More than a year and a quarter after the pandemic began, the theatrical experience revs back in loud and clear fashion this weekend with the domestic debut of "F9." Expect big everything: box office, action, entertainment, and lots of wisecracking banter from our familiar, multicultural family of car-racers-turned-global-superstars.
Also, to make clear all the new things to expect along with the usual furious shenanigans, we present 9 things to know before you go to the ninth installment in the "F&F" franchise.
1 / The Return of Han Lue
"Justice for Han" arrives in "F9." While the franchise favorite was believed dead at the end of "Tokyo Drift," it turns out Han Lue (Sung Kang), also known as Han Seoul-Oh, is alive and well, and finally back in a driver's seat. "Fast" fans are excited to find out how exactly that's possible. Given the rightful angst they felt when his supposed murderer Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) was welcomed into the family fold, no matter the explanation, it'll be nice to see Han actually amongst the living.
2 / Once More from the WWE: John Cena
If it worked for Dwayne Johnson…why not John Cena? "F9" introduces the other WWE-star-turned-movie-icon into the franchise as Dom Toretto's younger brother, Jakob. And to keep things heated, Jakob's a superspy turned bad and now fully at odds with Dom and his crew. Why exactly did it take 9 movies to find out Dom and sister Mia (Jordana Brewster) have a long-lost brother? We're not sure. We're just glad to see mountain man Diesel take on yet another worthy rival.
3 / Girl Power Rocks
Rumor has it that a female-driven "Fast" movie could be in the works. If so, Jordana Brewster is totally ready for it. The actress who plays Dom's younger sister mentioned in a SiriusXM Town Hall, "I think that would be incredible." Consider "F9" a primer, with Jordana Brewster finally getting some action time in with Michelle Rodriguez, who plays her sister-in-law Letty. As well, the all-female version could include their co-stars Nathalie Emmanuel, Helen Mirren, and Charlize Theron. And Eva Mendes could be brought back, too.
4 / The Return of Justin Lin
He directed the third through sixth "Fast" flicks, and he's back for the final three. He also co-wrote "F9" with Daniel Casey (this is the first "Fast" film since "Tokyo Drift" not to be written by Chris Morgan, who was off writing the spin-off "Hobbs & Shaw"). Lin's return is especially welcome, as he's widely viewed by the fans as the captain of the franchise's best film so far, "Fast Five."
5 / Family Is All
As with all the series' movies, family is a central theme in "F9." The family you're born with, and the family you forge with. Besides Dom and Mia's brother Jakob, Deckard Shaw's mom Queenie (the always amazing Helen Mirren) also makes in appearance. As does the family forged across the years and films: Roman (Tyrese Gibson), Tej (Ludacris), hacker Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Sean Boswell (Lucas Black) and more. Of course, a "Fast" movie wouldn't be complete without the breaking of bread together. So expect the backyard barbeque, too.
6 / The Spirit of Looney Tunes: Alive and Well
The other necessary ingredient to these movies are the over-the-top ridiculous stunts. Plus, some wisecracking banter between Roman and Tej. This time, Justin Lin, producer/star Vin Diesel, and the rest of the gang are ready to go truly over the top - into outer space. How exactly? You'll have to buy a ticket and see. IMAX is especially recommended.
7 / Blockbuster Run Time
In keeping with the over-the-top theme, "F9" also proudly boasts the franchise's longest run time. For 2 hours and 25 minutes, the film combines action, humor, a multicultural cast, and a none-too-serious plot, along with an earnest sense of family.
8 / 'F9' Is Already a Hit
The outlook for domestic box office success looks great for "F9." But the film has already been a major international movie hit. Opening on May 19, 2021 on the international theatrical scene, the film's already the fourth highest global earner of the year, with grosses of $292 million plus and counting.
9 / Check Your Head, Enjoy the Ride
Really, the film critic from the San Francisco Chronicle, Mick LaSalle, says it best. "It's huge, it's stupid and it's wonderful. It's a total blast and an invitation to put your mind into suspended animation for two giddy, ridiculous hours." Sold. See this on the biggest screen, with the best sound system, possible.
Chuck is an editor/writer who's worked for NCM, Fandango, Movies.com, MediaTrip, Hollywood.com and Newsweek. His favorite movie is "Jaws." He's definitely a dog guy.