Hobbs & Shaw: Fast & Furious fans get first glimpse of spin-off

By Steven McIntosh
Entertainment reporter

image source, Universal
image caption, Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) have to team up in the film

The first trailer for the first Fast & Furious spin-off has debuted, and it's just as over-the-top as you'd expect.

Hobbs & Shaw focuses on Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham's characters from the main series, and sees them team up to defeat a (literally bullet-proof) Idris Elba.

The idea of giving Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw their own film came about thanks to some on-set improvising during the last film, explains the writer and creator of the new spin-off, Chris Morgan.

"It wasn't until [The Fate of the Furious], where we put them together in a prison, that we saw how well Jason and Dwayne bounced off each other," he tells BBC News.

"And really, we have so many takes of the things they would say to each other off the cuff that were so funny, [the chemistry] was kind of undeniable."

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He adds: "We've always wanted to expand the Fast universe, there's definitely more stories to be told there, stories that happened to these characters in between the major tent-pole adventures, and it just seems like Dwayne and Jason was the clear way to do it."

The ever-expanding world of Fast & Furious is evidence of its consistent power at the box office - collectively the movies have taken a worldwide total of more than $5bn (£3.82bn).

image source, Getty Images
image caption, Idris Elba filmed scenes for Hobbs & Shaw in Glasgow last year

There have been eight movies so far (nearly a third as many as there are James Bond films) since the first was released in 2001, with the ninth and 10th planned for release in the next two years.

But, explained Johnson earlier this week: "The plan has always been for the Fast and Furious universe to grow and expand."

The trailer suggests Hobbs & Shaw will have all the major hallmarks of the franchise, with action sequences including a chase which takes place literally down the side of a building.

Hobbs and Shaw themselves are seen complaining about having to team up, but we suspect they'll find a way to get along in order to defeat Brixton, the villain played by Elba.

image source, Universal
image caption, The movie only completed filming earlier this month

"The suit Brixton's wearing is bullet-proof, he is a slightly future-tech mercenary, a kind of augmented soldier," explains Morgan.

"And it was important for us, especially for this first outing for Hobbs and Shaw, to put them up against someone who is a real true challenge to them... so bad, so tough, so capable, that it would force them to team up."

Much of the new film was shot in the UK - as the film is partially set in London.

But, Morgan explains, producers weren't able to shoot everything they needed there, which led to the cast and crew heading north to Glasgow.

"In London, we landed a helicopter on a street right outside St Paul's, we shot outside the Leadenhall building, but what you tend not to get a lot of is actual street to do a chase sequence - and that's where Scotland came to the rescue," he says.

Later that same month, the shooting moved elsewhere in the UK - The Rock even dropped in to a gym in Doncaster while they were filming nearby.

image source, Getty Images
image caption, Locals in Glasgow were relatively unfazed by the filming of the Fast & Furious spin-off

Film critic Rhianna Dhillon says part of the appeal of the Fast & Furious films is they have "that pure, unadulterated escapism about them, children and adults alike are quite happy to watch things get blown up and smashed up.

"A lot of what drags movies like The Avengers down is the plot, and Fast & Furious isn't trying to compete with those heavy, convoluted storylines. This is just cars smashing into each other and it's okay to enjoy that."

However, the new film could signal a gentle change in direction with more focus on storytelling, according to Jeff Shell, chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment Group.

"You can't keep having every movie have bigger and bigger stunts forever and ever and ever," he told Variety last year.

"We'll still have big stunts but... you have to really focus on the story."

In addition to the stunts and storytelling, another key part of the franchise's appeal the diversity of the cast.

"While the first three films followed the traditional white male hero narrative, the next four set about completely dismantling it," wrote Benjamin Rabinovich in Little White Lies.

"From 2009's Fast & Furious to 2015's Fast & Furious 7 [Paul Walker] is the only white male hero in a large, increasingly diverse crew comprising Korean, African-American, Israeli and Brazilian actors."

image source, Universal

One thing Fast & Furious fans gently mock the series for is its focus on the importance of family - but that's an element Morgan says he's proud of.

"I know there's this drinking game that every time someone says 'family' in the Fast franchise everyone takes a drink - it's kind of a joke, but I would also say that every time these characters say that, they mean it," he says.

"There's an earnest quality in the Fast & Furious that kind of grounds the giant action that you see, because you care about the characters and like that they respect and love each other."

Fast & Furious: Hobbs & Shaw is out in cinemas 2 August 2019.

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