HomeEntertainment NewsThe Fast & Furious Franchise Has Perfected the Art of Retconning

The Fast & Furious Franchise Has Perfected the Art of Retconning

The Fast & Furious franchise has truly withstood the test of time and has likely reached greater heights than the original filmmakers thought possible. However, The Fast & Furious film series is not immune to frequent story retcons. Whether it’s character deaths, long-lost relatives, or character motivations, Fast & Furious will tweak things where deemed appropriate for the sake of audience entertainment.

What began as a Point Break-esque, street racing-themed action movie later expanded to an over-the-top, big-budget, globe-trotting, epic action-adventure saga. Not to mention, the Fast & Furious series has incorporated more futuristic and sci-fi concepts over the years. The Fast & Furious series now looks closer to a live-action iteration of an old-school action-adventure cartoon, such as G.I. Joe or M.A.S.K., than its roots. The sci-fi concepts provide the series with more fun and creative ways to undo character deaths that had the fans rabid for justice. It’s time to look at how the Fast franchise has an unparalleled tendency to retcon itself over and over, and the audience usually just goes along with the fun.


RELATED: How Many Fast & Furious Movies Are There?

Letty’s Return to the Fast & Furious Franchise

Michelle Rodriguez as Letty in Fast & Furious 6
Image via Universal Pictures

The Fast & Furious franchise re-established itself as a major box office powerhouse in 2009 with the fourth installment, Fast & Furious. This film brought back all the major characters from the original in a new action-heavy plot, including Vin Diesel as Dom Toretto, Paul Walker as Brian O’Connor, Jordana Brewster as Mia Toretto, and Michelle Rodriguez as Letty Ortiz. The fans were craving this for years, and they finally got their wish. However, Letty’s role in the film was very limited, and on top of that, she seemingly dies offscreen, sending Dom on a path of revenge against her killers. Well, that death didn’t last long.

In a post-credits stinger for Fast Five, a scene between Monica Fuentes (Eva Mendes) and Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) reveals that the presumed dead Letty Ortiz is alive and well. So, Fast & Furious 6 is all about Dom saving Letty and reuniting with her. But what happened? Didn’t Braga’s minion Calderon kill her in the fourth movie, and she died in a fiery explosion when she was undercover with the FBI? Well, Fast & Furious 6 explains that Letty survived the wreckage. When O’Connor questions Braga in prison, it’s revealed that Letty miraculously survived, but she’s now suffering from amnesia. As a result, Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) brings Letty in as part of his crew, so Dom has to spend the whole movie saving her, even though she doesn’t remember their past. Letty’s amnesia would persist through the next movie until the power of love and “Family” finally cures it, as she remembers her wedding with Dom in Furious 7.

John Cena Is the Lost Brother in ‘F9: The Fast Saga’

Image via Universal Pictures

F9: The Fast Saga introduced the new character of Jakob Toretto (John Cena), a long-lost brother of the Toretto family. During the initial trailers, it was a bit curious how the filmmakers were going to handle this reveal, and whether Jakob Toretto is Dom’s actual brother, an adopted sibling, or a foster sibling. It later turned out that Jakob is, in fact, the biological brother of both Dom and Mia Toretto. However, Jakob became estranged from the family after Dom came to believe that Jakob was involved with the tragic death of their father, setting up Jakob to return years later as an antagonist in F9.

Aside from the surprise that Mia and Dom have another sibling they had never previously mentioned, there is also the issue that Jakob looks nothing like either of them, so it seems somewhat far-fetched that Jakob is their biological sibling. F9 does address this in one of the film’s most amusing and appropriate lines. As master hacker Cipher (Charlize Theron) states to Jakob during the movie, “Your chin, it’s distinctive. I know the Torettos have quite the mixed bloodlines, but I never detected a Nordic strain.” The line earned a big laugh in theaters. It’s absurd and goofy, but that is part of the appeal of the Fast & Furious films.

