Why Vin Diesel and the ‘Fast and the Furious’ Franchise Should Eye the Exit Ramp

Fate of the Furious
Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Dear Universal, Vin Diesel, & Family,

A plea. After eight films and $4.4 billion and counting, it’s time for the “Fast and the Furious” series to eye the exit ramp. I’m not saying you have to send Dom Toretto into the great garage in the sky without giving him and Letty and Hobbs and the Shaw brothers and whoever it is that Scott Eastwood plays, a proper sendoff. There’s still plenty of gas left in the series’ tank, especially after “The Fate of the Furiousjust shattered records with a $532.5 million global opening. I just hope you understand the importance of the old adage to leave the audience wanting more.

After all, nothing is sadder than a film franchise that should have ended several installments ago. Just ask “Die Hard,” “Lethal Weapon,” “The Expendables,” or even “Indiana Jones.” It would be so sad to see an arthritic Dom slide behind the wheel of the latest muscle car.

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Wrapping things up is not just about avoiding the inevitable ravages of age. A graceful exit is all the more essential because no series in history has been so successful at reinventing itself over such a long period of time. What began as a B-movie, “Point Break” knockoff about a government agent infiltrating a band of hard-driving criminals, morphed into a family drama, a heist adventure, a globe-spanning thriller, and whatever other genre was currently in the zeitgeist. Through it all, “Fast and Furious” cleverly injected fresh blood into the series, introducing Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham into the proceedings, and providing a jolt of adrenaline with each new cast member. The willingness to keep changing the tires is what enabled the franchise to avoid a straight-to-DVD fate. Bonus points for recognizing before nearly any other major studio did that having a multi-ethnic cast boosts the box office — inclusion isn’t just a good thing, it’s good for business.

Not everything has been a victory lap. The filmmakers also had to grapple with the unimaginable. After Paul Walker died in 2013 in a horrific car accident, Universal and the filmmakers would have been forgiven for scrapping “Furious 7” entirely. After all, Walker hadn’t completed his work on the sequel. Instead, using digital wizardry and stunt doubles, they were able to transform the movie into a fitting memorial for the fallen star, giving his fans a chance to honor his work and tastefully allowing for his character to live on in perpetuity through the magic of cinema.

Show that same courage now. Here’s the thing, domestically, at least, the “Fast and Furious” series appears to be tapering off. “The Fate of the Furious'” $100.2 million launch is a far cry from “Furious 7’s” $147.2 million bow. It’s the first time that a “Fast and Furious” film hasn’t improved on the opening of its predecessor since 2006’s “Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.”

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Reviews were noticeably more downbeat, with some ranging on hostile. The films’ overall revenues are growing on a global basis, thanks to China, where “The Fate of the Furious” roared to a massive $190 million debut. But U.S. studios only get 25% of those ticket sales, roughly half of what they earn in the States — that means they’ll have to bring in twice as much in the Middle Kingdom to make the same amount they earn domestically.

As each sequel gets released, the price tag balloons. Stars demand more money and a greater share of the spoils. “The Fate of the Furious” cost $250 million and change to produce, that’s a big jump from the last installment’s $190 million price tag and huge increase from the first film’s $38 million budget. Such is the gravitational trajectory of a film franchise that with every new chapter the costs climb and the profits shrink.

Then there’s a nagging sense that a company that used to pride itself on being an on and off-screen family, is fraying under the strain of global superstardom. “The Fate of the Furious” was dogged by reports of a feud between Johnson and Diesel, one that resulted in Johnson taking pot shots at unnamed “candy a–es” on social media. Despite Diesel’s lead-footed attempts to play down the tension, the two actors appear to loathe one another. Johnson skipped the film’s CinemaCon presentation, its foreign premieres, and made only a perfunctory stop on the red carpet of its New York launch — seriously, the man channeled Usain Bolt as he went down the press line. This is a group of actors that’s looking dangerously close to the 2004 U.S. Olympic basketball team, a band of superstars that lacked the chemistry to deliver the gold.

