Fast cars, outlaw lifestyles, and a penchant for absolute destruction. Over the course of seven films this has pretty much represented the formula for any film within the Fast & Furious franchise. Although it has most certainly hit its fair share of rough patches, the series has increasingly found solid footing in recent years -- partly due to its ability to lock down directors who know how to balance amazing car chases and action sequences with some genuine familial drama.
The next director up to bat is Straight Outta Compton's F. Gary Gray, and he has his own vision for the franchise when it comes to the upcoming Fast & Furious 8. Rather than duplicating what has come before him, he has his own plans for where to take the popular series.
Speaking with Collider, Gray cited J.J. Abrams' work on films like Star Trek and Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as an example of how he intends to blend big set pieces and character drama on Fast & Furious 8:
“... When you look at someone like J.J. Abrams who gives you the spectacle and great action set pieces but also gives you character and plotting and narrative, I think it’s my job—and my intention—to do both. You amp up everything, you work on the performances, you work on the story, you work on the action; it’s just not one thing. Hopefully I bring more to it, that’s part of the point is to bring something different to the franchise while still satisfying what the fans want.”
Gray also explained how the team behind Fast & Furious 8 plans to branch out and innovate for the franchise, while still ensuring that it feels like a Fast & Furious film at its core:
I’m probably not at liberty to go too far into detail. All I have to say is I’m extremely excited about the direction we’re going in, and we’re really pushing to make sure the audience feels like it’s not more of the same. They feel like it’s fresh, they feel like the characters they’ve come to know and love are there, but this is gonna be different, and that’s probably the most I can give you right now.
By virtue of circumstance, Fast & Furious 8 pretty much has to be different from its predecessors. The tragic death of Paul Walker in 2013 brought production of Furious 7 to a stand still, and the filmmakers had to scramble in order to retire his character Brian O'Connor while still honoring the actor's memory. Furious 7's ending, while heartbreaking, opened up a door for actors such as Tyrese Gibson, Ludacris, and Dwayne Johnson - as well as newly introduced secondary characters like Kurt Russell's Mr. Nobody - to take on bigger roles in future installments.
It's worth noting that another way the Fast & Furious movies could change is in terms of scale. The series' characters are not The Avengers, they are humans with (heightened) physical limitations. Furious 7 took the stunts and action set pieces to arguably their absolute limit, and to escalate things even further could eventually turn audiences away from the franchise. This doesn't mean that the films will forget their roots, it simply means they could become more Mad Max: Fury Road than Man of Steel -- which wouldn't be a bad thing.
Gray has a resume that lends itself to car chases (The Italian Job) as well as dark, gritty, grounded films (Straight Outta Compton, A Man Apart) so it seems very much within the realm of possibility that the next Fast & Furious film will take a more grounded, realistic approach. Only time will really tell, but one thing is certain: there's still plenty of vehicular carnage to come.
Fast and Furious 8 will hit U.S. theaters on April 17th, 2017.