(Some spoilers ahead for “Hobbs & Shaw”)
The “Fast and Furious” franchise has been going strong for 18 years now, and it just got its first official spinoff with “Hobbs & Shaw” — though I guess if we’re splitting hairs we could say that “Tokyo Drift” was also a spinoff, it just wasn’t framed as one when it was released in 2006.
I bring up “Tokyo Drift” here for a very specific reason. That movie introduced the beloved character Han (Sung Kang) to the series, and then “Fast & Furious 6” retconned Jason Statham’s character, Shaw in “Hobbs & Shaw,” into the background of that film as the person responsible for Han’s death. Then Shaw was a villain in “Furious 7” before turning hero in “The Fate of the Furious” and getting his own movie alongside The Rock’s Hobbs.
“Fate of the Furious” established Cipher (Charlize Theron) as the big bad of the franchise until it supposedly will end with the 10th main-series movie. But, in the meantime, we’ve got Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw running off on an epic side adventure. And, with “Hobbs & Shaw” having a scope to its threat that honestly surpasses any of the real “Fast and Furious” movies, I couldn’t help but wonder going and as I was watching if it was somehow serving as a bridge between “Fate” and next year’s “Fast and Furious 9.”
The plot of “Hobbs & Shaw” involves a cyborg supersoldier named Brixton (Idris Elba) chasing down an MI6 agent (Vanessa Kirby), who has obtained a sample of a world-killing virus that Brixton was trying to deliver to his employers. That agent, it turns out, is Deckard Shaw’s sister Hattie. The two Shaws and Hobbs end up doing a bunch of crazy fights and action sequences to keep Eteon, the evil doomsday corporation Brixton works for, from getting the virus and murdering billions of people with it.
Once Eteon’s plan became clear I couldn’t help but hark back to Cipher’s rhetoric in “Fate” about how the governments of the world couldn’t be trusted and they needed to be kept in check by a third party that could nuke them all into oblivion whenever they wanted. “Fate” definitely played it like Cipher had a fairly small operation running out of her jet, so it seemed unlikely that she could be the mysterious big boss behind Eteon, which in “Hobbs & Shaw” lore had been operating for at least a decade. But anything is possible — “Fate” itself retconned Cipher into being the mastermind behind the villainous plot of “Fast & Furious 6.”
But much to my chagrin, Eteon’s leader was not revealed in “Hobbs & Shaw,” which was extra frustrating after he/she/they kept telling Hobbs that they had some kind of history together. But as of the end of the film, there’s no discernible tie back to the main series. If there is one, then it’s probably something that will only make sense after seeing “Fast & Furious 9” next May.
Honestly, not tying into the main series is just par for the course for “Hobbs & Shaw,” which only just barely acknowledges that there were previous movies in this franchise. Hobbs and Shaw start this movie as people who hate each other, even though they were besties by the end of “Fate.” Shaw has a brother, Owen (Luke Evans), who has actually been a main character in the series, who gets one brief mention before the rest of the movie focuses on a sister we had never heard of before. And there’s a single shoutout each for the big action sequence in New York in “Fate” and their fight in L.A. at the beginning of “Furious 7.” And, oh, the name Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell) gets brought up once.
If you were hoping for some #JusticeForHan here, you’ll be dramatically disappointed. “Hobbs & Shaw” only makes that whole thing worse by framing Deckard Shaw as being just a misunderstood good guy that whole time.
Otherwise, nobody from Dominic Toretto’s #Family gets mentioned at all in “Hobbs & Shaw,” so I don’t know why I thought the plot might actually matter to the main series while I was sitting in the theater. Unless they manage to make it matter next year in “Fast & Furious 9” — which neither Staham nor The Rock are slated to appear in — it looks like this spinoff is just gonna exist in its own universe.