'F9': On Going to Space, Getting Back to Basics and the 'Greatest Finale in Cinematic History'
By John Boone
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What the hell is Fast & Furiousgonna do now? After years of fans remarking, mostly in jest, that the franchise would eventually have to leave Earth to top its own preposterous set pieces, F9 is taking one small step for family, one giant leap for familykind.
As teased (or spoiled) in the trailer, Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Tej (Chris "Ludacris" Bridges) do indeed go to space in a beat-up Pontiac Fiero affixed to a literal rocket engine. It has to do with another one of Charlize Theron's nefarious plots, a new doomsday device and a satellite, naturally, though the specifics of what happens once the duo is in orbit is best left unspoiled.
"Every time I get a new script, I say, 'I hope I'm not dying in this.' That's number one," Ludacris tells ET's Nischelle Turner. "And then number two, 'What is it that we are going to do that we haven't done before?' And as soon as I read that we were going to outer space, I was jumping for joy, because I never would've thought of that. We are doing this before Tom Cruise, before Richard Branson, before Elon Musk, all of them. Come on, man!"
Though she wasn't able to join her co-stars in their DIY spaceship, Nathalie Emmanuel was particularly amused when she learned F9 was going there. (There being space.) "I was like, why not? We did a submarine. We threw cars out of planes. Why not throw a rocket on a car and send it to space?" she says. "We get to do the unimaginable. So, why not?"
2009's Fast & Furious -- the fourth film in the franchise but the first produced by Vin Diesel -- pivoted the series from low-stakes street racing into international espionage and increasingly insane world-saving missions. But there's a reason space is the final frontier. It's objectively the most outlandish, most out-there these movies can go.
So, it's an unexpected highpoint of F9 that it also takes time to get back to the basics. Another standout sequence in the film sees a young Dom (played by Vinnie Bennett) drag racing through the streets of East L.A., a return to what made the original films so thrilling, before the exploding planes and parachuting tanks and skyscraper-jumping sports cars.
"It's been 20 years and the greatest hope with this film is that we get to celebrate and explore our mythology but at the same time celebrate where we've gone and where we're going," says director Justin Lin, who helmed movies 3-6 and F9. "There's a lot in this movie, but that was our ambition: To be able to share everything with everyone."
"That's why it's such an emotional roller coaster," Ludacris adds. "Always taking different turns and evolving, but some of that evolution has to do with bringing it back to the essence of what started the franchise in the first place."
With two films left before The Fast Saga comes to the end of the road, how will this epic end? Will it be with a final shot of NOS in a revved-up street race or some sort of intergalactic stunt that is sure to blow our minds? How do you top space?
"Every movie, I pick up the script and I'm like, 'How much bigger can we actually make these movies?!'" Emmanuel says. "And every time, they manage to do it. I'm sure that they have a plan afoot already."
"We have to, like, do a fight scene with two people bungee jumping at the same time. Or fighting underwater!" Ludacris brainstorms. "I guarantee you we will come up with something else. I can't talk about what the hell is going on in 10, otherwise somebody will come tackle me right now. If somebody else wants to spill the beans, hopefully they will. But I'm not doing that. I'm not getting fired!"
"The finale's coming," Diesel teases for his part, "and F9 starts to align everything perfectly for the greatest finale in cinematic history."