Dwayne Johnson’s role as Luke Hobbs in the Fast & Furious movies no longer works the way it used to, but he has much more of a character future in the Hobbs & Shaw spin-offs. Arriving into the series in the Fast franchise’s most important movie, 2011’s reinvigorating Fast Five, Luke Hobbs (and by extension, The Rock himself) deserves much of the credit for making the Fast & Furious series into the blockbuster phenomenon that it is today. Of course, as the series has progressed, the shift in style that began with Fast Five has also taken it into some extreme territory.
Since Fast Five, the car stunts and action scenes have grown more and more outrageous to the point of being utterly ridiculous in F9, while Johnson has also jumped ship from the main series into the 2019 spin-off Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw, opposite Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw. A Hobbs & Shaw sequel is reportedly in development (which, after F9, is also primed to address the elephant in the room: the “Justice for Han” movement). Owing to a well-documented falling out with Vin Diesel, Johnson has repeatedly indicated he has no plans to return for the central series’ two-part finale in Fast & Furious 10 and 11, and pretty definitively shut the door on it during the press tour for Jungle Cruise. However, behind-the-scenes issues are far from the only reason why Hobbs is unlikely to ride with Dominic Toretto and his crew once more.
Hobbs, to put it simply, no longer works as the kind of character that he was conceived as with the Fast & Furious movies being what they are now. That doesn’t mean the Fast franchise’s powerful fighter Hobbs needs to be retired, though: Hobbs & Shaw showed that the buddy-cop pairing gave both titular characters more room to grow, and the format introduces adventures that splinter off from the main series. Hobbs no longer has a fitting role to play in the Fast Saga, but Hobbs & Shaw is positioned to develop into a series in its own right.
Hobbs’ Role In The Main Series Has Run Its Course
When Johnson boarded the Fast Saga in Fast Five, Hobbs was at once protagonist and antagonist, pursuing Dom and his crew with relentless abandon as they plotted their heist, and becoming a one-off ally against their common enemy: Rio’s biggest crime boss, Hernan Reyes (Joaquim del Almeida). Hobbs graduated to become the crew’s Nick Fury-type associate in Fast & Furious 6, and though he was mostly injured and on the sidelines in Furious 7 (due to Johnson’s involvement with 2014’s Hercules), he still leapt out of his hospital bend and flex-cracked the cast off his arm to lend a hand in the final battle. Hobbs was back in The Fate of the Furious, but by that point, his role in the series wasn’t what it used to be.
Hobbs was no longer a dedicated lawman but more of a commanding general. The problem was that Hobbs worked best in the series as more of an arm’s length associate of Dom and company, rather than having a seat at their table. His introduction into the series also showed that he would never be fully comfortable under such circumstances, particularly in his relationship with Vin Diesel’s Dominic Toretto; they eventually came to be on the same side, but it was more of a begrudging yet sincere respect than a true friendship. He and Dom also could never truly bury the hatchet enough from their Fast Five animosity for either to become a lieutenant to the other, with Hobbs’ by-the-book leadership style contrasting Dom’s approach of improvising on the fly.
The Fast Saga Has Turned Into A Superhero Series (And Johnson Has His Own In The Works)
To say the Fast & Furious movies bear little resemblance to how the series began is an understatement of colossal proportions. What began in 2001 with street racing and DVD player heists in The Fast and the Furious has morphed into space travel, car magnets, and a transition into what is essentially a full-blown superhero franchise lacking only costumes and hero and villain titles. Tyrese Gibson’s Roman even posits that exact notion in F9, theorizing that Dom and his crew might be invincible with how easily they pull off such amazing feats and survive them unharmed. At the same time, Johnson is building his own comic book movie franchise with a lot of promise behind it.
Johnson has been developing the upcoming DC movie Black Adam as far back as 2008, and the concept teaser for at it 2020’s DC FanDome was among the event’s big highlights. Black Adam has been positioned as a power shift within the DC Universe; it’s the film to introduce the Justice Society of America with Hawkman, Cyclone, and Atom Smasher, and the title character’s history stretching back to his enslavement in the nation of Kahndaq establishes an epic historical scale to the story. Furthermore, Johnson’s frequently teased his endgame of Black Adam going head-to-head with Henry Cavill’s Superman, a titanic battle of gods among men that millions of fans are thoroughly eager to see happen. Considering the Fast Saga has morphed into its own superhero movie franchise — along with Hobbs having outlasted his original role — Black Adam seems like the far more intriguing comic book world for Johnson to dive into. At the same time, Johnson is a continuously powerful presence in more human-level action movies, and Hobbs & Shaw showed that this was where the real future for his character lies in the Fast & Furious universe.
Hobbs’ Chemistry With Shaw Is More Compelling Than With Dom
As soon as Hobbs and Shaw met in Furious 7, Johnson and Jason Statham showed abundant chemistry as two enemies who later became unwilling partners in The Fate of the Furious. In Hobbs & Shaw, that really took off in the duo’s headbutting and attempts to show each up while trying to defeat the Eteon terrorist group and Idris Elba’s cybernetic assassin Brixton Lore. On a basic level, Hobbs & Shaw also put two former enemies together as allies, as the series had once done with Hobbs pairing with Dom. Looking at Hobbs’ relationships with Dom and Shaw, there’s a lot more potential in exploring the latter.
After their previous appearances together, Hobbs and Dom have nowhere left to go, either as enemies or as friends. Meanwhile, Hobbs’ odd-couple alliance with Shaw has a lot more to build upon, especially with the two having gone from foe to friend more gradually, and even now still not being beyond pranking each other (as seen in the end credits scene of Hobbs & Shaw). There’s more banter and fireworks to be had in Hobbs and Shaw riffing off each other, along with more grounded (by Fast & Furious standards) action scenes in the two being the most skilled fighters in the now pretty vast Fast & Furious character roster. Furthermore, the levity of Hobbs and Shaw’s pairing is far ahead of Hobbs’ relationship with Dom and his crew, which has come to mostly consist of Hobbs summoning Dom’s crew for the latest mission and the two trading the occasional quip. Actors Johnson and Statham clearly have a better behind-the-scenes rapport than Johnson and Diesel, and it shows through the onscreen chemistry.
Considering that F9 showed how potent the Fast & Furious brand remains even during a pandemic, it’s not hard to imagine some attempt being made to bring Hobbs back for the franchise’s finale. Still, aside from how unlikely that now looks with Johnson’s stance on the matter, anything short of the series giving a radical revamping to the role Hobbs occupies would just be a retread of a character dynamic that doesn’t fit the series anymore (admittedly, Fast vs. Furious would be one such way to do it.) On the other hand, more Hobbs & Shaw outings can utilize his character traits much more dynamically. With that, and Black Adam having more superheroic possibilities for Johnson than the comic book world the Fast Saga has become, there’s little to no reason for Hobbs to make a Fast & Furious comeback.
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