[SPOILERS for Furious 7 ahead.]
Furious 7 is not only easily the highest-grossing Fast and the Furious movie installment that's been released to date, it will also go down as one of the biggest critical/commercial success stories of 2015 (even as Jurassic World threatens to overtake the film at the global box office). Universal Pictures was quick to schedule Fast & Furious 8 for a Spring 2017 release date for that reason, though so many of the puzzle pieces for the film have already been put in place that the (now customary) relatively quick turnaround shouldn't be an issue.
The original ending to Furious 7 was altered so that the film could give a proper sendoff to the late Paul Walker, but director James Wan's final theatrical cut still partially laid a foundation for the eight Furious installment to build upon. That includes, concluding the plot thread with "Mr. Nobody' (Kurt Russell) on a note that would allow the character to play a more significant role in the next chapter (which is reportedly the plan), while also leaving the door open for the villain Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) to return at some point down the line.
Statham has now confirmed to Access Hollywood that Deckard Shaw - the brother of the permanently-incapacited Furious 6 villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) - will indeed be appearing in Fast & Furious 8 - a possibility foreshadowed during the ex-special ops agent's final scene in Furious 7, where he warned Agent Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) that his high-security prison cell would only be able to hold him for so long. Here is the action star's quote on the matter:
“We’re already talking about doing another one, Part 8. I’m a newcomer, I just got invited to the party in this last one, so it’s nice to know I’m going to be doing another.”
Johnson as Hobbs will be returning in Fast & Furious 8 too, along with franchise mainstay Vin Diesel and (presumably) most of the other Fast and the Furious property's stars (Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, and so forth). However, Jordana Brewster may not be among the returning players, following the 'conclusion' to Mia (Brewster) and Brian's (Walker) storyline in Furious 7; at least, not beyond a cameo appearance. Meanwhile, Wan's full directing schedule - he starts production on The Conjuring 2 this year and will start pre-production on Aquaman in 2016 - suggests that Universal may need to find a replacement helmer for Fast & Furious 8 (with Justin Lin being one distinct possibility).
Very little is known about the plot for Fast & Furious 8 at this stage, though Diesel has said in the past that it will take place in New York and serve as the second chapter in the trilogy plotline set in motion by Furious 7. That makes the return of the newcomers played by Russell and Statham in Furious 7 all the more logical, as they will serve as recurring players much in the way that comic book characters do in different comic stories and film adaptations alike ('Mr. Nobody', for example, is the Nick Fury of the Fast and the Furious universe). We've talked several times before about how this franchise embraces inter-connected storytelling techniques similar to what studios like Marvel uses so again, this approach would be consistent with that.
That approach has also thus far allowed the Fast and the Furious series to continually rejuvenate itself by incorporating fresh genre elements, be it those of the heist genre (on Fast Five), a 1970s revenge thriller throwback (with Furious 7), and so forth. The New York playground is one that this franchise has never visited before, and should likewise allow Fast & Furious 8 to integrate different genre tropes than previous installments have, while at the same delivering the big vehicular action stunts that fans will be expecting (and maybe bring back some long-missing characters into play too). The popularity of the Fast and the Furious brand shouldn't be fading anytime soon, in other words.
Fast & Furious 8 opens in U.S. theaters on April 14th, 2017.
Source: Access Hollywood