Fast & Furious is, without a doubt – and rightly or wrongly – a major cultural and economic force. The 17-year-old franchise has grossed over $5 billion worldwide, making it Universal Pictures’s highest earner, and with two more sequels – plus a spinoff trilogy titled Hobbs & Shaw – in the pipeline, it has no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
It’s no wonder, then, that Universal Parks and Resorts would try and jump on that train (our apologies for using a slow metaphor), first installing Fast & Furious – Supercharged as the grand finale of Universal Studios Hollywood’s Tram Tour back in June 2015 and, now, transplanting it over to the East Coast as its own, standalone, slightly-expanded attraction.
Unsurprisingly, Universal Studios Florida’s version draws even more heavily on the films’ mythology, using even more characters, locations, and vehicles to literally fill out the ride’s queue, pre-show, and additional ride scenes. Is it necessary to watch all eight movies in order to understand what’s going on? In typical theme-park fashion, that answer is no, absolutely not – but having at least some familiarity with the source material, of course, will enrich your experience even more. As such, we’ve done all the heavy lifting for you and are now happy to give you the brief-but-thorough rundown of the Fast & Furious narrative, allowing you to get the most out of the soon-to-open Supercharged.
What are the movies about, anyway?
The big and explosive Fast & Furious originally started life as just The Fast and the Furious, a small, racing-and-crime-focused 2001 movie. Brian O’Conner (played by the late Paul Walker) is an undercover police officer who is ordered to take down Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel) and his crew, who have been using their “elite” street racing as a cover for some shady criminal activities (namely, boosting DVD players and other electronic goodies from semis while out on the open California freeway).
By the end of the film, of course, O’Conner has fallen in love with Dom’s sister, Mia (Jordana Brewster), and has also fallen under the magnetic sway of Toretto himself, who is really a nice, family-oriented guy despite his gruff exterior and penchant for high-speed hijackings. Brian lets Dom and the others go instead of turning them over to the feds – even though it costs him his job with the LAPD.
The second and third films – 2 Fast 2 Furious (2003) and The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), respectively – act more like spinoffs than actual continuations, spreading the action to new locations and featuring almost completely-different casts (though Brian O’Connor did manage to come back as the protagonist of 2 Fast, making it something of a tenuous sequel, and Dom made just a quick cameo in Tokyo Drift). In this way, different types or styles of racing were the series’s original throughline – quite the opposite of what Fast & Furious would ultimately become.
The narrative, then, really didn’t get its start until the fourth entry, 2009’s Fast & Furious, which picks up the story of all the main characters from the original film. O’Conner, who inexplicably now is an FBI agent, is forced to go undercover in order to take down the latest drug lord that is vexing American law enforcement; Dom reluctantly joins him when the Mexican kingpin starts to injure members of his crew (or “family,” as Toretto would put it). The two bury the hatchet and essentially become brothers, with Brian officially becoming a member of the family when he (a) reconnects with Mia Toretto (this time for good) and (b) crosses to the other side of the law in order to free a wrongfully- (but not really) imprisoned Dominic. It’s “family forever” from this point out.
Fast Five (2011) perfected the property’s formula, having characters from all four of the previous installments (re)unite in order to take on an Ocean’s 11-esque caper: to save the Fast Family’s lives from yet another corrupt drug baron, this one from Brazil, who has framed them for the deaths of US DEA agents. While attempting to thwart the baddie – and rob him blind, leaving each member of Dom’s crew a multi-millionaire – a Diplomatic Security Service agent by the name of Luke Hobbs (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) is dispatched to hunt them all down. By the end of the film, Hobbs, too, comes to see Toretto’s innate goodness and likewise falls under his spell, also allowing him and his family to flee the scene.
It is Fast & Furious 6 (2013) that is the main basis for Fast & Furious – Supercharged. A cunning, highly-dangerous, and (of course) elite-driving former British special forces operative named Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) is threatening to disrupt the world order, so Luke Hobbs is brought on the case – and he, in turn, decides that the only way to beat Shaw at his own game is to reconvene Dom and his crew. Bigger-than-ever action set-pieces are the name of the game, which are made possible since Dominic, Brian, and all the others are now on the right side of the law, with governmental resources fully at their disposal.
