel. This was ignored in 2 Fast 2 Furious, but Paul Walker’s character, a law enforcement official, willingly let Diesel’s character, a wanted criminal, walk away. Closure was needed that consumers sought out in the sequels, only to realize that they were duped then duped again. A fourth film may resolve these matters although Universal is not showing a lot of foresight in that they are messing with the timeline here. The fourth film will take place after the second one but before the third one as a well of tying up the storylines in the first film. Got all that? Yeah, me neither.
The point here is that Vin Diesel is back in the long anticipated sequel to 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, and this film could make some money, too. The franchise has a current running tally of $587 million worldwide revenues, and the first film’s domestic take inflation adjusts to $176 million. At one point, Universal appeared to have another The Mummy on its hands. While stubbornness and bad business decisions undid those plans, the potential exists for the fourth and final (they are saying anyway) film to excel. Alternately, people will focus less on the presence of Vin Diesel and more on the fact that Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster are all back and decide to take a pass once more. It could go either way, bro. (David Mumpower/BOP)