I originally wrote this for Yahoo.com but I’m reproducing it here for the editorial section.
The franchise has remarkably long legs and staying power, but the advent of viewer burnout is around the corner. Universal cannot make the series any bigger, and like any business, they won’t want it to die. Will they be able to prevent the bubble from bursting?
The thing is, in “Fast & Furious 6”, director Justin Lin, the series’ third director and responsible for four of the movies, pushed the envelope just as far as it’ll go. With each new release the idea had always been to outdo the previous. More action, bigger scope, bigger cast. However at some point along the way, it’ll become too much.
For example, the cast cannot reasonably get bigger in “Fast 7”, since in “Fast & Furious 6” the screenplay was almost ready to buckle under the sheer number of big names. With at least ten big names in a movie that lasted little over two hours, each actor/actress was realistically assigned only five or six minutes screen time.
Similarly, the action in “Fast & Furious 6” also reached an apex, it was bolder than ever, more outrageous then ever. To have gone any further, had that car jumped any higher or, indeed, had the story become any more ‘international’, it really would have risked becoming downright silly. A long way from stealing DVD players to fund a street racing fix, as was the premise of the 2001 original.
Step Up James Wan
While the series can’t get any bigger, there is a way to prevent the inevitable decline. The series must now switch gears and harken back to its burned rubber roots. And it seems that Universal has already taken this into consideration. For the next installment, they’ve hired ‘Saw’, ‘Insidious’ and ‘The Conjuring’ director James Wan, a man with a more steady and considerate eye for visual weight. Wan, who has won praise for returning an ‘old school’ haunted house vibe to horror in ‘The Conjuring’, is already hinting that he’s going to shake things up (or down) for the next movie.
Speaking recently, Wan hinted that things were about to get more realistic in ‘Fast 7’: “I’m a big fan of old school car chases. One of my favourite movies of all time is just one big car chase, Spielberg’s Duel.” Certainly, you don’t get more grounded and old school than that.
Wan also cited further ‘old school’ influence: “The French Connection and Speed would probably be in my top three”. On “Duel” in particular, Wan says merely, “I love how simple that movie is…”. And this ‘tune-down’ is in grounded scope is exactly what the series needs.
So it would appear under the more steady eye of James Wan, the long-running race-em-up series will gain a third wind. Universal has effectively ordered a clever and quiet reboot while retaining the cast and established lore. They may even win back disenfranchised fans from the original, which has gained a separate cult following of its own.