Few movie franchises have reinvented themselves as often as the Fast and the Furious property since it began in 2001. What started as a simple street-racing action series has since evolved from heist films and, most recently, full-on globe-trotting espionage territory, all the while creating a rich tapestry of interwoven stories and characters that have soared to the top of the box office, time and again.
Furious 7 marked the franchise's greatest challenge yet, following the tragic death of star Paul Walker part-way through production.The film's ending was overhauled to create a fitting tribute for the actor (read our review), and the movie ended up becoming the highest-grossing installment in the series yet, raking in more than $1.5 billion worldwide.
Fast & Furious 8 is left to take the story in a new direction, though what that direction will be remains unknown for now. We got a chance to interview Fast and the Furious franchise producer Neal H. Moritz (during our Goosebumps movie press interviews) and inquire as to how the creative team behind Furious 8 will approach this new chapter. Here is what Moritz had to say:
"We’re trying to do what we always do, which is try to come at it from a character point of view and figure out where the characters would go from here. I think the thing that’s made The Fast and the Furious special is obviously we have incredible action and so on. But the thing that people really relate to the most is the characters. We’re lucky that we have a lot of great characters. Unfortunately, we don’t have Paul anymore. His character... has moved on. But we feel like there’s a lot still to be mined. That’s where we’restarting. We’re really talking about the characters, where they all sit right now. It’s a huge challenge."
Even without Walker's Brian O'Conner, the Fast and Furious series certainly has a number of heavyweights in its ensemble cast to play with. In addition to original stars Vin Diesel and Michelle Rodriguez, Fast & Furious 8 is slated to bring back Furious 7 antagonist Jason Statham, as well as series mainstay Dwayne Johnson - action stars who are box office draws (and engaging screen presences on their own). Moreover, Diesel has discussed that Furious 7 was already designed to take the series in a new direction, setting up for the next adventure to unfold in New York City.
Walker's passing - in addition to the emotional toll it took on the cast and crew of the franchise and its fans - dealt the series a strong narrative challenge, but the Fast and Furious films have always found a way to persevere. While his character (and, presumably, his onscreen wife Jordana Brewster) may not be present onscreen, don't be surprised if Furious 8 (and beyond?) manages to continue the series' box office hot streak and honor Walker's legacy in one fell swoop.
Fast & Furious 8 will open in U.S. theaters on April 14, 2017.