In the summer of 2001 a film based off a magazine article and directed by Rob Cohen hit theaters. The film, about illegal street racing, was somewhat of a surprise hit, earning a mixed response from critics while performing quite well at the box office. On a $38 million budget it brought in just over $207 million worldwide – good enough for the 18th highest grossing film of the year. So it didn’t blow critics away nor did it shatter any box office records, but it was extremely profitable with more people finding it to be entertaining than not.
The film to which I refer is of course THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS and at the time it was merely a small blip on the cinematic map. At best a sequel was expected based on the fact that in terms of summer films by Hollywood standards it was fairly cheap and made Universal a heap of money. But that would be it, one sequel to squeeze the rest of the cash out and surely it would fade off into the vast void like so many other summer action flicks to come before it.
Flash forward 15 years and THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS has spun off into a franchise which as of right has seven sequels with an eigth on the way, two short films and theme park attractions. It has arguably become the greatest action franchise of all time. Actually scratch that – it has become the greatest action franchise of all time. When we get up to five JOHN WICK movies I’ll re-evaluate this stance, but currently I don’t think there’s a better action franchise. MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE is really the only one that even comes close, but I give the edge to FF.
What makes THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS movies so impressive is how the series has evolved and actually gotten significantly better in the later films. Not only that, but those later films have somehow managed to make the first handful of entries better by weaving in some absurd story and timeline to tie everything together. When viewed on their own the first four films are just ok. They all have enjoyable moments but could easily be forgotten if not for the series deciding to kick things up a notch with FAST FIVE. From that moment forward the series has been cranked up to 11 with the action and stars getting bigger and better.
Since that fifth installment to the series the main cast has expanded to include The Rock – joining Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster and Sung Kang – with a slew up big-name supporting pieces in Jason Statham, Kurt Russell, Gina Carano, Djimon Hounsou, Ronda Rousey and Tony Jaa getting in on the action. And that’s if we only look at the so far completed seven films. Helen Mirren, Charlize Theron and Scott Eastwood are all on tap to appear in the eighth entry. The set pieces and action sequences have miraculously kept up with the ever-growing cast. We’ve seen tanks, airport runways that seem to stretch 30-miles and cars parachuting from planes. It’s kind of hard to see how the series can keep taking that next step.
The joke amongst fans online is that eventually this all needs to lead to space. On the surface that notion seems silly. How could a series based on illegal street racing eventually work its way into space? But if you’ve watched the films you can see how the natural progression of the series could easily lead there. Still, space exploration has to be reserved for the tenth film, at the earliest. Since FAST FIVE the films have been coming out every two years with FAST 8 due out on April 14, 2017. That means if the Toretto family wants to go explore the final frontier they’ll have to wait until 2021, best case scenario.
Assuming the series does eventually get to space, fingers crossed, you have to keep it fresh and exciting for two more films. FAST 8 is already underway and the producers appear to have taken the appropriate steps to make sure that one is another success. The film is set to take place in New York, F. Gary Gray is helming the project and they’ve brought back the majority of the cast with the additions of Theron, Mirren and Eastwood. FAST 8 is going to be awesome, I’m sure of that.
That leaves us with FAST 9 – just spit-balling on the title here. What do you do with FAST 9? You can’t go to space yet. You’ve already got Vin Diesel, The Rock, Russell, Statham, Theron and Mirren. Who else can you possibly add to up the ante? Oh, I think we all know exactly who.
My personal preference would be to have Nicolas Cage reprising his role as Randall “Memphis” Raines from GONE IN 60 SECONDS. That would be glorious, but I try not to think about it too much out of fear of my dreams being shattered. Memphis Raines or not, there’s plenty of room in THE FAST AND FURIOUS franchise for Cage. Just picture the juxtaposition of Cage going full throttle while Diesel marches forward with his barely audible mumble. That’s poetry in motion.
It wouldn’t be hard to write a role in for Cage either. With his unlimited range he allows for a lot of options. He could be good or a bad guy, or mostly likely both because that seems to be a common theme in these films. Just follow the standard FF franchise formula – Diesel and Cage hate each other at first but eventually develop a mutual respect and then sort of become friends. Along the way lots of stuff blows up.
The only question I have is why hasn’t this happened yet? Hey, Neal H. Moritz – in the words of Julie James, “What are you waiting for, huh?” Get Cage on the phone already and bring him on board. Oh and be sure to make it a conference call with Neveldine & Taylor because those dudes need to direct.
THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise needs this. Realistically once you have Kurt Russell the next logical step is to get Cage. This is the only way to keep raising the stakes. But more importantly society needs this. In these downtrodden times we need something to lift our spirits. I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of anything more uplifting than Nicolas Cage driving fast and killing people with The Rock by his side.
For the last fifteen years THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS franchise has been all about going over-the-top in the most absurd ways possible. If you want to continue that trend and reach the ultimate pinnacle of awesome-ness there is only one solution – Nicolas Cage.