The Rock’s role to the Fast and Furious franchise cannot be ignored, but he is not the main factor in its success.
Fast and Furious’ transformation into a blockbuster franchise is often attributed to Dwayne Johnson’s star power, and while The Rock didn’t necessarily save Fast and Furious as many believe, he did make the saga much better. From Fast Five to The Fate of the Furious, The Rock’s Hobbs was front and center in the Fast and Furious saga, although his screen time and significance to the plot alternated with each movie. The Rock did not return for F9 and is not expected to appear either in Fast X or Fast & Furious 11, which now helps put in perspective how much importance Dwayne Johnson really had to the Fast and Furious franchise.
While it may seem like Fast and Furious decided to add Dwayne Johnson into the mix as a way to elevate the franchise with a big action star, that is not necessarily the reason why Dwayne Johnson was cast as Hobbs in Fast Five – at least not according to Vin Diesel. During a Facebook live in 2017, Vin Diesel revealed that the Hobbs part had been originally written for Tommy Lee Jones, and the idea was to have an experienced, perhaps retired agent hunting down Dominic Toretto and his crew. However, after a fan commented how much it would be cool for Vin Diesel to work with The Rock, the Dominic Toretto actor/Fast and Furious producer decided to give the Hobbs part to Dwayne Johnson.
The decision to have The Rock play Hobbs in Fast Five instead of Tommy Lee Jones was quickly proved to be the right one. Tommy Lee Jones as a Fast and Furious villain would have been interesting to see, granted, but what The Rock brought to Fast Five is one of the reasons why the movie worked so well. From then on, it was safe to assume that The Rock would return for the following Fast and Furious movies, but Hobbs’ importance to the saga also ended up coinciding with Dwayne Johnson’s rise as a global movie star – which obviously had an impact in the Fast and Furious franchise. From Fast Five to The Fate of the Furious, all of which starred The Rock, Fast and Furious only saw its box office results increase. Therefore, a logical conclusion is that The Rock is the reason why Fast and Furious became so much more successful in the last decade, a perception that Dwayne Johnson never tried to deny. However, when taking into consideration how Fast Five’s heist-adventure was already designed to expand the franchise, plus how F9 and Hobbs & Shaw compare in terms of box office, the idea that The Rock single-handedly saved the Fast and Furious franchise does not hold up.
Fast & Furious 5’s The Rock Revolutionized the Series for the Better
While the claim that The Rock saved Fast and Furious can be discussed, it cannot be denied that Dwayne Johnson did change the Fast Saga for the better after Fast Five. Although a nostalgic feeling over the original Fast and Furious movies, especially over Tokyo Drift, can be used as a criticism of what the franchise has become, the more action-driven approach is what made the series into a box office giant. The Rock was obviously not the only one responsible for that change, but he represented on screen how the Fast and Furious movies were now aiming at something much bigger. Instead of generic crime bosses like Verone or Braga, Fast Five saw a much more visceral villain, Hobbs, who could go toe-to-toe with Dominic Toretto in a fight. At a time when action blockbuster was starting to become synonymous with superhero movies, the Fast and Furious franchise offered an important bit of fresh air in the genre. Therefore, having an action movie star like The Rock joining forces with other names like Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and Michelle Rodriguez was an important message to the industry about how the Fast and Furious movies would compete with other established IPs for the audience’s interest.
The Rock’s rise to fame as an action star was aided by Fast & Furious
The Rock helped Fast and Furious become a blockbuster action franchise, but the Fast and Furious movies also helped Dwayne Johson establish himself as one of the biggest movie stars in the world. Before Fast Five, which grossed $626 million at the box office, The Rock’s highest-grossing movie had been The Mummy Returns, which went on to make $435 million. After Fast Five, Dwayne Johnson’s box office results took a major leap, and as of 2022, The Rock’s movies have made more than five billion dollars combined. Despite Dwayne Johnson now being able to kickstart franchises like the Jumanji reboot with his star power alone, The Rock’s highest-grossing movies are still his last two Fast and Furious installments, Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious. In fact, Furious 7 and The Fate of the Furious are the only billion-dollar movies in Dwayne Johnson’s career, although Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle came pretty close with a strong $961 million total.
The Fast & Furious franchise: Was The Rock Trying To Steal It?
Another common discourse around the Fast and Furious movies is whether The Rock tried to steal the franchise from Vin Diesel. That debate originated when The Rock’s Hobbs changed from a villain into a hero who was now front and center in the Fast and Furious films, but it ramped up once Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel’s feud started. During an interview in 2015 (via Collider), The Rock claimed that the Fast and Furious saga “can’t go on without Hobbs”, sparking a controversy that lasted years. Rumors and reports about a feud between The Rock and Vin Diesel started to pop up, and suddenly it was public knowledge that the two pillars of the Fast and Furious franchise were not getting along. The Fate of the Furious premiered amidst the high of Vin Diesel’s feud with The Rock, and thus Johnson’s role in the future of the franchise was no longer certain. That’s when Hobbs & Shaw, a spinoff centered around The Rock’s Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw, was announced.
The announcement of a Fast and Furious spinoff produced by Dwayne Johnson only fueled the discourse that the star was trying to steal the spotlight, which culminated in Roman Pearce actor Tyrese promising he would not star in F9 if The Rock was in it. In hindsight, Hobbs & Shaw seems to have been The Rock’s way out of the main franchise after his feud with Vin Diesel, but in a saga so focused on the theme of family and team effort, a spinoff did come out as an odd decision. Still, with how successful the Fast and Furious franchise had become, it was only a matter of time before a spinoff like Hobbs & Shaw happened – The Rock involved or not.
Fast & Furious 9 Proved The Rock Isn’t Necessary (But It’s Better With Him)
After all the controversy regarding Hobbs’ role in the Fast franchise, F9 premiered as the first Fast and Furious movie without Dwayne Johnson since Fast & Furious (2009). F9 claimed $726.2 at the box office, but it is important to notice that the movie was released already during the pandemic and never had the chance of a regular theatrical run. In that context, F9’s box office was impressive, and it proved that Fast and Furious does not need The Rock to be a blockbuster giant. As a comparison, Hobbs & Shaw made $760 million in 2018, which is a testimony to F9’s strong results amidst a pandemic. All of that considered, The Rock’s Hobbs elevated every Fast and Furious movie he was in, and the franchise is better with Dwayne Johnson. Unfortunately, it seems that Hobbs will not be part of the Fast and Furious finale.