No matter how you try to paint it, Hobbs and Shaw, the latest installment in the Fast and Furious franchise doesn’t seem to be performing as expected. As someone who enjoys watching the FF films, and also likes Dwayne Johnson, I have tried to breakdown why this film didn’t translate into big box office numbers out of the gate.
This article includes certain spoilers from Hobbs and Shaw. You have been warned.
Released in the US on August 2, 2019, Hobbs and Shaw got a mediocre $60 million debut weekend opening which was lower than certain studio estimates. Apparantly, the latest installment was the lowest debut for a FF series in a decade. Furthermore, the second-weekend estimates are predicting a drop north of 55% for an approximately $20 million haul. At this rate, H&S will probably not be able to gross even $150 million at the domestic box office. Which, considering the estimated $200 million budget, is disappointing.
So, what went wrong?
Stealing a Franchise
As far as my opinion goes, I do think many FF fans know about the “alleged” feud between Dwayne Johnson and Vin Diesel. Johnson was brought onto the franchise with Fast Five back in 2011. He reprised his role (in varying capacity) three more times in Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7, and The Fate of the Furious.
Over the years, there have been reports about Johnson trying to take the franchise away from Diesel. Many fans, myself included, didn’t like such allegations (which seemed true). You don’t join a well-earning franchise just to take it away from the original cast. It just makes you look like the bad guy.
But it seems the studio (Universal Pictures) was on Johnson’s side and decided to allow him to tell his story with the Hobbs and Shaw spin-off. Clearly, considering the current box office numbers, the FF fandom wasn’t interested in watching a spin-off centering around Johnson and Jason Statham’s characters. Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew ARE the Fast and Furious franchise. Not Hobbs and definitely not the villainous Shaw.
Forcing Everyone to Forgive Shaw
Trying to make Shaw look like a hero just doesn’t work. Did the studio think fans will forget about the characters Shaw (and his family) have killed? Making him regret his actions does nothing. While watching, H&S, all I could think of was how Shaw killed Han Seoul-Oh. The studio shouldn’t force fans to forgive him. Shaw will earn forgiveness when the fandom feel it’s the right time to do so.
A Huge Budget
I’m not writing off Hobbs and Shaw as a box office disappointment… yet. The current numbers show there is a level of interest in the spin-off. However, the current numbers don’t look good considering the reported $200 million budget.
There are some fans who are trying to defend this film by saying spin-offs don’t usually make more money than the main franchise. And you know what? I agree. However, considering the budget, you can tell the studio and the talent involved thought it was going to do extremely well. H&S shouldn’t have exceeded a $100 million budget, in my opinion.
Doesn’t Feel Like a Fast and Furious Movie
This is another issue I had with this film. It didn’t feel like I was watching a Fast and Furious installment at all. It felt like Mission Impossible Lite or a superhero flick with an experimentally enhanced villain. Also, I couldn’t help but notice the lack of women. While FF has had its issues, as the franchise went on, the narrative does seem to be trying to give women bigger roles. H&S came across as a step back.
Vanessa Kirby’s Hattie Shaw was another unfortunate example of the Smurfette principle. Not only that, with the actress being far younger than Statham in real life, I couldn’t accept how her character Hattie was supposed to be very close in age to Shaw. Couldn’t the studio cast an actress in the suitable age range or are actresses in their 50’s or late 40’s not considered sexy enough for such action blockbusters?
Furthermore, with Johnson giving cameos to Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Hart in Hobbs and Shaw (and currently using them to get people to watch the film during the second weekend), couldn’t Johnson extend the same courtesy to an actress to kind of level the gender-related playing field in the film?
The optics of such decisions don’t sit well with me.
Having written all of this, I have to say Hobbs and Shaw isn’t a bad movie (I enjoyed watching parts of it), but it surely isn’t something that’s a must-watch for FF fans.
According to analysts, it will need to gross at least $600 million to break even. Looking at the current numbers, I don’t think reaching such a milestone is possible.
Johnson got what he wanted. He was able to get the studio to create a Fast and Furious spin-off all about him. However, it just didn’t work the way it was supposed to.
Right now, seeing him playing the current performance off as a huge success on social media reeks of desperation and wishful thinking. But then again, I can’t blame him for trying to get as many people to watch this movie as possible.
Will we see a Hobbs and Shaw sequel? Well, we might, but with a far lower production budget. I think, depending on how Fast and Furious 9 does, the studio will go ahead with the supposedly planned all-women-centric spin-off (on a far limited budget) instead of spending money to give Johnson another sequel.
The movie, as of writing this, has grossed $248 million at the global box office.
Feel free to share your thoughts with us.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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