F9: The Fast Saga reveals why Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw had so many problems and ended up being a disappointment to most fans. The 2019 spinoff was meant as a solo vehicle for The Rock’s Luke Hobbs character after the star’s falling out with series lead Vin Diesel, as well as an experiment for what the franchise could become after the core saga concludes. Unfortunately, Hobbs & Shaw was mired in problems from start to finish, many of which are illuminated by the success of F9.
The concept of Fast and Furious spinoffs should be a no-brainer. The franchise has a massive cast of characters, huge budgets from Universal, and virtually no limits on stunts and storylines. And going into Hobbs & Shaw, Johnson seemed like the perfect star to lead a Fast side story, with significant help from Jason Statham. While the premise looked strong, the final product fell drastically short of fan expectations, tainting the franchise’s first real venture into spinoff content.
So where did Hobbs & Shaw go so wrong? Thanks to Fast and Furious 9, the spinoff’s problems have been thrown into sharp relief. From its handling of the franchise’s characters to its action scenes and its odd handling of the theme of family, Hobbs & Shaw repeatedly failed to understand what makes Fast and Furious so popular with so many people. Here’s where the movie messed up, as highlighted by F9.
Hobbs & Shaw Disrespected The Fast Family
The #JusticeForHan movement began when Deckard Shaw became an antihero in The Fate of the Furious, but it really started to gain traction after Hobbs & Shaw was announced. In Fate, Deckard’s alliance with Dom Toretto at least made some kind of in-the-moment sense. Dom needed to save his son, by any means necessary, and the only people with the skills to do so and the motive to go against Cipher were the Shaw brothers. Therefore, a tenuous peace was reached – one that felt disrespectful to many fans but only lasted as long as the movie.
But to take that character – the man who killed Han – and make him half of his own spinoff movie, with his name in the title, was a bit much. That was a bridge way, way too far for many Fast fans. The idea that, at a point in the story, before it was revealed that Han survived Deckard’s attack, the villain could just be turned into a good guy full-time seemed to fly in the face of the one thing Fast and Furious has always claimed to be about: family. The way Shaw was handled throughout the film was seen as an insult to Han and the core franchise as a whole, as no real energy was spent contending with Deckard’s most egregious crime. F9’s resurrection of Han makes that whole storyline a bit better in retrospect, but it doesn’t fix Hobbs & Shaw’s clear misunderstanding of Fast and Furious’ moral compass. And it speaks volumes that most fans prefer a story where Han is retconned out of the grave than one in which Shaw is both a hero and a murderer.
F9 Reveals Hobbs & Shaw’s Lackluster Story
To be fair, Fast and Furious has never really been a narratively driven franchise. The box office numbers are driven by the films’ ludicrous budgets and absurd action set pieces, and the heart of the franchise resides more in the characters and their various relationships with each other than in any one particular plotline. But that doesn’t mean the movies are completely bankrupt in the story department. At worst, Fast and Furious stories are at least inventive and adventurous, drawing dumb fun out of their exotic locations and over-the-top villains. At best, they’re simple yet compelling tales of family, perseverance, teamwork, and loyalty.
Hobbs & Shaw’s story was equally bombastic at points, but overall, it felt like an empty shell of what the series usually manages to achieve. It lost the franchise’s emotional stakes and nonsensical yet loveable overreliance on car culture, substituting in a story that felt too generic to garner any real investment from the audience. By aping other successful franchises like Mission Impossible and James Bond without any of the trust those series have built up over the years, Hobbs & Shaw ended up feeling like a forgettable amalgam with little sense of personal identity, even with the star power of Idris Elba as the lead villain. F9 is full of plot holes, retcons, and required suspension of disbelief, but none of that really matters in the end. It succeeds on the merits of its characters and their convincing motivations – things that have always made Fast and Furious great and which Hobbs & Shaw failed to execute on despite its own attempts at fleshing out the backstories of its two eponymous characters.
Hobbs & Shaw Lacked F9’s Creativity
The lack of originality in Hobbs & Shaw’s story also extended to its action scenes. While still expensive and explosive, and occasionally quite entertaining, the set pieces didn’t live up to the creativity of Fast and Furious’ best moments. There was a lot of sci-fi technology and plenty of impossible stunts, but they mostly came across as derivative of other, better movies in the genre. In F9, the scale of the action is always matched by the fun and ingenuity of it all. Roman and Tej getting blasted into space isn’t iconic just because it’s space. It’s iconic because they do it in an old car with rockets strapped to it while eating candy bars and taping up old diving suits with duct tape. Hobbs & Shaw has some impressively shot action set pieces, but they lack the personal feel of Fast and Furious 9.
F9 Proves Vin Diesel’s Importance
Last but not least, F9 shows that Vin Diesel is still more important, by orders of magnitude, to the success of Fast and Furious than The Rock is. He’s the emotional core of the franchise, and he shows it throughout Fast and Furious 9, and without him, Hobbs & Shaw just doesn’t reach the same levels of audience engagement. The Rock is star power made manifest. He’s the biggest actor, in multiple ways, of the modern era. But he is not, and clearly cannot be, the face of Fast and Furious.
That doesn’t mean that any future Fast & Furious spinoffs must have Diesel to succeed. 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift have shown that the spirit of the series can thrive under other leads, as long as they (Sung Kang, Paul Walker, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson, etc.) can embody the personality of Fast and Furious. Hobbs was introduced as an outsider to the core character group in Fast Five, and while he became part of the family, it was never in the same way as the rest of the crew. Hobbs & Shaw did its best to develop both main characters, introducing new members of their own biological families along the way, but it all felt too tangential to the core Fast story for most fans to care. Hopefully, the next Fast and Furious spinoff will take Hobbs & Shaw’s failures in stride and deliver a film that all fans can celebrate.
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