“You see this mountain of a man, bald head, muscles… you hear the voice, and he turns to you, looks you straight in the soul, and says, ‘Welcome to the family, brother.’”

This is a real quote from Fast X director Louis Letterier, in a Variety article detailing his first meeting with series star Vin Diesel. It reads like a parody of a Vin Diesel interaction or something ChatGPT would spit out. For Diesel, or Dom Toretto (publicly, they’re one and the same), has been memed into the ground for his love of la familia. But those memes persist because Diesel never lets on that he’s in on the joke. It’s better that way, the internet gets to have its fun, and Diesel gets to insist that his movies say something real about found family and a global desire to experience community – even as what we’re watching is mostly a group of avatars using motor vehicles as superpowers.

The Fast and the Furious franchise has turned into the world’s favorite live-action anime, an increasingly preposterous tale of Car-Fu, backstabbings, falling outs, untimely deaths, resurrections, and a seemingly weekly barbecue. Diesel isn’t the director, but he’s the shepherd for all of this. It’s why his falling out with The Rock gradually led to the latter’s character, Hobbs, dying on the way back to his home planet. Series mainstay Justin Lin was Fast X’s original director before bowing out due to (reportedly) creative differences. These events illustrate that things have not always been harmonious within the off-screen family, but Diesel’s presence ensures the on-screen counterpart continues to run on schedule.

So, when Louis Letterier (director of Unleashed & The Incredible Hulk) goes to meet Vin Diesel, the power dynamic is not of your typical director and actor encounter. No, Letterier is the middle man for the vision that Diesel wants to bring to the screen, a vision that will likely conclude the story of Dom Toretto. Oh, don’t think for a second that Universal will cease making Fast films. You’re gonna have to put up with these NOS-fueled macho flicks until you’re dead. But Fast X is intended as the penultimate chapter for the Dom Toretto character arc. Which begs the question of who could possibly continue the tradition of celebrating barbecues, Coronas, family, and ill-fitted wife beaters (I think we know who)? Also, where will the Toretto saga’s final adventures take us? Perhaps we need one more look at Fast X’s final (?) trailer, to prepare for one of the most important entries in the franchise:

While this clearly has the template of a typical Fast movie, you can just hear the filmmakers saying: “YEAH, BUT THIS TIME IT’S EVEN MORE FUCKING EPIC!” Which also captures the vibe in the trailers of the previous six films. But we must acknowledge how silly it is that the movie’s villain, Jason Momoa as Dante Reyes (LOL!), is apparently seeking revenge for the Toretto clan’s exploits in the series’ best entry, Fast Five (2011). So, you’re telling me Dante was there the whole time in that movie, just slightly off-screen? His inclusion also invites the expectation that Reyes will experience the typical arc of a Fast and Furious villain: becomes a bad guy – Dom teaches them something about family – ??? – gets an invite to the barbecue.

There has been a recent trend in movie trailers (Come on out, Shazam) of splicing bad renditions of rap songs as the ad’s soundtrack. So, it’s a breath of fresh air that the Fast X trailer is emblemed with a pretty smooth implementation of Biggie Small’s posthumous hit Notorious Thugs. It also helps that the former is just a better song than Business and Started From the Bottom. Hearing the Bone Thugs-N-Harmony motif of “Let’s ride!” actually fits the subject matter.

Letterier, an action movie veteran, also has a pretty strong handle on the series’ penchant for absurdist spectacle. Seeing these cars do somersaults 100 ft in the air, not one damn law of physics acknowledged, is the type of dumb set pieces this series has made its name on, as the main characters continuously survive with nary a scratch. But please, don’t repeat the missteps of Fast 9 (2021) and try to be meta about it. The Fast movies are funny because of their sincerity, not their satire.

However, cool soundtracks and over-the-top action can’t distract from the fact… that this is a story about family. Dom sees the end of his road and is likely reflecting on his most meaningful relationships. The mourning of his best friend Brian (Paul Walker). His tumultuous relationship with his spouse, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). His reconciliation with little brother Jakob (John Cena) thus completes their sibling holy trinity with Mia (Jordana Brewster). But most importantly, Dom sees the end because his son, Brian Toretto (Leo Abelo Perry), is the future. As the latter’s name suggests, the young boy is the legacy of the entire franchise, and his well-being will drive the emotional stakes of the story. Thus, it will be interesting to see how this soap opera on wheels sets the table for its final lap.

Fast X runs every red light in theaters everywhere on May 19, 2023.