Even among the blockbuster world of popular film franchises, The Fast and the Furious has a success that defies logic. Unlike the other films in its category of long-term profitability like Harry Potter or The Lord of the Rings, The Fast and the Furious didn’t start out with a massive book to crack into its lucrative success. Its story, filled with violence and crime, also doesn’t make any attempts to be family friendly either. Both of these things can be poison for a movie hoping to tell its story for more than one installment these days.
Yet, instead, The Fast and the Furious has grown slowly but surely over the course of more than a decade. Its reputation during that time was often indifferent at best, but its newest installment Furious 7 has done the unprecedented. After the series was nearly finished following the third film Tokyo Drift, four films later it has come back with not only the most impressive opening box office of the entire life of the Fast and Furious franchise, but one of the largest of any film ever released.
Again, the three movies that come out in front of Furious 7 for this record are part of beloved franchises — two Harry Potter sequels and an Avengers movie. With nowhere near the same level of recognition as these series, one has to wonder how an action movie about muscle cars developed into perhaps the most successful of the genre in the 21st century.
One interesting theory being noted by several critics, including The Hollywood Reporter and Variety is that The Fast and Furious has slowly built a diverse cast of central characters over the course of its films. That doesn’t just mean throwing in more than a female love interest and a token black character — it means weaving a tapestry where an extremely varied audience can latch on to a specific character easily.
That’s something industry analysts are saying Furious 7′s competition could really learn from. BoxOffice.com’s Vice-president and chief analyst Phil Contrino told Variety that what really sets The Fast and the Furious is not a mere affirmative action policy, but a commitment to telling the story of characters who fit into a minority just as vividly the more traditional leads.
“It’s an important lesson for Hollywood to learn. It’s not just that they have a diverse cast. These are real fleshed out characters. They don’t pander.”
As Wall Street Journal critic Ben Fritz tweeted, the number of people who attended Furious 7 were not white. The Fast and the Furious may have unlocked the key to breaking the blockbuster formula: diversity.
[Image via Universal Pictures]