Last week, Fast X director Justin Lin stepped down from the penultimate Fast movie even though production had already started, seemingly indicating that he had some kind of issue with how things were progressing. Lin gets a lot of the credit for turning the Fast franchise around, first by directing the has-no-right-to-be-this-fun soft reboot Tokyo Drift and then returning for most of the bananas globe-trotting action movies that followed, so whatever the reason, losing him as the series starts heading into its final laps seems like a problem either way.
We still don’t have any official word on why Lin dropped out, and even then you can only put so much trust in the official word on this sort of thing, but Universal seems to have already found a replacement: Variety says it’s Louis Leterrier, the guy who made Now You See Me, The Incredible Hulk (the Edward Norton one, obviously, since the other one is the Ang Lee one), the Clash Of The Titans remake, and—most relevant here—the first two Transporter movies.
Then again, they may not be as relevant as you’d think, despite the fact that they were about cars and star Jason Statham is a begrudging member of the family, because the first one came out 20 years ago and the second one only came out three years after that. There’s some dopey Tesla product placement in The Brothers Grimsby, which Leterrier also made, but he hasn’t made an honest-to-god car movie since the Bush administration. He just seems like non-flashy guy with a relatively straightforward, stable career.
If we had to make a baseless assumption, and we do, we’d say that Leterrier at least partially got the job because he’s a non-flashy guy with a straightforward career. All he really has to do is give Vin Diesel whatever he wants and stay within whatever budget the studio has in mind for this thing. Everybody loves these movies, but it’s not like there’s some higher level of art or aesthetic panache he needs to honor. Just put Diesel and Ludacris (and Brie Larson and Jason Momoa, this time around) in front of a camera, have them say “family,” and then ask the closest pre-teen boy for a cool thing that you could do with cars that isn’t magnets, space, or fighting a submarine (Time travel? Some kind of mecha combiner like Armored Fleet Dairugger XV? A truck birthday party?).
Leterrier, who has spent the last few years in the Netflix machine working on The Dark Crystal: Age Of Resistance and the Lupin show that is about a master thief supposedly descended from the great Arsène Lupin but is somehow completely unrelated to the long-running anime/manga franchise with the exact same premise, is also probably a lot cheaper than a flashy, big-name director would’ve been. You should never let anyone pay you in exposure, but… he gets to make a freakin’ Fast And Furious movie 20 years after The Transporter. That’s a hell of a résumé-builder, unless he tanks this movie so hard that the whole franchise falls apart. But when has that ever happened to a late movie in a blockbuster franchise that lost its original director?