It’s looking more and more likely the blockbuster Fast and Furious series may be soon spinning off one of its most popular heroes. Fitting of a franchise defined by the word “family”, the car stunt showcase isn’t short on memorable characters. Unsurprisingly, most of the famous ones tend to be those from the original street race actioner – especially Dominic Toretto and Brian O’Connor played by real-life bros Vin Diesel and the late Paul Walker – although the perhaps current fan favorite didn’t turn up until ten years and five movies later: Luke Hobbs.
With Hobbs, Dwayne Johnson reinvigorated the franchise, which at that time looked to be sputtering on fumes. Fast 5 was seeing the movies make the leap fully into all-out vehicular mayhem heists, but what really sold this increasingly bonkers direction was DSS agent Luke Hobbs. Already a ridiculous looking human being in real life (his muscles have muscles), Mr. Charisma pitched his character perfectly, at once serious -fitting of a WWE superstar, The Rock brought the action goods - and wonderfully OTT; you may laugh at him, yet somehow the joke is never quite at his expense. Not too shabby for someone a world away from the original actor considered for the part.
A spinoff for the character was first mooted around Fast 6 when it became abundantly clear the series was getting a new lease of life and that Johnson was core to the appeal. Despite the actor's reduced role in Furious 7 (the result of scheduling conflicts), this remained a vague possibility and really picked up steam again when The Fate of the Furious entered production; both the star and producer Hiram Garcia hinted that a standalone Hobbs movie was definitely still on the cards at Universal. And, just last week, Johnson reaffirmed this at the film's premiere, revealing that once this movie’s release is done talks may begin.
So a spinoff for Hobbs is highly likely. And it may be even closer than we realize.
Why A Hobbs Spinoff Is A Good Move For The Franchise
A Hobbs spinoff is a no-brainer in many ways. Fast & Furious makes big bucks. Dwayne Johnson-starring movies usually make big bucks (at least bigger bucks than comparable pictures with different stars). Ergo, it’s a license to print money. But there’s more to it than just helping Universal’s bottom line (something they don’t need too much help with at the moment).
Hobbs is a character who was meticulously created from the ground up by the writers to be a major presence in the franchise and as such fits its unique brand more than any who surround him. That's why he's so fun, yet doubly means he could operate in a film by himself more easily than, say, Tyrese Gibson's Roman. Indeed, per the writers there’s allegedly an established depth to Luke that hasn’t really hasn’t been touched on in his previous four appearances. That provides plenty of fodder for standalone and, being ready-written, lends some level of creative justification to what could be seen as a cynical money move.
There’s also the potential to remove some negative tension. It’s not secret that Johnson and Vin Diesel feuded massively on the set of Fast and Furious 8, and while both actors are currently toeing the studio line and playing down any resentment, it’s clear from ongoing rumors that some major issues plagued the set; there isn’t a moment in the film where Johnson and Diesel were actually required to be shooting at the same time. The gist of the conflict was that workaholic Johnson grew increasingly tired of Diesel’s unprofessional attitude and that the latter’s conduct as producer also forced up a barrier. While it is possible the issues have been resolved, the intensity of it may mean that one of the actors could refuse to work with the other going forward. And as Diesel is the franchise’s progenitor and an influential producer, there’s no way that wouldn’t mean Johnson would be the one to budge.
That’s not to say Johnson won’t be in Fast 9 in either case, but it may be beneficial from a production standpoint to minimize his and Diesel’s interaction, instead using The Rock as an asset in his own film. This pays dividends given his proven box office clout away from Fast (something few of the other stars can offer individually) and moves him closer to have his own, singular action hero.
Does The Fate of the Furious Set-Up A Spinoff?
Evidenced by all the chatter, if a Hobbs spinoff is to happen, odds are it’ll move into production before or after the ninth movie in the parent series. That’s not a massively long way off, so does that mean the previous films have been made with this in mind? Actually, that may be the case.
One of the more recent rumors about the Diesel v. Johnson scandal is that the former strong-armed the studio into cutting a scene from the end of the movie between Hobbs and Deckard Shaw that paid off their growing bromance. Johnson and Jason Statham’s character started the movie at loggerheads, constantly trying to find new ways to threaten the other in the hope of finally coming to blows (a highlight being Hobbs’ “I will beat you like a Cherokee drum”), only to gradually move past that and become friends. In the movie itself, it's worthy of remark that this doesn’t really get resolved – the last explicit addressing comes before the second-act New York sequence before Shaw’s death fake-out, with the pair barely interacting at the final reunion of the family.
The scene isn’t interesting here because of the light it sheds on the conflict, though, but because it allegedly caused Universal to consider possibility of a Hobbs/Shaw buddy movie. And it’s not hard to believe this would be a great idea – after Hobbs, Shaw is one of the most fun characters in Fate and while a big part of that is his baby-carrying gunfight, much of it still came from Statham and Johnson’s interplay.
Beyond his relationship with Shaw, Hobbs’ arc in the film basically gets him back onto the total right side of the law after his past couple of movies of aiding and abetting criminals. Of course, that’s part of the film’s wider exploration of family – he doesn’t return to the DSS because of his daughter – but also sets everything back to a nice status quo. A clean slate for a spinoff on build off, perhaps?
- The Fate of the Furious (2017) release date: Apr 14, 2017