Vin Diesel stars in "F9." Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures
LOS ANGELES, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- Icons Unearthed creator Brian Volk-Wise said Season 3, premiering Monday on Vice TV, shows how The Fast and the Furious created a cinematic universe before Marvel. The show traces the franchise from 2001 to now.
"What they're literally doing is taking what was initially a B movie and turning it into their Marvel," Volk-Weiss told UPI in a recent phone interview. "They're going back and taking characters from what, in theory, wasn't a hit film and bringing them back."
The Fast and the Furious, released in 2001, starred Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, leader of an illegal street racing ring. Paul Walker played police officer Brian O'Conner, going undercover to bust Dom.
The sequel 2 Fast 2 Furious introduced Tyrese Gibson as Roman, an old friend of Brian's and his partner in a new mission. The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift followed new characters street racing in Japan.
By the time Diesel returned for 2009's Fast & Furious, Tokyo Drift character Han (Sung Kang) was now part of his crew. 2011's Fast Five brought back Gibson and 2 Fast co-star Ludacris.
Another parallel with Marvel is that The Fast and the Furious hired directors outside the action genre like John Singleton and Justin Lin for the sequels. Singleton was known for urban dramas like Boyz n the Hood and Higher Learning.
Lin only had directed Better Luck Tomorrow when he was hired to direct Tokyo Drift, and was in production when his sophomore film, Annapolis, came out. Volk-Weiss likened the practice to Marvel hiring comedy director Peyton Reed to direct Ant-Man.
"Justin Lin had made one movie, not a success, and they gave him a gigantic checkbook that basically remade the franchise and launched his career," Volk-Weiss said. "John Singleton -- that's not an obvious choice for a movie like this."
Volk-Weiss also noted that Singleton was among the first Black directors to direct a studio blockbuster sequel.
"As a franchise, it does these things that are groundbreaking and they get no credit for it," Volk-Weiss said. "That's what we tried to address. I want them to get credit for it."
Icons Unearthed interviewed Ken Li, author of the original street racing article, "Racer X," that inspired the first film, and the subject of that article, Racer X. From the films, Icons interviewed screenwriter Gary Scott Thompson and stars Gibson, Lucas Black and Chad Lindberg.
In exploring the nine films in the franchise so far, while Fast X is in production, Volk-Weiss discovered the series changed genres, too. The original was an action film about street racing.
By Fast Five, it became an Ocean's 11 style ensemble heist movie on wheels. By Furious 6, it was an international undercover spy franchise.
"Fast and Furious made it 'safe' for genre-shifting," Volk-Weiss said. "They woke up one morning and were like, 'All right, now we're going to be a heist film.'"
Volk-Weiss said another franchise that followed Fast and the Furious's lead is TV's The Walking Dead. Volk-Weiss said later seasons shifted away from zombie horror into other genres.
"In the later seasons it became more and more of a soap opera," Volk-Weiss said. "That absolutely happened after Fast Five."
Volk-Weiss said Icons also will illuminate how The Fast and the Furious incorporates stunt mishaps into the story of the films. One scene from Fast Five intended to have a car jump over a speeding train.
"The car went crashing into the train," Volk-Weiss said. "In the movie, the people in the car, now that it's crashed into the train, get out of the car and there's a big fight in the train. That was entirely improvised."
Fast Five also was the first entry to introduce Dwayne Johnson as agent Luke Hobbs. By The Fate of the Furious, Johnson and Diesel refused to appear in scenes together.
Diesel and Johnson have made their feud public. Volk-Weiss said through interviews with people behind the scenes that Icons Unearthed could provide new context to that feud.
"We got one story where [Diesel] showed up four hours late," Volk-Weiss said. "That just didn't work for The Rock."
When Icons Unearthed gets to Furious 7, it will address the 2013 death of Walker midway through filming. Volk-Weiss said Icons will show fans alternate ideas for how they could have incorporated Walker's footage into the film.
"We got tons of scoop on why what we got is what we got and what the other alternatives would have been," Volk-Weiss said.
Volk-Weiss credited Gibson with a significant observation about the franchise. 2 Fast 2 Furious starred Walker, Gibson, Ludacris, Devon Aoki and Eva Mendes.
Gibson told Volk-Weiss that he expected audiences to make a big deal about the diverse cast on the poster. Volk-Weiss said that in Icons, Gibson would observe that audiences accepted the cast with no comment was even more important.
"People are just accepting it and moving on," Volk-Weiss said. "I never realized that until he said it."
That Diesel declined to star in 2 Fast 2 Furious is one of the subjects of Episode 2. Volk-Weiss said he came to understand why it took Diesel until the fourth film, save for a Tokyo Drift cameo, to embrace the franchise.
"He really wanted to win Oscars and do theater," Volk-Weiss said. "He basically figured out that he needed to do these big blockbusters to have the credibility to finance smaller movies that he could star in."
Icons Unearthed airs Mondays at 9 p.m. EST on Vice TV.