On the face of it, this weekend's "Fast Five" pretty much seems like yet another rote entry in the series, but for Universal, the film is anything but usual. According to the LA Times, the film is budgeted somewhere between $125-170 million, the most expensive film yet in the series that thus far has kept expenses on each outing under triple digits. But more importantly, it will find the franchise shifting gears (pun intentional) moving away from the gearhead origins and shifting into something else, a heist series that won't require new viewers to know anything about the previous films.
"We had a lot of conversations about what we needed do to create longevity and recognized that the core theme of car racing counterculture had run its course," Universal Co-Chairman Donna Langley told the paper. Universal Chairman Adam Fogelson added, "Our hope is to turn what has been the biggest car-racing franchise into a huge action franchise that's appealing regardless of whether or not you care about cars or the previous films."
Doing the rounds with various outlets, Fogelson continued his thoughts over at Deadline saying, "We've heard so many people say, 'I've never seen one, and I've never wanted to see one,' about the Fast franchise. So if these movies were still about street racing, there was probably a ceiling on how many people would buy tickets. We wanted to see if we could raise it out of about racing and make car driving ability just a part of the movie, like those great chases in 'The French Connection,' 'The Bourne Identity,' 'The Italian Job.'"
And while no one is coming right out and saying it, the suggestion is that the big motors of past films are on their way out. With Fogelson calling it a "transitional movie," as the trailers for "Fast Five" suggest, the focus this time around is less on the four wheeled vehicles and more on the "job" of the film, which brings to mind the aforementioned "The Italian Job" in which cars are just a component of a broader crime. The latest film also marks the arrival of Dwayne Johnson to the series, who may make an appearance in future films with a big window being left open at the end of "Fast Five" for a sequel (though at this point, no one is signed on for one). In fact, writer Chris Morgan -- who is adorably interviewed below by The Onion -- is already working on the script for a film that executives are aiming to drive into theaters in 2013.
As far as finding ways to keep a franchise fresh, Universal are making some smart moves here but with the inflated price tag on "Fast Five" they need to bank on the film reaching a bigger audience than ever before if they want to keep making these and bringing back a profit to make shareholders happy. "Fast Five" opens this Friday.