‘F9’ Served Justice For Han

Han Lue smiling and looking to his left in Fast & Furious.
Image via Universal Pictures

In The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, director Justin Lin introduced the new character Han Seoul-Oh, who was incorporated from his earlier film Better Luck Tomorrow. At the time, Han was a one-off character as he dies later in the film. However, Lin stayed on board the franchise and ended up helming several more sequels. Han continued to be a part of the Fast & Furious franchise, and Lin pulled this off by narratively setting the sequels before the events of Tokyo Drift. The continuity loop closed with the mid-credits sequence of Fast & Furious 6, showing that Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) was the one who killed Han. The problem? Han became a popular character after being integrated into part of the extended Toretto “Family.” On top of that, fans were furious with the notion of Deckard Shaw’s transition from hero to villain in the film series, even becoming the face of a spinoff with Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. Fans were so displeased that it inspired a worldwide meme, “#JusticeForHan.” Filmmakers promised to address the issue about Han and Shaw later on.

So, how do you satisfy fans who want justice for Han, but somehow continue with Shaw as part of the franchise as one of the good guys? Simple, you retcon Han’s death. F9 undoes the death of Han from way back in 2006’s Tokyo Drift. Thanks to help from Mr. Nobody (Kurt Russell), Han was able to fake his death from the car crash in Tokyo Drift. However, it offers up a hilarious solution that’s only fitting for the later sequels of Fast & Furious. The Han in the car that was crushed by Shaw was a hologram, and Han got out in the nick of time. So, it took 15 years of Han being dead, with multiple Fast & Furious sequels set before the time of his unfortunate death, and then ultimately jettisoning the fact that he was dead. And Han did it using holograms. This is essentially the Fast franchise’s version of having your cake and eating it too. The hologram device to save Han is absolutely absurd, but the movies are in on the joke, and audiences embrace that.

The Shaw Brothers Go From Baddies to Goodies

Fast & Furious 6 featured Owen Shaw as the big bad and the one who had recruited an amnesiac Letty Ortiz as a part of his terrorist crew. After his defeat, his older brother, Deckard Shaw came in for some revenge against Toretto and the “Family” in Furious 7. However, neither character was killed off, and by the next movie, Deckard Shaw became one of the good guys, helping Toretto and the Family in the fight against Cipher, who had once hired Shaw’s little brother to steal a dangerous EMP weapon. The Fate of the Furious fully transitions the Shaw brothers into “Family”-friendly good guys as they stage a daring siege of Cipher’s tricked-out jet to rescue Dom’s infant son. Owen is fully recovered from his devastating injuries, including most of the horrendous, disfiguring scars he suffered at the end of Fast & Furious 6.

By the end of The Fate of the Furious, Owen and Deckard are using jetpacks and fighting to save Dom’s baby. Apparently, Owen has no hard feelings about his defeat at the hands of Dom. Owen is yet to be seen again after The Fate of the Furious, but Deckard Shaw has now become one of the top heroes and faces of the franchise, starring in the spinoff film, Hobbs & Shaw. And he’ll be back for more in Fast X, Considering Deckard Shaw started an aggressive blood feud with Dom Toretto, it’s a bit convenient that everyone let bygones be bygones. Not to mention that whole killing Han thing before the family knew that Han was alive and well. But franchising sometimes trumps logical storytelling.

Any major franchise that lasts as long and has as many installments as the Fast & Furious does is bound to have storytelling retcons. The Marvel Cinematic Universe has retcons. The DCEU has retcons, James Bond, Rocky/Creed, the Alien series, and so on. Retcons are not necessarily bad, and it’s all about execution. In the heightened, action-adventure world of Fast & Furious, the retcons tend to lean into the goofy side, but they are executed with a charming self-awareness. That only adds to the overall fun of the experience rather than breaking the story’s suspension of disbelief. It should be fun to see what happens in the aftermath of the Deckard Shaw and Han confrontation teased at the end of F9. Fast X hits theaters on May 19.



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