Fast Five (2011) changed Fast and Furious in a lot of ways, but the film’s biggest legacy to the franchise is not what you think.
The first Fast and Furious film to have a nine-figure budget, Fast Five represented a change in scale and tone for the franchise and cemented the saga as a blockbuster giant.
However, more than increasing the action or adding The Rock, one simple Fast Five trick is what changed the saga forever.
After Fast & Furious (2009) proved that there was still a future for the saga following the disappointing box office performances of 2 Fast 2 Furious and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Universal had to find the right way to keep the positive momentum the saga had acquired.
It was clear that Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto and Paul Walker’s Brian O’Conner should continue to be the stars, but simply making another Dom and Brian adventure for the fifth film would not work.
Fast Five had to have something different in terms of structure to justify its larger budget and its international setting.
Brian and Doretto were also starting to get repetitive, as Fast & Furious (2009) had been very similar to The Fast and the Furious (2001).
The solution was to make Fast Five an ensemble film starring names from all previous four Fast and Furious installments and not just Toretto, Brian, and Mia.
Fast Five had the largest cast for a Fast and Furious movie up until that point, and from then on, the movies became about the crew rather than just about Brian and Dom.
Fast Five’s Brought All Corners Of The Fast Franchise Together
Fast Five was the first film to make Fast and Furious feel like an actual saga. The Fast and Furious films had been very disconnected up until that point, with Fast & Furious (2009) serving as a sequel to the original film but mainly ignoring 2 Fast 2 Furious and Tokyo Drift.
There was no mention of Dom Toretto in 2 Fast 2 Furious, Tokyo Drift was an entirely standalone story except for a brief Vin Diesel cameo, and there wasn’t a single actor who had appeared in the first four Fast and Furious films.
Fortunately, Fast Five embraced all corners of the franchise and brought together characters from all the first four movies, including The Fast and the Furious’ Vince, 2 Fast 2 Furious’ Roman and Tej, Tokyo Drift’s Han, and Fast & Furious’ Gisele.
Instead of a quick cameo similar to Han’s in Fast & Furious, Fast Five gave a substantial role to all of those characters and made them as important to the story as Brian and Dom.
The heist setup made it easier for all those characters to be brought together, and the result was exciting interaction between characters who had never met. For example, Brian Roman and Tej finally got to meet Don.
Fast Five’s Large Cast Changed How Fast & Furious’ Movies Work
Fast Five’s heist plot proved to be the right decision, as it gave every character a chance to shine while keeping the film entertaining from start to finish. With Fast Five becoming the highest-grossing Fast and Furious film up until that point, everything that had worked in the Justin Lin film was now going to serve as the north for the franchise.
Therefore, Fast & Furious 6 not only kept the heist element but also brought the entire “family” back. Now assisting The Rock’s Hobbs, Dom Toretto’s crew went from fugitive to special agents. That was the perfect setup for Dom’s family to keep returning for other films, as they were now Hobbs’ personal elite team for top secret missions all over the world
Fast Five Made “The Family” The Best Thing About Fast & Furious
While Dom Toretto’s overused “I don’t have friends, I have family” motto is often joked about, the Fast and Furious crew has become the best thing about the movies.
As important as Vin Diesel is to the saga, Dom Toretto alone would never be able to carry so many films all by himself, especially after Paul Walker’s tragic passing.
The Fast and Furious family, which grows larger with each film, is now the true heart of the saga. They allow Fast and Furious to avoid becoming repetitive, as such a large set of characters offers the film endless possibilities.
Each Fast and Furious character has a particular set of skills, such as Tej and Ramsey’s hacking abilities. At the same time, each actor is able to bring something different to the table, such as Tyrese’s unique comedy timing.
The ensemble-cast approach that originated from Fast Five is the reason why each Fast and Furious film now feels like an event and explains why the franchise has been able to connect with so many people all over the world.