“The Fate of the Furious” is the first big-budget Hollywood production to film in Cuba since 1962. (Photo courtesy of Universal Pictures)
There’s a moment in the opening sequence of “The Fate of the Furious” where Michelle Rodriguez tells Vin Diesel, “This place speaks to you. I can see it.”
She’s talking about Cuba. But Rodriguez could easily be referring to any of the key locations that have been so prominently featured in Universal Pictures’ “Fast & Furious” franchise since 2001. Cities like Los Angeles, Miami, Key West, Tokyo, Rio de Janeiro, London, Abu Dhabi, and now Havana.
What started as movies about street racing have since evolved into a series of elaborate heists and the dysfunctional family behind the exotic wheels of the vehicles used to pull them off. It’s ridiculous fun made for sheer cinematic spectacle with the on screen carnage translating into some serious coin at the box office.
Yet what’s helped make the first eight films so appealing is also what they were never really meant to be: “Fast & Furious” is Hollywood’s most successful road trip franchise.
These are movies that with each installment are introducing audiences to places they may not have necessarily known much about, but may now want to explore on their own. With or without a car.
That’s tough to do. Just ask anyone whose job it is to get people to visit their country or city.
Forget expensive social media influencers. Smart marketers are opening their doors to blockbuster franchises like “F8,” using Diesel, “The Rock” and the rest of the film’s on screen crew as ambassadors.
Just look at what the success of “Fate of the Furious” has accomplished.
Fate of the Furious is the first big budget Hollywood production to film in Cuba
Within its first two weeks, it generated $178 million domestically; $973 million worldwide. Based on the average ticket price, that’s 21 million people who have seen the film domestically. Worldwide, that jumps to 112 million.
Its presence in “Fate of the Furious” isn’t long, but Cuba’s vibrant, colorful streets, and the energetic attitude of its people will long be remembered, and sure to have many wanting to book their next holiday in Havana.
Universal also got to make some history. “Fate of the Furious” is the first big budget Hollywood production to film in Cuba since the U.S. eased restrictions in early 2016. Havana ended up being a perfect location given how it hadn’t yet been overexposed by so many other action films.
In the past, Cuba had been replicated on film in nearby Puerto Rico. But to capture the real essence of Havana, “we couldn’t recreate this anywhere,” according to F. Gary Gray, in an interview with the New York Times.
“The people were amazing, the place was amazing, and you could basically just throw your camera up in the air and it’ll land on a perfect shot,” he told Variety. “And you get to see the resilient nature of the Cuban people — they know how to do without, so they also know how to create and improvise.”
The result is a supercharged visual postcard of a community being introduced to the world for the first time in a darkened movie theater, and later at home, and on any mobile screen.
“It’s the reason everyone comes to Cuba: The people, culture and beauty,” says Diesel as his character Dominic Toretto, before taking off for New York City, Berlin and Iceland (filling in for Russia).
Aren’t those the reasons everyone wants to travel?
In Good Company
“Fast & Furious” is in good company—and certainly appears to have tapped into something. As it tries to grow its box office, it needs to embrace the rest of the world.
“Mission: Impossible” and the Jason Bourne films have also traversed the globe with their heroes racing around real-world destinations fans can explore after they’ve left the theater.
But of course no franchise has generated a greater sense of wanderlust than the James Bond movies, with the character visiting 49 countries since “Dr. No,” in 1962. “Spectre,” released in 2015, raced 007 through Mexico City, London, Rome, Austria and Morocco.
Keep an eye on “Fast & Furious” over the next several years.
There are two more films planned for 2019 and 2020, while a spin off is planned for Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham. As filmmakers look to outdo the previous pic, expect even more outlandish stunts to be set in new hotspots courting the world’s tourists.
And we’re ready for more of Dominic Toretto’s world tour.
Just think, we haven’t seen him race his Dodge Charger across Mumbai or Shanghai yet.