The Fast & Furious film franchise reaches its landmark 10th entry with Fast X racing into theaters this May. It’s a huge milestone in the saga of Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his unbreakable “family.” Fast X will be the first of a two-part grand finale, with the franchise set to conclude with Fast & Furious 11 later on. However, while this film is titled Fast X, it is not truly the 10th Fast & Furious entry. In 2019, Universal released a spinoff titled Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. That film starred Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, who reprise their previous franchise roles as Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw. But The Fast & Furious saga goes even beyond those 11 released films. What about the other unrecognized tie-ins to Fast & Furious, specifically, filmmaker Justin Lin‘s 2002 film, Better Luck Tomorrow? We’re going to explore where and how the Fast & Furious film franchise branches out beyond The Fast and the Furious through Fast X.
‘Better Luck Tomorrow’ Features Han’s Origin Story
In 2002, Lin debuted his sophomore feature, the independent crime drama Better Luck Tomorrow, at the Sundance Film Festival. The film explores a young Asian American, Ben Manibang (Parry Shen), who is bored with his overachieving lifestyle and starts exploring a life of petty crime with his friends Virgil Hu (Jason Tobin), Virgil’s cousin, Han Lue (Sung Kang), and Daric Loo (Roger Fan). Together, the group forms a type of amateur street gang and attempts to score some extra cash and find some meaning in their lives outside of studying. The film made its festival debut less than a year after the original The Fast and the Furious movie hit the screens and became a breakout hit.
There is more connective tissue between Han in Better Luck Tomorrow and Han in Fast & Furious than just the name. Kang came up with the backstory to the character to make Han in Better Luck Tomorrow a fully realized character. He’s a first-generation Asian American born to immigrant, working-class parents. Kang envisioned Han Lue’s father as a mechanic, which is probably how he developed his affinity for nice cars. In Better Luck Tomorrow, he owns an orange 1965 Ford Mustang, and he’s a chain smoker. Han’s future girlfriend, Gisele Yashar (Gal Gadot), would later note in Fast Five that Han is a former smoker, hence his constant snacking and hand fidgeting. Lin said to Entertainment Weekly on Kang’s performance in the film, “He’s the one guy that doesn’t say a lot, but he has a presence, and he’s earned that Mustang. He’s earned every cigarette he smokes. That was something that was very clear. It was very Sung-influenced, the character: I’ll own up to that for sure.” Better Luck Tomorrow became the start for Han Lue, or as he’d later become to be known, Han Seoul-Oh.
In 2005, Lin began working on The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift. When he was first courted to direct the threequel, Lin was not a fan of early drafts of the script. He was then given leeway to develop the film as he saw fit, which included the addition of Han Seoul-Oh. Lin specifically created the character with both actor Sung Kang and his character of Han from Better Luck Tomorrow in his head, specifically to continue the character of Han from his earlier film. Not much is known about Han from his characterization in Tokyo Drift, but later it’s revealed that he’s close friends with Dom Toretto. Lin’s work on the Fast & Furious series helped transform the franchise into a blockbuster juggernaut. He returned to the franchise for three more entries, expanding the saga, which became one of the hottest film series on the planet. The work Lin started with Tokyo Drift, including a crucial cameo by Diesel at the end of the film, managed to pay off in dividends. Lin ultimately constructed something similar to a Marvel Cinematic Universe using Better Luck Tomorrow, Tokyo Drift, and his later installments of the Fast & Furious film series as an interconnected film universe.
Hobbs & Shaw Take Center Stage
In 2019, the Fast & Furious franchise debuted its first official spinoff film, Hobbs & Shaw. Universal made sure to continue the branding with the inclusion of “Fast & Furious Presents” in the title. Johnson and Statham returned to play Luke Hobbs and Deckard Shaw, who faced a new threat together in the form of the a disgraced DSS agent, Brixton Lore (Idris Elba), who works for the enigmatic terrorist organization, Eteon. Hobbs & Shaw follows The Fate of the Furious and precedes the events of F9 in 2021. That makes Hobbs & Shaw the tenth feature-length entry into the overall franchise since we’re now counting Better Luck Tomorrow. While Hobbs and Shaw got to have their own adventure, the film is still firmly set in the Fast & Furious Universe, building upon both characters’ backstories as referenced in their previous film appearances.