Here’s the thing, endings are good. Just look at “Girls” or “Breaking Bad,” two television series that got better and better as they raced toward preordained finales. Great dramas wrap things up, otherwise Oedipus would still be shtupping his mom.

In a recent interview with Variety, screenwriter Chris Morgan said he has a clear idea of how he wants the franchise to fade out. Knowing how this story ends, and signaling to viewers that the filmmakers are racing toward a conclusion, could give this series the kind of energy it needs to finish the race strong. For his part, Diesel has described “Fate of the Furious” as kicking off a new trilogy. He should consider rolling credits after part 10. It may mean leaving some money on the table, because the crew could probably chug along for eight more sequels and ever-diminishing box office returns, but it’s better to go out on your terms. Otherwise, the audience may eventually decide to stop showing up.

Yours,

A Faithful Box Office Analyst

P.S.: For the love of God, don’t have this series go into space.

P.P.S.: Seriously, have you seen “Moonraker”?

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  1. C.D.Carney says:

    So 1.1 billion dollar, 12 highest grossing franchise, beating Star Wars the Force (Got Too Old) Awakens, number of other fancy statistics, and you’re telling someone else their business. Hey, wrap it up, ain’t no money in fast cars and hot chicks! What do you think this is, Torque? Pfft…

  2. solarmovie says:

    Sky Movies Month Cross 14 day free trial: Obtainable to new Sky Films Month Cross prospects becoming a
    member of NOW TELEVISION on-line.

  3. DK says:

    they are killing the film business with these ridiculous franchises. make real films again or we’ll all be curling up with netflix or amazon, there will be a slim (ironically not slim individually) minority of the US public chomping down on full meals while watching this garbage in half empty cinemas

  4. ken says:

    right now lets see the same article written for star wars or the MCU. This article is thrash and feels like something written from one of the angry disney bros in the media

  5. jedi77 says:

    It’ll kill itself.
    When The Rock exits, because he’s got so many other franchise projects going, that he doesn’t need to put up with Vin’s ego for the paycheck, it will be discovered that Vin isn’t the star. The Rock is currently the star.
    I am not a huge fan of The Rock, but the guy can open almost any film. Whereas Vin can’t open anything outside this franchise.

  6. macd says:

    Mr. Lang, I congratulate you for being the only journalist to have the courage and intelligence to write this outstanding article. And it could also be applied to numerous other franchises. However, I fear you and I are in a very slim minority, as witness the outpouring of outraged comments below, which I expected. Let’s face it, the dumbing down of the U.S. citizens has reached its completion. Morons are now in charge of the mainstream studios, and morons can’t get enough of the cinematic garbage they excrete. I bailed out of the “Star Wars” frenzy immediately after suffering thru its first sequel, “The Empire Strikes Back”. And rarely see theatrical movies when cable-TV offers far more varied and high-quality fare.
    Need I add H.L. Mencken’s prophetic comment that remains as pertinent today as when it first appeared in print: “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public”.
    So to you, Mr. Lang, and to Mr. Mencken, my heartfelt thanks!

  7. Truth says:

    100% clickbait trash. This will lose you visits to your website.

  8. Becca says:

    There are been 24 James Bond movies.

  9. Fred Mertz Jr. says:

    How exactly do you get to be the senior film and media editor of Variety by telling a film studio that they should consider abandoning a franchise that will gross, in one outing, more money than Trump has (and I’m serious about that comment)? If you think Universal is going to put down the pen at this juncture, you sadly misunderstand addiction.

  10. Jacques Strappe says:

    Studios nowadays would rather kill a franchise through sequel after sequel until the series becomes unprofitable. It is really, really funny how easily box office records can be shattered, especially globally when the number of movie screens for these blockbuster releases increases every time, along with higher ticket prices each year. The records are never apples to apples comparisons so the sky is the limit. Didn’t this Fast and Furious sequel debut on a record number of global screens for any previous movie from any studio? Some foreign markets like China no doubt eat up American crap films with fast cars and lots of explosions in place of any serious story or interesting dialogue. The “Transformers” phenomenon, I suppose: loud, obnoxious and inane always wins the day.

