As “Furious 7” comes to movie theaters tomorrow, you may be looking at that number and thinking, “Seven?”
But that’s the number of films the action movie series has reached. Beginning with “The Fast and the Furious” in 2001, the movie series stars actors Vin Diesel, Paul Walker (who died during the filming of “7” and will be making his last appearance in the film), Jordana Brewster, Michelle Rodriguez, and other actors who have popped up for one or more films, including Dwayne Johnson, Eva Mendes, Ludacris, and, in the new film, Jason Statham. The series centers on car racing and crimes committed by members of the group – Walker’s character Brian O’Conner began the first film as an undercover law enforcement officer who later joins the crew.
The movie series has been phenomenally successful. Releasing a seventh movie in a series is matched only by other box office titans like James Bond and the “Harry Potter” series as well as some franchises like “Star Trek” and “X-Men” that have needed to reboot themselves or bring on new cast members. The “Fast” series has done some of that, but many stars, like Diesel and Walker, have appeared in most of the films.
For the most part, the “Fast” movies have only done better at the box office as time goes on. “Fast & Furious 6” was the ninth-highest-grossing movie of 2013, according to the website Box Office Mojo, while “Fast Five” did even better, becoming the sixth-highest-grossing movie of 2011. By comparison, “Fast & Furious,” the 2009 fourth movie, placed seventeenth for the year, while the second movie “2 Fast 2 Furious,” which did not have Diesel or many other of the original cast members, and the third movie “The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift,” which centered on other characters, came in fifteenth and forty-sixth, respectively.
The first movie, at least, wasn’t well-received by critics when it first came out – it currently holds a score of 58 out of 100 on the review aggregator website Metacritic and Monitor staff wrote of the film, “What has to go? Well, plot and characterization, but you'll be too busy tapping your feet and gripping your seat to notice… did I mention there are a lot of neat car chases?”
So what makes the film series so successful? It’s not reviews from critics – “Furious 7” has the highest Metacritic score of any of the movies so far – it currently holds a 71 out of 100. But that last part mentioned by Monitor staff certainly helps – some moviegoers will always want to see fast cars and fights between the leads.
As for other appeal, Diesel told Entertainment Weekly in a recent interview that he thinks the diverse cast also appeals to moviegoers, a topic that’s still at the forefront of conversation in Hollywood after a noticeable lack of diversity among last year’s Oscars nominees.
“It doesn’t matter what nationality you are,” he said. “As a member of the audience, you realize you can be a member of that ‘family.' That’s the beautiful thing about how the franchise has evolved.”
Rodriguez agreed in an interview with NJ.com.
“I think it has a lot to do with the multicultural cast,” she said of the series’ appeal. “People in this country – or in Spain, in Africa, in Asia – they can buy a ticket and see somebody who looks like them, and someone who isn't necessarily a stereotype but an individual, a character who's kind of blue-collar but also in this heroic position. It's still pretty rare to have characters like that you can identify with.”