“How did they do those stunts?” is the first question that comes to mind when one thinks about the mega blockbusters that are the Fast & Furious franchise.  The second: “How do you get a franchise to film seven and it’s still engaging?”

It was 2006 and Universal Studios decided that the Fast & Furious 7 cast had completed two films and they needed a new star to re-invigorate the franchise.  So, they cast Lucas Black to play Sean or the new “Brian” (originally played by the late Paul Walker) and they took the fun from the streets of Los Angeles to the high rises of Tokyo.  We all know that Fast & Furious 3: Tokyo Drift was a huge mistake.  The film tanked and failed to connect with the die-hard Furious fans, because it was a throw-away plot that was not in keeping with what the fans had grown to love about the franchise and Black is definitely no Paul Walker.  At that time, the franchise was officially dead.

But, there was always one constant in all of the Fast films: Vin Diesel’s Dominic
Toretto.  Not only is he beloved by all of the Fast fans, but the actor had a vision for the films that went beyond the regular action movie genre.  He really wanted to connect the films and make them more of a phenomenal event.  Luckily, the Diesel is a visionary, because his forward thinking has paid off in millions of box office dollars (foreign and domestic) for each film; except Tokyo Drift.

Vin had a crazy idea: three trilogies within a franchise (or 9 films to be exact).  Normally, I would scoff at the audacity to draw the franchise out to 9 films, but after seeing film 7 and all of its awesome action and reverence to the past and Paul Walker, I would be wrong.  With the help of the writers (Chris Morgan and Gary Scott Thompson) and director (James Wan for film 7, Justin Lin for films 3 to 6), Diesel has spearheaded a franchise that stands alone against its competitors, sticking with a formula that seems to work time and time
again.  They’ve even managed to incorporate the mistake that is Tokyo Drift into the franchise’s never-ending story while remaining plausible.

That formula includes:

• Unbelievable action and stunts that would make any normal person want to faint from the sheer adrenaline; the cast is so comfortable with each other that their chemistry and friendship are infectious;

• Women who can’t resist Toretto in love with his Letty (Michelle Rodriguez); the car races (of course!);

• It pays great reverence to the past (especially to the late Walker at the end of film 7), while living full-throttle in the present with crazy stunts.  The actor died tragically in a car explosion in late 2013.

The Fast franchise has not only been heralded for keeping the genre fresh and exciting — even after seven films — but it continues to add to its diverse cast.  In film 7, the audience meets super hacker Ramsey (played by Game of Thrones beauty Nathalie Emmanuel) and film 8’s presumed villain who happens to be from Africa, Jakande (Djimon Hounsou).  It’s about time the Fast franchise added a super smart black female and a deliciously awesome African villain to its line-up.

It’s simple logic to see why the Fast & Furious franchise is seven films in and still going strong: it’s just really good action-movie filmmaking.  The audience loves the cast (Diesel, Walker, Rodriguez, Hounsou, Emmanuel, Tyrese Gibson, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Jason Statham) that is at its best, who obviously love working with each other.  The films never take themselves too seriously.  There’s a sense of humor to it all that is honest and refreshing.  And, Walker’s Brian summed up the franchise best just before his car skydived out of a plan: “Just when you think it couldn’t get any better,” it does.  And, that’s how a great franchise is done.