Sometimes you just need a supervillain.
Hobbs & Shaw is the first spinoff of the notoriously bonkers Fast & Furious franchise — a film series that, to this point, has kept at least a toe in reality. That changes now, though. In Hobbs & Shaw, villain Brixton (played by Idris Elba) is an enhanced super-soldier, essentially a comic book supervillain.
By making that character decision, the Fast & Furious franchise takes its first step into the world of science fiction, something that could potentially change all the movies going forward. The question is: Why now? Why is Hobbs & Shaw the place where things finally stepped out of reality? Well, blame Hobbs and Shaw themselves.
“How do you find someone who can physically challenge [Dwayne Johnson’s] Hobbs and [Jason Statham’s] Shaw when they’re together?” Hobbs & Shaw director David Leitch asked Gizmodo. “They’re both larger than life action stars in their own right and now we have them working together... You’re like, ‘Well who can fight both of them, honestly?’”
“We needed to have a character who is able to step in and beat down Hobbs and beat down Shaw so badly, so badly, that the only way to solve the problem would be to work together,” writer Chris Morgan told us.
In the original script, Brixton was a soldier who had a lot of resources at his disposal, but that’s it. “We leaned into a lot of technology but he, personally, was not modified,” Morgan said. “He had an army and tech and a lot of crazy [stuff] that I’m going to save for another go-round.”
But that wasn’t enough. To stand up to Hobbs and Shaw, things had to go further. Step one, hire Idris Elba, an actor who not only has incredible gravitas but a background in kickboxing. Step two, change the Fast & Furious franchise.
“Once I got Idris on board it became... I want to add another layer,” Leitch said “Let’s enhance him. Let’s make him the version of a super soldier that lives in this world.”
And so Brixton became the self-described “Black Superman,” complete with super strength, stamina, and eyes that see like the Terminator, processing complex calculations in real-time as he’s fighting. All of which are things both Morgan and Leitch don’t think are necessarily out of the scope of believably.
“It’s literally like five minutes in the future,” Morgan said of this kind of technology. “I did a bunch of research on military tech, military advancements, and future army sort of things, and these things are slightly extended out of our abilities at the moment but down the road pretty soon.”
Also down the road pretty soon are more Fast & Furious movies, with Fast & Furious 9 currently in production, part 10 coming after that, plus Hobbs & Shaw leaves the door open for more sequels. All of which, thanks to Brixton, could potentially go into the sci-fi realm.
“I think it’s really fun to watch how the Fast movies have reinvented themselves over and over and over and the audience has gone along with it,” said Leitch. “The characters are so strong and the themes are so strong that we can have fun and we can have jokes and we can be self-referential at times and we can have a superhero who is augmented.”
“I’m not saying that we went out to make a superhero movie,” Leitch continued. “But it felt like it was ok to push the boundaries. People go to the theatre for escape, [so] can we make it slightly more heightened? We can. I mean Hobbs is essentially a superhero in [his] own right. We’ve just maybe taken it 20 per cent more in that direction and I think people love it. They want it. And it just felt like the right thing to do.”
But can it go further? The joke is always “Will Fast & Furious go to space?” and a film starring a superhuman villain does seem to suggest it’s possible.
“I think if the character’s story is grounded enough, if it’s cool enough to warrant doing and we know and feel [the audience] are just gonna be enjoying that ride and not pulled out of it, there are no limits,” said Morgan.
“I have no doubt that they could take [Fast] to anywhere they wanted to go and they could be successful,” he said. “Again, I go back to the heart and soul of this franchise is the characters. We’re lucky enough to have Hobbs and Shaw. Fast has their pantheon of characters that are beloved and people are gonna go on the ride. If you keep those characters alive and fresh their hearts beating, they’ll go on the ride.”
Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw is in theatres now.