The Fast and the Furious: Universal celebrates 20 years of the Fast saga

Last Updated on July 30, 2021

On June 22, 2001, The Fast and the Furious raced onto the big screen and surprised everyone following its instant success. I don't think anyone saw it coming that a film based on a "Vibe Magazine" article titled "Racer X", written by Ken Li, would make much of an impression and it's highly doubtful that it could be predicted that it would be the beginning of a franchise that has grossed $5.1 billion+ worldwide to date across 8 films. Fast & Furious 9 has only added to that number with an overseas total approaching $300 million before its domestic release this Friday on June 25, 2021. A new 60-second spot, which details where it all began and where it's headed now, celebrates 20 years of one of the biggest franchises in the world.

Before becoming The Avengers of the car industry, The Fast and the Furious was grounded on a more realistic level. Ken Li's "Racer X" article, which detailed the illegal street racing circuit operating within New York City, provided the framework for the story but the film probably owes a bit more of a debt to 1991's Point Break. In that film, Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) goes undercover to catch a gang of surfers who may be bank robbers. In The Fast and the Furious, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) is an undercover cop tasked with discovering the identities of a group of unknown automobile hijackers led by Dominic Torretto (Vin Diesel). Walker had the same likable surfer-boy charm that made Reeves an unlikely action star and Diesel's Torretto essentially takes on the role of Patrick Swayze's Bodhi in Point Break. This is not a slight against The Fast and the Furious. Calling the film "Point Break with cars" never felt like an insult to me. Every generation has a film that pays some kind of homage to a film that came before it as it's embraced by a new audience. Having being 15-years-old when I saw The Fast and the Furious on opening night 20 years ago, I'd proudly call it the Point Break of my generation.

The first film received mixed reviews from critics upon release, scoring a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. There was also some indication in the industry that the film would get lost in the summer shuffle of 2001. Sometimes what the demographic wants isn't entirely obvious. I remember there was legit excitement from my friends to see it and I ended up going with a friend first to catch on opening night before seeing it again with a bigger group of friends. Across 20 years and eight films, that friend and I have seen each one on opening night and it's a tradition that will continue when the ninth installment opens Friday. Coming out into its opening weekend back in 2001, Doctor Doolittle 2 opened during the same timeframe and it was expected to dominate the box office while The Fast and the Furious was expected to be a minor hit at best. Media outlets did not expect to wake up Monday morning and not only report that The Fast and the Furious was the number one movie in America, but that it also already exceeded its $38 million budget with its better than expected $40 million debut. By the end of its run, the film had grossed $144.5 million domestically and $207.2 million worldwide, which seems like chump change now compared to what the films are grossing now.

Do You think the group of actors in the above photo saw any of this coming? I think that's why the Fast saga has endured this long. It really didn't follow the exact blueprint of what makes a successful franchise. Hell, by the time The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift was released in 2006 and became the lowest-grossing film of the franchise, it seemed like that would be all she wrote. 2009's Fast & Furious made the wise decision of bringing the principal cast of Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Jordana Brewster, and Michelle Rodriguez back into the fold after some of them were absent from the previous sequels. The concept of the "Fast Family" really starts here and this is when the franchise began to scale unheard of box office heights with the release of each sequel that followed. Action set pieces became bigger and a bit more unrealistic but it was all grounded by an ensemble cast that we began riding with back in 2001. That is the heart of the franchise. The overtop action is merely an added bonus to provide moviegoers with some much-needed popcorn entertainment. That concept of family got the cast through tragedy (the untimely passing of Paul Walker before he could finish Furious 7) and little squabbles amongst the cast that naturally happens when you're so close (the now patched up rift between Dwayne Johnson, Vin Diesel, and Tyrese Gibson). As the main franchise preps to wrap up with two more films, it feels like the fan response to this franchise is stronger than ever and shows no sign of slowing down after 20 years.

Universal Pictures is planning a lot throughout the day to celebrate the 20th anniversary of The Fast and the Furious and a lot of it can be found on social media by following the hashtag #Fast20Anniversary following the @TheFastSaga page. Also, if you want to catch the first film on the big screen again, Cinemark Theatres will screen the movie at over 300 screens nationwide. Tickets are available now! Lastly, in partnership with Facebook, The Fast Saga page launched a first-of-its-kind “second screen” chat experience exclusively for Messenger along with a custom 360-degree background and chat theme (also available on Instagram). This interactive experience answers movie watchers’ burning questions and offers never-before-seen photos in real-time as they’re streaming their favorite Fast Saga films. Check it out by visiting The Fast Saga Facebook page and clicking “Send Message” to start.

What are YOUR memories of The Fast and the Furious as it celebrates its 20th Anniversary?

Source: Twitter

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