The moment Universal tossed in Dwayne Johnson and effectively morphed its petrolhead sequel into a heist film with Fast Five in 2011, the Fast and Furious franchise has consistently – and, more often than not, successfully – set about one-upping the previous entry in the series with even more lavish set pieces and long-winded monologues about the importance of family.
And while there’s no question that Furious 8 will retain many of those core elements, director F. Gary Gray has allayed fears that the sequel will simply serve up “more of the same.”
Once Furious 7 helmer James Wan journeyed back to his horror roots for The Conjuring 2, the Straight Outta Compton helmer agreed to get behind the wheel of Universal’s crown jewel, and here Gray reflects on the initial process with Vin Diesel.
“[The meeting] was great. I went to [Vin’s] home and it was a reunion, cause I had already directed a movie with him earlier in my career, 15 years ago or so. We were both really excited to get back together and do it again. We talked about all of the Fast movies up to this point, and where could we go. I think he was really happy with the vision I have for the franchise and I was really happy about where he sees not only his character going but the franchise itself, because he’s a producer as well. So it was all love. Definitely all love.”
It’s worth keeping in mind that Gray’s résumé stretches far beyond the button-pressing and acclaimed rap drama that thrust him into the limelight last year; specifically, we’re referring to the year 2003 when he helmed The Italian Job remake. Hardly perfect, of course, but the director displayed an astute eye for slick action filmmaking (the boat robbery, anyone?) and we’re cautiously optimistic that Gray can carry those sensibilities to a franchise that is already seven films in.
In fact, the director alluded to the way J.J. Abrams tackled Star Wars: The Force Awakens, introducing a style and spectacle to a film series that was already so ingrained in popular culture. Striking a balance between character and action, then, has quickly taken precedent for Gray going into Furious 8.
“It’s a combination of both. When you look at someone like J.J. Abrams who gives you the spectacle and great action set pieces but also gives you character and plotting and narrative, I think it’s my job—and my intention—to do both. You amp up everything, you work on the performances, you work on the story, you work on the action; it’s just not one thing. Hopefully I bring more to it, that’s part of the point is to bring something different to the franchise while still satisfying what the fans want. All I have to say is I’m extremely excited about the direction we’re going in, and we’re really pushing to make sure the audience feels like it’s not more of the same
Universal may have plans to slowly wind down its street-racing juggernaut across the next three mainline films, but with prequels and character spinoffs already tabled, you’d be foolish to think that the Fast and Furious brand was going anywhere soon.
Furious 8, meanwhile, drifts into theaters on April 14, 2017.