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Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s first appearance in the Fast and Furious saga drove it to new heights, but over a decade on, can he do it all again? The Rock was such a charismatic presence during his WWE days that he felt like a natural fit for movie stardom – but it was a long road to get there. Most of his early star vehicles like The Rundown underperformed, and he was soon relegated to mediocre kids’ movies like The Tooth Fairy. It wasn’t until he was cast as Hobbs in Fast Five that his star persona finally clicked.

Hobbs evolved from an enemy to an ally of Dom’s (Vin Diesel) crew and scored his own spinoff with 2019’s Hobbs & Shaw. Outside of the Fast & Furious franchise, Johnson’s career took off in a major way too, with a run of hits that included his Jumanji sequels and Rampage. His high-profile falling out with Vin Diesel made it appear he would never return to the main series, but Fast X’s mid-credits sequence revealed Hobbs was indeed coming back, and being targeted by new villain Reyes (Jason Momoa).

The Rock’s Fast & Furious Return Comes Alongside Fast X’s Box Office Disappointment

Will Johnson’s Hobbs come to the rescue of Dom and friends?

Just how much Hobbs and Dom will interact in the upcoming Fast and Furious 11 remains to be seen, but Johnson and Diesel at least appear to be on speaking terms again. Fast X’s Hobbs scene was a genuine surprise to fans, and it couldn’t have happened at a better time. The tenth installment was a troubled production, with original helmer Justin Lin quitting the project and being replaced by Louis Leterrier. The movie’s budget also ballooned to $340 million (via The Numbers), with Fast X’s eventual $714 million gross being seen as a disappointment by Universal.

The sequel was greeted with unenthused reviews too, and there are signs of general audience fatigue with the whole saga. Hobbs was missed during the last two entries, with the character being a good counterbalance to Dom’s self-serious presence, and while Hobbs & Shaw had issues of its own, it was more entertaining than Fast X. Johnson is a natural fit for this intentionally overblown franchise, and he brings a welcome amount of humor and macho energy to proceedings.

Fast & Furious Needs To Regain Momentum Ahead Of Fast X, Part 2
Fast 11 needs to get audiences excited again

A big sin of Fast X is that it reheated plot beats and twists the series had covered already, including yet another villain seeking revenge for the defeat of a family member. Most of the cast were split up into smaller groups, and the film had too many subplots and characters to track. If followers of the series felt fatigued by how bloated the narrative was, the film must have been near incomprehensible to newcomers. There are reports that Fast and Furious 11 will go back to basics, with a simple mission and a new villain.

Stripping away the excess – both in terms of characters and sidequests – will be crucial to Fast 11 regaining some sense of momentum. Even the action sequences in Fast X were lacking in genuine thrills or invention, and for a movie with “Fast” in the title, it didn’t feel very propulsive. Like with the purported superhero fatigue currently affecting the MCU, audiences may be getting weary of Fast and Furious’ bag of tricks. If part eleven is truly the end of the road, it really needs to focus on delivering an emotionally satisfying, flab-free outing.

The Next Fast & Furious Movies Can’t Repeat Fast X’s Mistakes

Hobbs and Reyes should take note from Fast X’s reception

Alongside the next sequel, Johnson and Momoa will square off in Hobbs & Reyes, which is set to bridge the gap between Fast X and Fast 11. Given the hammy energy Momoa brought to the sociopathic Reyes, the pairing of him and Johnson should make the spinoff a fun one. An advantage of the Hobbs’ spinoffs is they’re free to untangle themselves from the baggage of the main story and can play with the rules a little. Hobbs vs Reyes already indicates a leaner storyline, but the next main entry isn’t so lucky.

Fast X’s cliffhanger ending left too many plates spinning, including the fates of Dom, his son and most of the gang after Reyes outsmarted them all. Presumably, the outcome of this will have to wait until Fast and Furious 11 is released, though if Hobbs and Reyes is set between the two sequels, the spinoff may have to deal with some of Fast X’s fallout too. If the news of the next sequel focusing on a single mission is true, this is a step in the right direction.

The tenth movie pulled itself into too many directions, so Fast 11 needs a streamlined approach. It doesn’t require any more wacky plot twists or surprise family members and must deliver on the promise of closing out the current era of the series. Instead of holding out for yet another sequel, Diesel should focus his creative energies on giving Dom and pals the sendoff they deserve, and realize that Fast X’s maximalist hurt the movie.

Fast & Furious (& The Rock’s Career) Have Changed A Lot Since Fast Five
Johnson’s return doesn’t guarantee a Fast & Furious return to form

Every Fast & Furious Featuring Hobbs
Release Year
Fast Five
2011
Fast and Furious 6
2013
Furious 7
2015
The Fate of the Furious
2017
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw
2019
Fast X
2023

Johnson’s Fast and Furious comeback is exciting because it means the beef between him and Diesel is officially squashed, and that Hobbs is no longer an outcast from the main storyline. That’s all good news, but in reality, Johnson’s career outside the property has changed in recent years. While his box office record was once unimpeachable, Johnson’s returning off the back of the high-profile failure of Black Adam, and the critical drubbing faced by projects like Red Notice.

In truth, the decision to return to Fast and Furious was likely to give his own career a little boost. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but while he’s arguably the biggest star of the main cast, The Rock could use a couple of solid box-office hits too. The main Fast and Furious films have changed a lot since Hobbs’ debut in the fifth film. Fast Five officially marked the turning point where they switched from street race action movies to the global-hopping blockbusters they transformed into.

The series is barely recognizable from its early days and has only become more outlandish. Hobbs’ return obviously won’t have the same impact as his Fast Five introduction, but it should at least signal the end of the series is near and all the key players will be there. If the franchise is to continue beyond the Toretto clan, Johnson’s Hobbs is the natural way to go, so he may be responsible for saving Fast and Furious in more ways than one.

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