Movies

Do It, ‘Fast & Furious’ Franchise. Bring Han Back. Let’s Get Weird


We should start with the chronology. We kind of have to, really. Any discussion — any good discussion — about the Fast & Furious franchise needs to start there. Because the world’s biggest, explodiest, neon-Hondas-soaring-through-the-airiest summer action franchise, which has earned somewhere in the neighborhood of four billion dollars at the box office, also features a shockingly complex timeline that twists and folds back onto itself at least once, maybe twice, like some sort of Christopher Nolan fever dream. It’s fascinating. Yes, let’s start there.

The short version goes something like this: The third film in the franchise, The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift, actually takes place between the sixth and seventh movies in the franchise’s timeline. This means that, if you were to watch the films in chronological order, you would have to watch them like this: 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 3, 7. This is a very fun thing to explain to someone who has not seen any of the films in the franchise. And it’s even more fun when you get to explain why.

This brings us to the longer explanation for the chronological lambada. Tokyo Drift was the first film in the franchise directed by Justin Lin, the man widely credited with taking the series from an empty shell and turning it into the globe-spanning box office behemoth it’s become. When Lin made Tokyo Drift, he more or less imported a character from a different movie he made, Han Lue in Better Luck Tomorrow, played by Sung Kang, and changed his name to Han Seoul-Oh, because these movies never once disappoint. In Tokyo Drift, Han was a wealthy garage owner with no discernible source of income and ties to organized crime. He was also awesome, and was a legitimately interesting character — in a movie that is better than it gets credit for being — until he died in the middle of Tokyo during a car chase, which set in motion the film’s dramatic climax: a street race down a mountain in which the loser had to leave town forever. Tokyo Drift is basically every ski movie from the 1980s, but with Bow Wow and an immaculately dressed Yakuza boss who does that thing only crime bosses and grandmas do where they drape their overcoat over their shoulders without putting their arms through the sleeves.

Anyway, R.I.P. Han.

But.

When the fourth film in the franchise opens, with Vin Diesel and the whole crew in tow, Han is back. Which means that, in the timeline of the franchise, Tokyo Drift, a movie with the best post-colon title short of Ghost Protocol, kind of took place in the future. And the amazing thing is, they just kept rolling with that. Han stuck around for the fifth and the sixth films, too, and the franchise went to great lengths to backfill the plot into the new movies to justify everything that happened. Han’s mysterious fortune? The profits from the Rio vault heist at the end of Fast Five. Han’s defeatist loner attitude, as well as his presence in Tokyo, away from the team? The result of his girlfriend Gisele’s death during the runway scene at the end of Fast & Furious 6. The logic is bulletproof. Ish.

They even retro-fitted his death into the larger arc of the franchise. A post-credits scene after Fast & Furious 6 revealed that Han’s death was an act of retribution by international super-criminal Deckard Shaw, because the team had left his younger brother — Owen Shaw, a lesser international criminal — in a hospital as a result of the events in that movie, which kicked off the conflict in Furious 7. It’s all a really magical mess, and it works surprisingly well given all the holes that needed plugging, provided you’re willing to give them the thing where an international super-criminal flew to Japan to assassinate someone and did it via the highly impractical method of T-boning him in an intersection while he was in the middle of an unrelated high-speed car chase, and yes, I am willing to give them that, if only for Statham-related reasons.

(Actually, there’s another piece here that I feel like I should bring up, both in the interest of being comprehensive and because I find it hilarious. If we accept the timeline as presented above, that leaves a large Toretto-sized hole between the first and fourth films, in which Dominic Toretto must meet and team up with Han so they can hijack a fuel truck in the Dominican Republic. Well, I am very pleased to report that this hole was filled by — I swear to God — a 20-minute short film that Vin Diesel wrote, produced, and co-directed, titled “Los Bandeleros,” which ties the loose ends together. It also means that the full, unabridged chronology of the franchise is 1, 2, a weird self-produced short film that Vin Diesel made on his own, 4, 5, 6, 3, 7. This is, without a doubt, my favorite thing about this franchise.)

Anyway, again, R.I.P. Han.

But.

All of that brings us to this. In a recent interview with /Film, the screenwriter responsible for most of the films said this regarding Han’s fate, and the possibility of bringing him back in some form: “Now, that’s funny because I’ve actually been thinking about that a lot. So it’s interesting that you and I are on the same wavelength there. But I guess we’ll just have to wait and find out. I love Sung – he’s one of my favorite people on the planet.”

Now, there’s a healthy amount of “just playing along” in that quote, and it’s hard to decode exact intent from written words stripped of physical cues. But also, I do not care. Han was the best. He spent the better part of four movies snacking on chips and screaming through intersections and raising his eyebrows knowingly at the lunacy of the franchise, and it all provided a necessary counterbalance to NOS-boosted testosterone flooding the screen around him. Furious 7 missed him desperately, despite its noble attempt to fill the hole created by his absence with multimillion-dollar sports cars flying through the Abu Dhabi sky while Jason Statham fired a bazooka from the middle of a penthouse party. Close. Very close. But it’s still not the same.

And here’s my favorite part. Based on my quick math, there are about five ways to bring Han back into the franchise, which I will now rank from least to most incredible:

Option 1: Flashback

A future film could bring him back for a single short scene, one from the past, in which Han imparts some form of wisdom or reveals a secret.

Option 2: Han had a secret twin

Like maybe an evil one who uses the power of drifting to destabilize worldwide financial markets. Don’t laugh at me. This could happen. No, you shut up.

Option 3: Ghost or Zombie Han

Why not?

Option 4: Han has been secretly alive the entire time

You’d think maybe this is a long shot because the franchise has literally depicted his death twice in two separate films separated by seven years of real world time, but then you remember Letty. There is precedent here. By the 20th movie in this franchise — oh, there will be 20 — every character will have secretly survived their demise at least once. I believe this with all of my soul.

Option 5: The franchise monkeys around with the chronology again

Yes. Yesssss. Please do this. Please bring Han back by setting the ninth film at some point between, say, the fifth and the sixth, after the Rio heist but before we see them scattered around the globe. Or give Vin Diesel $250 million to turn “Los Bandoleros” into a feature length film. Or… something. Whatever needs to happen is okay with me. Sure, there are lots of tricky aspects to this one (finding room for a whole story in a now-packed timeline, explaining why Paul Walker’s character isn’t in the film, etc.), but these are problems we can figure out. This franchise killed a guy off in a fiery Tokyo explosion and then figured how to bring him back for three more movies. The rules are fluid here.

The point I’m making in all of this is twofold. Part one is that figuring out a way to bring Han back for another Fast & Furious movie is doable if we’re willing to let things get a little weird, which we should be because everything that’s happened to this point has already been kinda weird. I mean, Ludacris’s character was introduced to the franchise in a scene where he was officiating a jet ski race with a bullhorn and now he’s hacking top secret encrypted government… things. Suspend all disbelief when you watch these movies. You’ll enjoy them, and your life, so much more.

And the second part is that, man, I just miss Han. Do it, you guys. Bring Han back. I leave the logistics up to you.

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