  11. I’m waiting for other studios to copycat Fast and Furious.

  12. Rudy Mario says:

    Terrible article.
    I saw the movie and it was terrible. But if the paying public globally; (and yes this is a true global hit compared to Starwars that is mostly a white audience favorite) have accepted it then from a purely business perspective, I say milk it dry. If Universal has sense, the suits shoukd periodically rejenuate the series. Like they did for Jurassic World aeries, also a true global hit.

  13. adam says:

    So that’s what happened to that flop “Ghost in the Shell”? Had it just had fast cars, lots of scantily clad hot women and Vin Diesel, it would have been a big box office hit.

  14. Bas says:

    Universal Pictures is a subsidiary of Comcast. So this letter should be written to the Telco.

  15. Dom says:

    Think they should bring in JJ Abrams and let him do a prequel. Have Vin and the others do cameo’s to refresh the series with more street racing back to the car culture basic store that’s not tanks and fantasy land bullshit. Just saying.Show the low life and the street racer with the old school classics.

  16. Pedro says:

    You lost everyone when you implied Girls was any good and got better and better. No one watched Girls. People despise it. It was only on the air because Lena was gaining traction at awards by shaming people into nominating her or being chauvinists / fat people haters.

    • DK says:

      this comment shows your pithy intelligence. girls was am excellent series

      • Pedro says:

        My pithy intelligence doesn’t lead to writing sentences like “girls was am excellent series” or watching shows about the struggles of White Privilege.

  17. Tripp Fell says:

    The sad simple fact is that the world is getting dumber. Trump thinks he’s presidential. Vin thinks he’s an actor. And the countless morons who would even consider watching Furious whatever, much less actually go through with the act, are precisely the type of people who voted for Trump ( if they’re even old enough to vote, which itself says a lot about the audience for this film). They’re also the types of people who get upset when films like this don’t have a presence at awards time. If it wasn’t so sad it would all be laughable.
    Sigh… The world is full of idiots. No use in complaining about it.

    • Chris says:

      I didn’t vote for trump and love this film series, there insanely ridiculous but the action sequences are just crazy awesome.

  18. Jean-Michel says:

    “But U.S. studios only get 25% of those ticket sales, roughly half of what they earn in the States — that means they’ll have to bring in twice as much in the Middle Kingdom to make the same amount they earn domestically.”

    Or they could bring in a Chinese partner to kick in part of the budget in exchange for the Chinese distribution rights, thus bringing in more money from China than they would’ve had if they’d just taken the 25%. Which is what they’ve done for the last two films in the series now and will surely keep doing for every installment going forward.

  19. David Wood says:

    besides the declining weekend box office, the white audience seemed to stay away from the series.

  20. Michael Kheop says:

    So F8 has the biggest box office opening in the history of films, and your saying that it’s time to end it? Sounds like folks is hatin on this movie. Maybe because it’s not “who” is expected to destroy all box office openings that preceded it. Black director, Black cast, Black culture on blast… Over $500 Billion opening worldwide! End it? It’s clear the entire world is feelin this movie, its cast, its energy. By the way “real” families don’t always get it along. But they’re far more interesting than a fake family. Men lie, Women lie; numbers don’t.

    • Ajones says:

      You said everything I wanted to say. This is the dumbest article I have every read. Crticizing success, that shows no sign of abating based on some faulty analysis of being “tired”. Despite it not being marked that way, this is a Black movie that is setting records around the world and your take is to stop it. That is laughably stupid and red eye envy.

  21. Cass says:

    Yes Universal. Stop making a billion dollars for each film. You should stop and exit. LMAOOOOOO.

  22. Roger says:

    Dear Mr. Lang. I never once left a comment in my life. I’m 35 years old. This is the first feedback on something I read. This is the dumbest load of shit I ever read. Everyone loves the furious movies. We love seeing shit blow up. And I would keep watching it even if they were old. Let’s see them fly the cars in space. I wanna see what they can think of next cuz every movie is getting better. If u don’t like it don’t watch it. But theres millions of other ppl that wanna keep seeing them make more movies.

