For months now, thanks to the steady drumbeat of both Universal’s ace marketing department and various members of the cast on social media, we have been informed that “Fast X,” the tenth movie in the franchise, is “the beginning of the end of the road.” And that an eleventh film, once again directed by French filmmaker Louis Leterrier (who joined the series after creative differences led to Justin Lin leaving “Fast X” mid-production), is soon on the horizon.
Everybody is back for “Fast X,” from series regulars like Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster and Sung Kang to more recent additions like John Cena, Nathalie Emmanuel and Jason Statham, to car-loving characters completely new to the franchise like Brie Larson, Alan Ritchson, Jason Momoa (stealing every scene he’s in), Daniela Melchior and, for some reason, Rita Moreno. Because when you think about the fuel-injected “Fast and Furious” franchise, you think about the 91-year-old actress who appeared in “Singin’ in the Rain” and both versions of “West Side Story.”
And this cumulative, everybody’s back attitude brings to mind, of course, the Marvel Studios canon – specifically “Avengers: Infinity War,” which set the stage for the grand finale of the first era of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But to get into how and why “Fast X” and “Infinity War” are so closely linked, we’ll have to talk about some key details of the movie’s sprawling plot and what happens to certain characters (including the arrival of other legacy characters). If you haven’t seen “Fast X” yet, jump in your muscle car and head for the exit ramp.
Major spoilers for the “Fast X” ending follow below. Put the pedal to the metal!
So Many Characters
One of the things that gives “Fast X” such an “Infinity War”-ish dimension is the fact that almost every character from the previous films was back and accounted for. The only notable exceptions were Eva Mendes (last seen in a “Fast Five” post-credits scene), Luke Evans (who sort of disappeared during “The Fate of the Furious”), Tego Calderón and Don Omar (also last seen together in “The Fate of the Furious,” Omar appeared in “F9”), Lucas Black (who also popped up in “F9”) and Kurt Russell (who has been “missing” for two movies at this point).
With so many characters (even Helen Mirren materializes for a scene, conjured forth by some unknown magic), the movie hops around – Rodriguez is incarcerated with former big bad Cipher (Charlize Theron) in some government black site; Cena is making arrangements with Dom’s young son; Momoa is terrorizing pretty much everybody. It mirrors “Avengers: Infinity War,” which had a similar structure, catching up with virtually every character from past MCU adventures – Black Panther in Wakanda, Tony and the Guardians of the Galaxy on some godforsaken planet, etc.
It’s a way to add scope and to imply finality – enjoy your time with these characters, since you might not have much more time with them. Ready to say goodbye?
Major Character Deaths
Well, maybe not.
A lot of that is left up in the air (see the next subhead down) but at least one major character definitively dies – John Cena’s Jakob Toretto, the long-lost brother of Dom and Mia, who was introduced during “F9” (truly, these movies have the most bizarre and irregular naming conventions, perhaps in the history of cinema). Jakob gives his life in order to save his young nephew and his brother, which is heroic for sure. And it sets the stage for more deaths; if a performer as charming and charismatic as Cena, who genuinely lent a lovely, warm energy to the franchise in this installment, can die, then anybody could.
Of course, this is a franchise that is known for bringing characters back from the dead in increasingly implausible, Telenovela-adjacent ways (including Rodriguez and Kang) and keeping characters alive even if the performer died in real life (yes, in the “Fast and Furious” universe, Paul Walker’s Brian O’Connor is still, somehow, alive and off-screen). If Cena returns in “Furious 11” (or whatever it’ll be called), then the stakes will be off. There was actual loss in both “Infinity War” and “Endgame;” hopefully these “Fast and Furious” installments will make the deaths stick.
A Major Cliffhanger
Okay, here’s where we really venture into “Infinity War” territory.
At the end of the movie, several characters’ ultimate fates are still left up in the air, including much of the support team (Ludacris, Tyrese, Emmanuel, Kang), who are attempting to save the day when their plane is shot down by Alan Ritchson’s Aimes, who is sort of the Kurt Russell stand-in for this movie. He’s been a pain in the ass, hunting down Dom and the rest of the crew, but has a change of heart midway through the movie and begins to show his more virtuous side. Until, at the end, it’s revealed that he’s been evil all along, in cahoots with Momoa’s sinister villain Dante. That son of a bitch!
