"The Fate of the Furious" speeds into theaters on April 14, promising new twists (Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto is a bad guy?) and almost certainly crazier stunts than before. That would be hard: The franchise has gotten more and more ridiculous and OTT with each installment. It's even hard to remember that this series — now 16 years up in age, meaning it's old enough to drive — started as a modest, Roger Corman-style programmer about thieves driving fast cars.
Nowadays the cars speed from one skyscraper to the next. There are helicopter fights. The sixth installment, from 2013, featured an epic chase on the planet’s longest plane runway. (Seriously, judging how long the set piece ran, it must have been the length of a small country.) “Fast Five,” the movie that officially boosted it from semi-floundering series to the biggest movies in the world, had our heroes drag a bank vault from one of their cars, swinging it around on a chain like it was a dinosaur tail.
The cast has changed, too. Vin Diesel, once lean and young, is now a little doughier with age (though still a brick s—house). Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, who popped in with “2 Fast 2 Furious,” initially had a gigantic afro. Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese Gibson (who, too, swung by with “2”) look about the same, aging gracefully. And, sadly, there’s the late Paul Walker, who was bid a CGI-assisted farewell in 2015’s “Furious 7.”
There are few movie franchises that have changed as much as the “Fast and/or Furious” series has. Diesel passed on the second and third installments; Walker went AWOL on the Tokyo-based third. Along the way it’s picked up Jason Statham as a villain, Dwayne Johnson as a DEA god-turned-confidant and Kurt Russell as the German beer-loving head of a covert ops team. The new one boasts Charlize Theron and, um, Dame Helen Mirren. We can only hope that “Fast 9” (or whatever) nicks Sam Elliott and takes place on Mars.
Look above to see how much (or how little) the actors have changed over the years, and weep about how life is short.