  23. David Crooks says:

    Dear Brett Lang,
    You just got done saying the latest installment broke records at $532.5M and they should now stop. So they’re​ not racing hoverounds in the next film? Does it look like any of the cast is close to that? You own a company and just had record breaking sales, pop, time to close our doors! Senior film and media editor huh?

  24. Phillip Ayling says:

    Dear Mr. Lang, No one who has actually been in the biz for even a nanosecond would write such an article for any purpose other than an April Fools’ Prank.

  25. Damon Tammas says:

    Oh please, you’d make more sense if you demanded they stop with the endless reboot/rehash/remake bombs. What a silly ‘article’, especially after Furious setting global box office records. They will end it as soon as the inevitable bomb comes along and not a minute sooner. And of course the participants want more money on each successful outing, just like every other aspect of Hollywood (and the rest of the country), because that’s just fair. I’d rather see a continuing Furious franchise versus yet another Spiderman rehash or Chips reboot. … and putting Girls in the same sentence as the excellence of Breaking Bad?? It’s time to retire , sir.

  26. RKF says:

    As long as they make money in the box office… Not from me though – I watched the first one, i found it mildly, but I was never tempted to watch any of the sequels. To each his own.

  27. Bob Barker's Nephew says:

    You think Girls is a good series? I bet you enjoy those awful Divergent films too.

    Real talk though, who the fuck pays you to write these awful articles?

  28. Oh come on, the series isn’t dropping off in box office, the last film was an anomaly because of the sad death of Paul Walker.Everyone outside of a few desperate to make bad news out of good, knows this film continues the upward trend of box office and is to be compared to Fast 6, not Furious 7.

  29. Rutherford Alexander Richow says:

    This gearhead nonsense makes Sharknado look like a cinematic masterpiece by comparison.

  30. Sky3 says:

    The plan is to film 10 movies for this franchise. I’m all for it! I agree with Mr Jones Jr it is’nt hurting anyone. If you don’t like it don’t watch it. My family and I are huge fans so we watch it! 😊

  31. Lucky says:

    Vin will squeeze this franchise dry, bank on it. Now a Hobbs spin-off featuring drop-ins from the FF family? That’s the direction I’m most excited for.

  32. Wlee says:

    Ask Hollywood to give up on a profitable movie franchise “no matter how played out the theme” is akin to ask a mob boss donate all his illegal earnings to charity. In other words it ain’t going to happen if there is still a crumb of cash left on the table. I say this after seeing the movie and enjoying it but I can see how they will now milk this new subplot in the film. Face it will be see The Fast and The Furious until the actors are so old the new name should be The Slow and The Slightly Cranky.

  33. Let it continue as long as it produces income for those involved. Those of us who despise it long ago learned to ignore the whole franchise, so whom is it hurting? Perhaps only we writers capable of intelligent scripts, but again, that’s my problem and not the Furious franchise’s.

  34. EK says:

    When it earns it burns as in while it is still hot, Furious will continue to roll. Bond was best at the beginning; now just another action franchise. But, like Furious, if it continues to earn and can it’s budget kept under control, on it will go as well.

  35. grayzip says:

    By the same logic Star Wars and Marvel movies should end too. Or you could just stop seeing them

  36. Louis E. says:

    Now if only someone can get through to Michael Wilson that yes,there absolutely should be a definitive LAST James Bond film!

  37. gvfddb says:

    There is no need to end the franchise. My idiot mates will watch any stupid plot with fast cars in it.
    If I was to ship drugs around the city I would use Pensioners on Public Buses.
    I just loved the way Brian dropped the street car slang ‘Where did you get a Scoobie from man.’
    All my mates loved it.
    Some of us are stupider more. Watching Smackdown with the Rock telling the presenters
    to take a tall glass of ‘Shut up Juice’ and his 12 days of Christmas song.

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