Yeah, we know, the Fast & Furious franchise is growing more ludicrous than Chris Bridges.
The trajectory of the never-ending sequels increasingly defies the laws of physics and storytelling, but the first trailer for Hobbs & Shaw, the spinoff starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Jason Statham, pours a Red Bull into the gas tank of the franchise... and somehow, the car is still running, dammit.
With the trailer officially introducing sci-fi/fantasy elements to the series, Hobbs & Shaw appears to be a clear statement from Universal Pictures: "We have our own superhero universe." And Disney and the folks behind the Marvel Cinematic Universe better watch out.
For years, rival studios have been trying to develop their own cinematic universes as a response to Disney and Marvel Studios' shared universe. Warner Bros. clearly wants to establish its "Worlds of DC," Sony has its Spidey-less "Spidey-Verse," Paramount is scrambling to piece together the remnants of its Transformers series and ... Universal? Well, while its monster-themed Dark Universe appears to be dead in the water, it does have the multi-billion dollar Fast & Furious franchise.
Universal brilliantly (and sinisterly?) took a run-of-the-mill action flick franchise and, tapping into the right creatives (Justin Lin, James Wan, etc), managed to boil it into a bubbling stew of superhero cinema that's been quietly simmering for the last ten years. Either by design or dumb luck, the studio took a franchise right in front of them and evolved it into exactly what audiences have been perpetually craving -- superhero cinema. And now, embracing the monster of a franchise it has become, what began as a movie about fast cars, family and making a ton of money has transformed itself into a shared cinematic universe that may very well rival the likes of the MCU.
What Universal has going for it is the perception that Fast & Furious isn't a superhero movie. Its characters don't don costumes... well, for the most part. And its got an even broader mainstream appeal than Marvel's heroes and gods. While superhero cinema is badgered with assertions it's "nearing the end" of its time in the sun, or that it's ruining the medium multi-Oscar winner Steven Spielberg suggest, nobody seems to care that the Fast & Furious series keeps trucking (or, car-ing?) along. Where are the cries for the Fast & Furious series to end? They exist, sure, but quietly, off in the distance as each movie outlearns the one before it. We're addicted to the monstrous evolution this franchise has nurtured, and as Hobbs & Shaw's first trailer shows, it's only going to get weirder.
Like any beautiful disaster, Universal not only couldn't have seen this coming, the studio might not even know what they've gotten themselves into, to this day. The studio hoped to create a growing cinematic universe with the likes of Dracula Untold and Tom Cruise's Mummy, exploiting its horror library that has graced the silver screen at the dawn of "talkies." But audience weren't interested in what Universal Frankensteined together out of old properties. Thus, after one film, the planned "Dark Universe" seems to be as dead as Bela Lugosi.
But Universal has Hobbs & Shaw, and its Fast & Furious sequels, and that Netflix animated series, and a whole lot more up its sleeves, projects that could turn the franchise into something bigger than the largest superhero movie universe on the planet. Superhero fatigue? Perhaps. Fast cars and wacky stunts fatigue? Hardly.
As for Marvel? It might want to check its blind spot.