“I will beat you like a Cherokee drum,” Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson tells Jason Statham in The Fate of the Furious – which, it turns out, is also a great way to describe what the film itself did to the competition at the box office this weekend. The eighth and newest installment in the car-obsessed, pseudo-superhero franchise racking up an estimated, NOS-fueled $532.5 million in global revenue, including $100.2 million domestically and $432.2 million overseas. That gives F8, as it’s been referred to, the biggest worldwide opening of all time, beating previous champ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which brought in $529 million on its first weekend.
Here are a few theories as to why The Fate of the Furious managed to dominate Easter weekend – and the record books.
1. Vin Diesel vs. the Rock: Round 2
Audiences like to see A-listers hit each other – it’s a scientific fact! And audiences undoubtedly flocked to watch two of Hollywood’s beefiest beefcakes square off yet again. In F8, Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto turns against his beloved crew for mysterious reasons, putting him in the crosshairs of former DEA super agent-turned enemy-turned “Family” member Luke Hobbs (Johnson). Toretto betrays the group in spectacular fashion, flipping Hobbs’ car over after a job before taking off into the night – which you know won’t sit well with Hobbs, a character whose primary purposes are to talk trash and kick the crap out of criminals. The last time these two heavyweights went at it was in Fast Five, the first Fast flick to feature Johnson, and the first to break the $200 million mark. Put it this way: Imagine Stallone and Schwarzenegger circa 1987 going head to head. You’d want to see it. So would everyone else. And we’ve got the modern Clash-of-the-Action-Movie-titans here.
Even if you’re only vaguely familiar with the Fast films, you’ll know the series is fueled by one overarching concept: family. What was first a trust shared by the movies’ heroes has since spread to the series’ loyal fans, translating into box office winnings as well as unexpected support outside the theater. Back in 2013, actor Paul Walker, who played franchise staple Brian O’Connor, died in a car accident in Valencia, California. Soon after, devotees of the series began flocking to the scene to set up a makeshift shrine and pay their respects alongside co-stars Tyrese Gibson and Diesel. This is a worldwide fan base that will do anything for the franchise and its stars, including showing up en masse the first weekend a new chapter drops. They flexed their own muscles at the box office.
3. (New) Star power
Part of the fun of every Fast flick is watching the producers play Hollywood roulette by casting big-name actors who have yet to appear in the series. Like its predecessors, F8 added more fire power by bringing in a blond dread-wearing Charlize Theron as the villain Cipher, and Helen Mirren – subbing in her regal British accent for working-class cockney – as the mother of Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw. In Theron and Mirren, the series gets two Oscar winners and more visibility (not to mention bonus action cred thanks to Theron’s turn as Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road – the actress is in the middle of a fertile go-to action heroine phase of her career at the moment). Throw in the returning cast – Johnson, Statham, Diesel, Gibson, Michelle Rodriguez, Ludacris and Kurt Russell – and you may start counting the money now.
4. Lack of Competition
Next to Star Wars and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Fast films are the closest thing studios have to a sure-fire bet at the box office. And when you’re opening up against movies like The Lost City of Z and weeks-old contenders The Boss Baby, Beauty and the Beast and Power Rangers, you’re free to rake in as much money as you can. (It’s not like Smurfs: The Lost Village is going to be siphoning off any filmgoers looking for cars, biceps and things going boom.)
5. The “Holy Fucking Shit!” Moment
Every Fast & Furious movie has it: an unbelievable, death-defying action sequence designed to make jaws drop. These are the moments fans live for – the concept of “What will the crew pull off next?” In Fast Five, it was a high-speed chase dragging a bank vault down the highway; in Fast & Furious Six, it was the crew taking down a military airplane using only their cars; and in Furious Seven, it was driving through a pair of skyscrapers. This time around, the gang gets into a high-speed chase on a giant sheet of ice with … a nuclear bomb-packing submarine.What self-respecting popcorn-movie audience wouldn’t show up to see that?