Like its very own characters, the “Fast & Furious” franchise started with humble beginnings, but has evolved into a globetrotting powerhouse of a film franchise. The first film, “The Fast and the Furious,” really was nothing more than an updated “Point Break” remake — a story of an undercover cop who falls in love with the extreme lifestyle of the very criminals he has set out to apprehend.

 

From the very beginning, Paul Walker was the "everyman" the franchise needed (dailymail.co.uk)

From the very beginning, Paul Walker was the “everyman” the franchise needed (dailymail.co.uk)

From that jumping off point, the series has gotten more bombastic, outrageous, and yet somehow better with each passing film. After the death of Paul Walker in 2013, many wondered if the franchise would die with him before the release of the seventh film. In spite of — or perhaps because of — his death, that film has gone on to be a worldwide phenomenon, grossing over 1.3 billion dollars at the box office so far.

 

Because of this success, franchise star Vin Diesel recently revealed that an eighth installment to the franchise will release on April 17, 2017.

 

In many ways, the franchise has thrived due to its willingness to embrace a certain self-aware, over-the-top sense of spectacle. Many fans agree that the series experienced a renewal with the fifth installment, which saw a shift away from street racing towards traditional action gunplay, fighting, and international heists.

 

Introducing action juggernauts such as Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, the films in many ways become an homage to classic action that other franchises, like “The Expendables,” have failed to replicate. Screenrant even made the astute observation that the franchise has become a “superhero film in disguise” — something that modern audiences seem to gravitate towards.

 

The series has done an exemplary job of making an incredibly diverse cast into an onscreen "family" (deadshirt.net)

The series has done an exemplary job of making an incredibly diverse cast into an onscreen “family” (deadshirt.net)

Aside from changes in the style of action, the “Fast” films boast one of the most diverse ensembles — both in culture and gender — on screen today. An article in the Chicago Tribune noted that the films represent a “post-racial” America; audiences see a team of people of all colors and cultures working together but rarely calling direct attention to that fact.

 

Going forward, one big question remains: how will the death of Paul Walker impact future films? With “Fast 7,” the filmmakers deployed a series of camera and CGI to cheat the late actors’ presence in certain scenes; they won’t have that luxury in the future. The importance of his character to the series cannot be understated. Amid all of the macho characters and caricature portrayals, his FBI agent turned criminal Brian O’Connor always helped ground the series. His character was a window through which the audience could observe.

 

Whether larger than life characters like Vin Diesel’s Dom Toretto, or Dwayne Johnson’s Hobbes can carry the series in the same way remains to be seen. Either way, “Furious 8” has a tough act to follow.

 

Are you excited for “Furious 8”? What are your thoughts on the “Fast & Furious” franchise? Comment below or tweet @connerws to keep the conversation going!