“Hobbs & Shaw” proves the Fast and Furious franchise will never crash and burn

Next stop: space?
Next stop: space?
Image: Daniel Smith/Universal Pictures
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Hobbs & Shaw, the new movie in the Fast and Furious franchise, ended The Lion King‘s reign atop the US box office this weekend, with a healthy opening of $61 million in the US and $180 million worldwide. That makes it the fifth-biggest opening ever for Universal Pictures.

The film, which stars Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Jason Statham as large men who hit people with vehicles and their bodies, is the latest success in one of Hollywood’s most lucrative franchises–a franchise that seems unlikely to ever slow down.

That $61 million opening ranks sixth of all time for an August release. It’s the best opening of both Johnson’s and Statham’s careers (outside of the main Fast and Furious series). Hobbs & Shaw was number one in 52 of the 63 markets where it opened—and that doesn’t include China, where the franchise is immensely popular. It’s also the best opening in the US this summer for non-Disney or superhero movies, the Hollywood Reporter noted.

Hobbs & Shaw is the type of movie that, if part of a lesser franchise, probably would have failed. As a rule, spinoffs almost never perform as well critically or commercially as the original series that spawned them. Sometimes—like in the case of Penguins of Madagascar (a spinoff of the Madagascar series)—the spinoffs fail so spectacularly that they force the studio to take a $57 million write-down. Those poor penguins never had a chance on their own.

The Rock knows this all too well. Even his colossal stardom (though it wasn’t quite as colossal in 2002) was not enough to save The Scorpion King, a spinoff-prequel of The Mummy franchise that today is considered a poster child for franchise bloat. After middling box-office returns and a thorough critical flaying, plans for a film sequel were shelved. Several years later, a number of direct-to-video sequels were released without The Rock, who by then had transitioned into driving humvees through walls and choking people with his biceps in the Fast and Furious franchise.

The Fast and Furious is not like other franchises. It’s the ninth highest-grossing franchise in history, very likely to take eighth after Hobbs & Shaw is done showing and seventh after Fast and Furious 9 comes out in 2020. At least one more sequel is planned after that, though we all know that won’t be the end.

The franchise has never been the most critically acclaimed (Hobbs & Shaw‘s 66% Rotten Tomatoes score is fifth best, out of nine), but it checks just about every other box required for longevity: huge movie stars, wall-to-wall action, and sustained success in both the US and around the world, where the Chinese box office provides a major boost to its overall returns. The franchise’s overseas box office totals have increased with each film.