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Fast X Won't See Dwayne Johnson's Hobbs Return And It's For The Best

Since the "Fast" franchise's debut in 2001 with Vin Diesel's and Paul Walker's hit "The Fast and the Furious," the movie series has grown considerably, moving from a drag racing strip to outer space in 2021's "F9: The Fast Saga." Essentially, everything about the "Fast" movies has gotten bigger in the past 22 years — including the cast.

Among the most notable stars to join Diesel's crew was Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, but a few films into the actor's tenure in the "Fast" films, the franchise started experiencing growing pains. That's because Diesel — who also produces the "Fast" films — was confronted by the popularity of an actor who has just as much worldwide appeal as he does, effectively setting up a clash of cinematic titans.

Without question, the biggest incident involved Johnson's highly publicized exit from the franchise after 2017's "The Fate of the Furious." Trouble was reportedly brewing when the film was in production and things came to a head when Johnson — who reprised his role as Luke Hobbs opposite Diesel's Dominic Toretto — angrily took to social media and called some of his colleagues, "candy asses."

Four years later, Diesel tried to let bygones be bygones in an Instagram post and asked Johnson back to return for "Fast X," but the actor dismissed the invite and wished the franchise well. Johnson even told CNN that he had a "cordial conversation" with Diesel, but told him there was "no chance" of his return.

Regardless of where you fall in the Johnson vs. Diesel debate, it can certainly be argued that Johnson's departure from the franchise is for the best.

Hobbs & Shaw is likely Johnson's last Fast film

The interesting thing about the rumored feud between Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson is that it simply appears to be a problem between the two actors and nobody else. Otherwise, if Universal Pictures thought Johnson was that big of a headache to deal with, the studio never would have invited him and Jason Statham to reprise their roles, much less feature their characters' names in the title of 2019's "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw."

So why did Johnson come back to "Fast" after the Diesel fallout? Perhaps he was under contract for another franchise film. Additionally, a reported stipulation in the contract for the film was that neither Johnson nor Statham could lose a fight (poor Idris Elba). Who wouldn't want to star in a film where you're constantly kicking ass?

Contract obligations notwithstanding, Johnson's role in "Hobbs & Shaw" likely gave hope to fans that he would remain in the franchise. That feeling was quickly dashed when WWE star-turned-actor John Cena was cast in "F9" to fill the void left open by his former wrestling colleague. Cena apparently had a one-and-done deal with "F9," though, as he was replaced by another bodybuilding behemoth, Jason Momoa, for "Fast X."

By swapping his name on the marquee with Cena's and Momoa's, the "Fast" franchise is showing that they don't need Johnson to succeed. Of course, the success of "Fast X" will ultimately be judged on whether it can flirt with a billion-dollar-plus take at the global box office, which "Furious 7" and "The Fate of the Furious" did in 2015 and 2017, respectively. On top of that, recent history shows the numbers aren't always in Johnson's favor.

Johnson and Diesel: Toe-to-toe box office foes

There's no question that the "Fast" franchise's fortunes turned when Dwayne Johnson boarded the 2011 entry, "Fast Five," which pulled in nearly $630 million worldwide. However, after the franchise peaked with the $1.5 billion worldwide take of "Furious 7,"  the numbers began to erode considerably. And while the global tally of $1.2 billion for "The Fate of the Furious" in 2017 is an amount any studio would welcome, perhaps Universal's confidence in Johnson waned with "Hobbs & Shaw." Earning $760.7 million worldwide in 2019, the take paled in comparison to its "Fast" predecessor.

The true death blow in the match between the box office giants of Diesel and Johnson was delivered in 2021 when "F9: The Fast Saga" was released and made $720.2 million worldwide. This is truly a remarkable number, considering that movie fans were reluctant to return to theaters in 2021 because of COVID concerns. So, to end up with a gross a mere $40 million shy of its pre-COVID predecessor signaled that in healthier times, the final take of "F9" would likely have been a lot bigger — and furthermore, it didn't need Johnson to get it.

As for how Johnson would impact the box office of "Fast X," we'll never know, since the films tend to sell themselves with their heaping doses of far-fetched fantasy and escapism. One thing's for certain: Johnson has a huge block of box office Kryptonite hanging around his neck after the underwhelming take of his DC antihero movie "Black Adam" — which grossed $391 million worldwide in 2022 — so he's in need of a huge hit and "Fast X" surely would have given it to him.

Fast X, if not the franchise, belongs to Diesel

So, as fans lament over the loss of Dwayne Johnson for "Fast X", they should just look at his exit from the franchise as a move for the better. Hopefully, Johnson and Vin Diesel will work out their issues and remember that family members have disagreements.

But for the purpose of this film, who needs throngs of reporters hounding Diesel and Johnson about how they got along on this film following the "candy asses" remark and all the hoopla that followed it, only to get the same soundbites from them over and over? All the press coverage would turn what's supposed to be a popcorn movie into a drama, and that's a distraction that moviegoers don't need. A night at the movies gives everybody what they do need — an escape. And "Fast X," given the history of the franchise, is almost guaranteed to give it to them. 

In the end, moviegoers need to see a movie like "Fast X" unfettered and not wonder while they're watching it whether Diesel and Johnson got along on the set. The franchise has been Diesel's baby since 2001, so let him enjoy what he's built in what has been an emotional run since the loss of Paul Walker.

Besides that, the whole "I wonder if The Rock will be back" conversation is sure to begin again in 2025 as the 11th film in the "Fast" franchise revs itself up for theaters. "Fast X," meanwhile, opens in theaters Friday, May 15.