Will Charlize Theron’s Cipher Spinoff Redeem The Fast & Furious Villain?

Charlize Theron’s Cipher is set to get a Fast & Furious spinoff of her own, but will redeeming the ruthless villain ruin her character’s appeal?

After the success of F9, a Cipher spinoff starring Charlize Theron’s Fast & Furious villainess is in the works, but will this new movie need to soften her character to succeed as a stand-alone release? The Fast & Furious franchise has come a long way since 2001’s The Fast and the Furious introduced viewers to Dom, Letty, and the rest of the “family” central to the series. What began as a relatively grounded set of action thrillers that combined chase set-pieces with heist plots eventually became a larger-than-life action extravaganza, with the recent F9 ending up on an International Space Station by its wild climax.


There are few places left for the Fast & Furious franchise to go after such an over-the-top ending, but one avenue that the series has only begun to explore is spinoffs. Despite 2019’s Hobbs and Shaw’s failure to wow critics and fans, the creators have announced that Charlize Theron’s franchise villain Cipher will soon star in a spinoff movie of her own. However, with the character being one of the few truly irredeemable monsters in the franchise, this has led viewers to wonder whether the upcoming Cipher spinoff hopes to fundamentally alter her persona.

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Since being introduced to the series in The Fate of the Furious, Cipher has been nothing but a cold-blooded villain. It seems odd and unlikely that a spinoff movie centered on her character alone would continue in this vein. No plot details have been given for the film yet, but the spinoff will need to try to soften the edges of Cipher’s character somewhat or, at the very least, provide her with a very sympathetic backstory to set up a later redemption arc. Unlike Fury Road’s Furiosa, the last breakout Charlize Theron character to get a spinoff movie of their own, Cipher is not a particularly complex villain, nor is she one with understandable but extreme motives. Since her first appearance, she has been a deceitful, ruthless terrorist bent on nuking entire cities and reducing them to dust. As a result, the biggest questions for Cipher’s Fast & Furious spinoff are both whether the character will need a lighter side to sustain her own movie and whether these necessary changes will ruin her effectiveness as an antagonist.

Cipher’s Role In The Fast & Furious Saga

Charlize Theron Cipher and Nathalie Emmanuel Ramsey from Fast and Furious

Introduced in The Fate of the Furious as the movie’s main villain, Cipher was first seen luring Dom into assisting her with a seemingly broken car before revealing that she was holding Elena and his son Marcos hostage. The rest of the Fast & Furious franchise outing saw her force Dom to help her steal nuclear launch codes from the Russian government as she planned to hijack a nuclear submarine until the crew put the kibosh on her efforts. However, while Cipher was stopped before the end of the franchise’s eighth outing, she nonetheless managed to kill off Elena in one of the darkest moments of the Fast & Furious series, cementing her as a major threat to the cast in coming outings.

Since then, F9 saw Cipher team up with Otto to try and take down Dom and, although her gambit of blowing up an eighteen-wheeler truck only succeeded in killing Otto, she escaped the action of the sequel unharmed. Surviving a second outing of the series puts Cipher in league with memorable earlier Fast & Furious villains such as Luke Evans’ Owen Shaw and Jason Statham’s Deckard. Still, unlike those two, the character does not seem to have much room for redemption. There is little morally ambiguous about Cipher, from her desire to bomb entire cities to her ordering the execution of Elena, and a movie that revolves around her antics is likely to be too dark for the light-hearted franchise unless the spinoff fundamentally alters the ethos of her character.

Why The Cipher Movie Might Redeem The Villain

Fast and furious 9 villain plot Jakob Cipher

Giving Cipher a second chance would be in line with the Fast & Furious franchise’s decision to redeem past villains such as Deckard, and few viewers would be interested in a Fast & Furious movie about a villain pulling off an evil scheme successfully. What is more likely is that Cipher’s spinoff will follow the approach of Disney’s recent hit Cruella, which recast the infamous 101 Dalmations villain as a surprisingly sympathetic anti-heroine. The issue with this approach, though, is that Cruella earned some considerable criticism for completing rewriting the title character’s history to make her a likable heroine, and Cipher’s spinoff would need to even more history revision to make Charlize Theron’s villainess a compelling protagonist.

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Much of what made Cipher an exciting villain for the Fast & Furious franchise was that she was a true monster and an unapologetic antagonist who seemed, in every appearance, to be utterly irredeemable. As proven by her complex, layered portrayal of Furiosa, Charlize Theron can add layers to a seemingly simplistic and one-dimensional character, but the action veteran makes for a fun, campy villain in the Fast & Furious movies and is clearly having a blast as the scenery-chewing monster. Turning the cruelest character she has played into just another brooding anti-villain would make Cipher less fun and waste Theron’s performance, particularly when the actor already has the Atomic Blonde and Old Guard franchises to funnel her “troubled, tough, but ultimately good-hearted antihero” energy into.

Is The Cipher Movie A Good Idea?

Fast and Furious 9 Cipher Plane

Cipher is one of the most entertaining villains in the Fast & Furious saga precisely because she revels in her badness and is an unabashedly cruel, evil character, something that the series needs as it transitions into the even goofier, more cartoony territory of recent sequels. The franchise needs a villain that stays that way, leaving the spinoff stuck between a rock and a hard place. If the Fast & Furious spinoff fails to redeem Cipher, it will likely be a hard movie to care about as the main character will be an unrepentant terrorist. That said, if the project does transform Charlize Theron’s villain into a less reprehensible character, this will sap the series of one of its most effective antagonists. As the Fast & Furious franchise grows bigger, wilder, and sillier, having a villain who can still shock viewers in a massive boon to the series and losing Charlize Theron’s Cipher to a spinoff that makes her just another overly familiar antihero would be a big blow.

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