Based on comments by Johnson in a November 2021 interview with Sirius XM, a sequel for Hobbs & Shaw appears to be in development, but when it will come together is “a matter of timing” according to Johnson. The former WWE Superstar is a highly busy, in-demand talent with multiple projects in the works. Not to mention, he just relaunched the XFL. Johnson has already confirmed that he will not be returning for Fast X or the final eleventh film after clashing with Diesel on the set of The Fate of the Furious. Speaking to Sirius XM, Johnson’s vision for Hobbs & Shaw 2 entails “the antithesis of what Fast & Furious movies generally are.”
The ‘Fast & Furious’ Expanded Universe: Shorts and ‘Spy Racers’
As of May 2023, there will be 10 mainline installments to the Fast & Furious franchise. However, the additions of Better Luck Tomorrow and Hobbs & Shaw expand this franchise to 12 films. But that’s not all! In 2003, Universal also released a short film as a prelude to the sequel, 2 Fast 2 Furious, showing O’Connor from the events of the end of the original film to where his story picks up in 2 Fast 2 Furious. That was eventually followed by another short film, Los Bandoleros, which was directed Diesel himself. Los Bandoleros picks up before the events of Fast & Furious, getting Dom, Han, and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) in place for the beginning of that film. It also further establishes the relationship between Han Seoul-Oh and Toretto, as referenced in Tokyo Drift. Los Bandoleros adds more weight and texture to the relationship between Letty and Dom, making their reunion that came in Fast & Furious 6 much more meaningful.
To top off the non-cinematic expansions of the Fast & Furious franchise, there is a;sp the 52-episode Netflix animated series, Fast & Furious: Spy Racers, which follows the exploits of Toretto’s younger cousin, Tony Toretto (Tyler Posey). Diesel also reprises his role as Dom in the series. Over the course of the series, Tony and his friends form a group of daring spies in service of a secret government agency to prevent the criminal organization SH1FT3R from taking over the world. To tie events back into the films, the handler of Tony and his friends is Ms. Nowhere (Renée Elise Goldsberry). She works in the same organization as Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), who first appeared in Furious 7. Spy Racers debuted in December 2019 and concluded in December 2021. Considering the involvement of Toretto and Ms. Nowhere as a colleague of Mr. Nobody, Spy Racers appears to be set sometime after the events of The Fate of the Furious. In Spy Racers, Toretto is already well aware of Ms. Nowhere and her organization, and he appears to have established familiarity with their work. During the animated series, Ms. Nowhere also utilizes similar a similar flight suit that was first introduced in The Fate of the Furious, worn by the Shaw Brothers.
Spy Racers works similarly as a companion series to the Fast & Furious film franchise much like Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous to the Jurassic Park films. The characters of Spy Racers do not appear and are not referenced in the films. However, characters from the live-action films, in this case Dom, appear in the animated series, interacting with the younger characters over the course of their adventures. As a result, it’s not wholly necessary to watch all the films to enjoy and follow along with Spy Racers. Likewise, viewers will not have to watch all 52 episodes of Spy Racers to enjoy the next two installments of the Fast & Furious films.
The Fast & Furious Universe
Altogether, the expanded Fast & Furious universe features 12 movies — counting this summer’s Fast X — two short films, and an animated series. (With more spinoffs possibly coming!) Who would have thought a Point Break-esque 2001 action movie would become such a global phenomenon film franchise featuring over 10 movies, including spinoffs, short films, video games, and an animated series? Looking back, it’s pretty wild. Fast X hits theaters on May 19. Fast & Furious 11 is already in the works. It doesn’t look like Hobbs & Shaw is getting a sequel in the immediate future, but the building blocks are there for subplots and characters in Hobbs & Shaw to continue in later films. It appears the sequel is likely to happen once Johnson’s schedule clears up. However, don’t expect Johnson to show up in Fast & Furious 11, unless somehow Johnson and Diesel can make peace before filming can begin.