This past weekend, we got yet another entry into the Fast and Furious canon with Hobbs & Shaw, which follows Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) and Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) as they separate from the classic crew. Another cog in the FFCU, the film continues expanding Fast and Furious universe that positions ordinary, everyday people as full-blown superheroes putting an end to terrorist ambitions. Hobbs & Shaw is yet another chance for audiences to experience the characters they’ve grown to love and root for since 2001.
Actually, no—that’s not really true at all.
Right off the bat, I want to acknowledge that yes, I know: Hobbs & Shaw isn’t necessarily a “failure” at the box office. The movie made $60.8 million on its opening domestic weekend and approximately $120 million in foreign markets; it received an “A-” on Cinemascore; and it currently has a 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Hobbs & Shaw embraced the high-octane action that made the Fast and Furious franchise so awe-inspiring and put international movie star Dwayne Johnson in the lead role—all of the elements were in place.
Yet…$60.8 million really isn’t that much compared to the past Fast and Furious movies. That’s less than what the fourth film, Fast and Furious, made back in 2009. And if we account for inflation, that’s less than what The Fast and the Furious made in 2001 and what 2 Fast 2 Furious made in 2003. The only movie Hobbs & Shaw actually beat after inflation is the notable dud The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, which pulled in $24 million back in 2006.
On top of it all, Hobbs & Shaw strolled into theaters backed by a whopping $200 million budget. That’s more than any of the Fast movies, save for The Fate of the Furious’s $250 million price tag.
Here’s the difference, though: The Fate of the Furious opened to $98.8 million domestically and-brace yourself for this one-$443.2 million in foreign markets. So in just three days, The Fate of the Furious had accrued nearly $550 million, more than making up for the cost.
It’s a similar story for Furious 7, which made $147.2 million on its domestic opening weekend and $250.5 million in foreign territories. In total, that movie would make more than any franchise film with $1.516 billion—which makes Furious 7 the eighth-highest grossing film of all time.
Now what do you think of Hobbs & Shaw’s earnings? In 2019, when a movie like The Lion King can pull in $76.6 million on its second weekend, Hobbs & Shaw’s inability to match seven of the other eight Fast and Furious movies—despite being fronted by three gigantic international movie stars—is kind of shocking.
That is, unless, you’re a huge fan of the series and you know what’s missing from Hobbs & Shaw.
I happen to be one of those Fast and Furious diehards. I would say that at least twice a year I run through every movie during a marathon session. My wife and so many of my friends love the franchise that it’s inevitable. I always gape in aw during the safe-dragging scene in Fast Five; I always laugh at Roman’s terrible dad-level jokes in 2 Fast 2 Furious; I always cry when Paul Walker receives his meta, heartfelt goodbye at the end of Furious 7. I’m a full-blown, incurable stan that waits on the edge of his seat for a new Fast and Furious movie every few years.
As corny as it sounds, one of the reason I love the Fast and Furious movies is the “family.” It’s become a bit of a joke at this point, but several times each movie, Vin Diesel’s character, Dominic Toretto, talks about the importance of family. And not just your blood family—he means the family you build around yourself. Your family is made up of the people who populate your existence and give your life meaning.
Sure it’s mawkish, but it’s also such a heartfelt and pure message. It balances the crazy action and humor of the franchise and makes each film incredibly endearing and watchable.
Hobbs & Shaw…doesn’t really have any of that.
I mean, it tries to. We meet Hobbs’ family, and Deckard’s growing familial universe adds energy to the mix. But I would argue none of its carries the delicate tone of other Fast and Furious movies. Universal tried to attach to the film to the franchise by titling it Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw—but longtime fans can see right through that in the trailer alone. Hobbs & Shaw wants to differentiate itself by becoming a cartoonish, exaggerated version of an already over-the-top franchise. But because of that, it’s detached from that profound message that continually resonates in each Fast and Furious movie.
That’s what makes the Fast and Furious movies so successful at the box office. You can’t fake that or put on a front—you have to earn that attraction over the course of several movies and masterful storytelling. The story that screenwriter Chris Morgan has weaved through all of the movies since Tokyo Drift is what people pay the price of admission for.
The power of family became an interminable force in the Fast and Furious movies—in Hobbs & Shaw, “family” is mostly a joke. Sure Hobbs’ family helps fight at the end, but that scene doesn’t carry the symbolic, imagery-driven weight shown in The Fate of the Furious, when each character skids their cars in front of Dominic just before a fiery blast tries to consume him. Hobbs & Shaw doesn’t create the kind of loving attachment to Brian that drove people to theaters after Paul Walker’s death. The humor in Hobbs & Shaw is great and separates the latest franchise filmfrom the pack, but it also comes at a cost. By poking fun at and playing lightly with a motif that has made the movies so powerful for so many people, you’re going to lose interest from moviegoers—and I think we saw that exact thing happen this weekend.
To be fair, Hobbs & Shaw hasn’t had as much time to cultivate rich, complex family-oriented stories. But the trailer was a dead giveaway early on that the movie would only treat the classic Fast and Furious motif in a blockheaded manner. Before the movie even released, it had clearly advertised itself as anything but a continuation of the Fast and Furious story we’ve grown to know and love—the kind of story that dominated the box office.
This becomes an important lesson for the Hobbs & Shaw franchise moving forward. The studio is clearly creating a whole separate universe for Johnson and Statham that will be full of the kinds of heroes and villains that make up the Fast and Furious world. Because of the well-publicized feud between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel, it’s more than likely those two won’t be starring alongside each other in a film anytime soon. And because of that, they’re going to pump $200 million into a Hobbs & Shaw movie.
If Hobbs & Shaw can’t come even close to Furious 7’s numbers on a much bigger budget ( Furious 7’s $190 million budget was inflated after reshoots due to Walker’s death), where does the franchise move going forward? I think they need to fix this disconnect with audiences. The next Hobbs & Shaw film simply cannot avoid being sincere and genuine like the other Fast and Furious movies—or it’ll cost Universal severely.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.