(What about Furious 7  and The Fate of the Furious ? Owen Shaw’s older, meaner brother, Deckard [Jason Statham], hunts the Fast Family down to avenge his sibling’s embarrassing defeat and subsequent incarceration. Though he does initially manage to kill one of the characters, he comes to begrudgingly respect Dom’s crew, even forging an Odd Couple-type relationship with Agent Hobbs [thereby paving the way for their spinoff film next year]. And our protagonists are swept even further into the government’s employ when the mysterious Mr. Nobody [Kurt Russell] – essentially a Man in Black, with a seemingly-unlimited budget behind him – recruits them to stop ever-bigger-and-badder international terrorists.)
What characters can I expect to see in Supercharged?
If the Fast & Furious franchise sounds like a glorified soap opera, that’s because it is – the relationships of the characters with one another, and how they continue to change over time, form the basis of the series just as much as its reliance on stunts, explosions, and ever-more-James Bond-esque scenarios do. (We haven’t even mentioned Letty Ortiz [Michelle Rodriguez], Dom’s wife, who is presumed dead in the fourth movie, revealed to mysteriously be alive in the fifth, discovered to be both amnesiac and in the employ of Owen Shaw in the sixth, fully recovers in the seventh, and becomes a mother in the eighth. Can’t get more soap opera-y than that!)
The Orlando version of Fast & Furious – Supercharged features a surprisingly large swath of the series’s characters, working them into various facets of the experience. It’s worth our while to just quickly touch on each of these players and see how they fit into the Fast Family:
- Dominic Toretto – you know this guy by now – criminal-turned-world savior. Family is the most important thing in life to him, and he’ll fiercely protect them with his dying breath.
- Luke Hobbs – the Diplomatic Security Service agent is the best at what he does, dropping ridiculous one-liners as he does it. He’s now one of Dom’s biggest advocates and supporters.
- Letty Ortiz – Dom’s wife and a professional racer in her own right (and, now, starting with Furious 7, a world-class fighter, to boot). She’s the ultimate back-up in any world-saving mission.
- Tej Parker (Ludacris) – originally introduced as a former street racer and car-shop-owning gearhead in 2 Fast 2 Furious, Tej has since let his hair down and revealed his inner nerd. He’s now the technology mastermind behind the crew, supplying them with intel and gadgets alike.
- Roman Pearce (Tyrese Gibson) – Roman’s motor mouth provides both comic relief and distractions when the team is on a mission in equal measure. He’s Brian O’Connor’s childhood friend and a former convict.
- Mia Toretto – Dom’s sister, the mother of Brian’s two children, and the occasional damsel-in-distress.
- Owen Shaw – the ride’s big baddie who casts a rather large shadow over the entire franchise – it’s revealed in the movies that he was the unseen power behind the fourth chapter’s villain, and he and Deckard have since come to be brothers-in-arms with (if not actual comrades of) the Fast Family.
Wait – why doesn’t Brian O’Connor, the second main character of the series (after Dominic Toretto himself), show up? Paul Walker died in a car accident not long after Fast & Furious 6 released, which, of course, necessitated his character being written off in the story. This is how they accomplished it: Mia, his girlfriend, gets pregnant (twice!), and the presence of a young family means that O’Connor’s ability to risk life and limb every other year or so with his Toretto family is greatly diminished. The transition from race-car driving to minivan driving is a hard one for the character, but its payoff – and Brian’s overall send-off – in Furious 7’s finale is a surprisingly effective one. (It should be noted that the producers have recently hinted that we may yet get one last cameo by Brian, most likely in the 10th and final entry of the series.)
Now bring it all home for me
Here’s what we know about Supercharged’s story, thanks to various bits and pieces of information that Universal has dropped over the course of the past year (and thanks to our having ridden the Californian version previously).
Dominic Toretto and his crew have opened up a new base of operations, a home-away-from-home where they can store all their many splendid cars (remember – in addition to being wealthy, they now have the official [covert ops] backing of the US government). Guests are invited in here, perusing the assortment of vehicles in the garage (including some never-before-seen ones, such as Letty’s turbo truck), Tej’s many technological wonders in the so-called war room, and many family mementos and memorabilia in – where else? – the family room.
While in Fast HQ, Dom invites you to a race after-party, with Tej dispatching a custom-made party bus to pick you up… until Owen Shaw shows up on the scene, that is, tracking your nifty new ride to Toretto’s current location. It seems that Shaw will stop at nothing to get his revenge against Dominic and company, and now you’re trapped in the crossfire.