Brie Larson’s new agent Tess is shot; Statham is off getting help (whereabouts TBD); Cipher and Letty have escaped their fortified prison only to be met with a vast expanse of snow (Antarctica baby!); and Dom and his young son are potentially drowned by Momoa exploding a hydroelectric dam (yes really). As the poster for “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” so memorably inquired: who will survive and what will be left of them?
This feels even more like “half a movie” than “Infinity War,” since “Infinity War” at least concluded the journey for many of the characters and pointed to a universe where half the population has been blipped out of existence. What would that world look like? How would our characters, superpowered though they might be, solider on? These are intriguing questions.
“Fast X,” for all its wild, unpredictable fun, sort of just ends. Like in the middle of the scene. And then the credits roll. And unlike the “Infinity War”/”Endgame” cliffhanger, the next “Fast & Furious” movie hasn’t even been shot yet. See you in 2025, maybe!
Pre- And Post-Credits Returns
We left a couple of names off of the “missing” list for a reason – because two of the series’ biggest stars, both recently marooned from supposed DC superhero franchises, make surprise appearances towards the end of the movie.
While it looks like Cipher and Letty’s quest to return to the world is impossible, as they gaze across the frozen tundra, something starts to break through the ice. It’s big. It’s a submarine. And it’s piloted by none other than Gal Gadot’s Gisele Yashar who, again, was murdered in a previous installment (“Fast & Furious 6” during the immortal “world’s longest runway” climax). She’s back baby! But … how? All will be revealed, undoubtedly, in the next film.
Gadot, of course, was once Warner Bros. and DC’s Wonder Woman, appearing as the character in several films (“Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice,” “Wonder Woman,” “Justice League,” “Wonder Woman 1984” and even earlier this year’s “Shazam! Fury of the Gods”). Since the recent establishment of DC Films, under the leadership of James Gunn and Peter Safran, a third “Wonder Woman” film was quietly backburnered and Gadot’s future with DC is up in the air.
But she’s not the only pink-slipped DC actor back in the “Fast and Furious” orbit.
In a mid-credits sequence, we see the unlikeliest return of them all. And not because their character died or was presumed dead, but because the actor was so outspoken about his unhappiness with the franchise. Yes, we’re talking about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson aka Hobbs, the former heavy-turned member of the team who very openly hates Vin Diesel’s guts. (In the latter movies where they both appeared it is painfully obvious that neither shared any actual time on set together. Awkward!)
The sequence sees a bunch of jack-booted dudes swarm what we presume is Dante’s hideout. But when they get there, they find a phone. Dante is calling. “Dom drove the car, but you pulled the trigger,” Dante says. We see a flashback to “Fast Five,” which in this new version of the continuity features Dante (and Aimes actually). We see Dante’s father, the drug lord that the gang ripped off in “Fast Five,” lying on the ground after that movie’s big chase, when Hobbs walks by and shoots him. In the present, the masked soldier is still listening to the call. “I’m not that hard to find,” the soldier says, taking off his mask and revealing Johnson’s handsome face. Then he says: “Come and get me you sumbitch” (or something to that effect).
Hobbs is back!
Johnson had his own story with the DC Universe, starring in “Black Adam” and coercing Henry Cavill to return as Superman for that film’s post-credits scene. Of course, the movie was a flop and Johnson too was booted from the DC Universe once Gunn and Safran took over. But don’t worry former DC actors, the “Fast and Furious” franchise will always be here to take you in.
And Johnson’s return also mirrors “Infinity War,” which took time during the post-credits scene to reintroduce Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He too used a curse word catchphrase during his scene, nearly dropping the f-bomb in a Marvel movie (a feat that wouldn’t be accomplished until “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3” this summer).
Ready for a Wrap-Up
Of course, all of these cliffhangers, reintroduced characters and still-alive-villains mean that a resolution can only come in the form of another movie. And while the eleventh film is tentatively scheduled for 2025, we don’t know for sure that the movie will be released then or anything else about it really, including who will be returning and who is gone for good.
Diesel, of course, has already started talking about who he wants to be the villain in the next movie, even though Momoa is very much alive and the obvious highlight of “Fast X.” And if Diesel gets his wish, it will really align “Infinity War” and “Endgame” with “Fast X” and whatever the next “Fast and Furious” movie will be called – he wants Robert Downey, Jr. to play the heavy. Oh snap!