You Can Thank China If You Need a Need for Speed Sequel

By  · Published on April 8th, 2015

DreamWorks II Distribution Co., LLC.

With Furious 7 breaking box office records and receiving the best reviews of the franchise, it should be no surprise that other auto-racing properties are hot on Hollywood’s mind. The latter achievement for the Fast and Furious series might even be more noteworthy. Yes, Furious 7 opened substantially better than its predecessors, but that’s not as abnormal as a seventh installment being so favored critically. That’s the sort of thing that gives franchise producers hope for their own properties, as proof that something can have legs and maintain or improve in quality, which can then in turn translate to profit.

The people behind Need for Speed, for instance, might be making Need for Speed 2 with Need for Speed 7 on the brain. Variety reports that there is indeed a sequel to last year’s car-based video game adaptation in the works, though we appear to have China and the popularity of Transformers: Age of Extinction to thank more than the success of Furious 7. Need for Speed only earned $44m in the US, but worldwide the gross hit more than $200m (a third coming from China). The movie still made a bit less than the first Fast and Furious installment (and that was in 2001 dollars) and garnered an even lower Rotten Tomatoes score from critics. Their popularity with fans might be equal, however, especially overseas.

A number of Chinese companies that were involved with the last Transformers movie are now looking to partner with Electronic Arts on the Need for Speed sequel. Much of the movie would be shot in China and feature the nation’s stars, possibly alongside Aaron Paul if he were to return. So what could the sequel do to win over American audiences and also make more money in the process? Our review from Dan Schindel shines some light on what worked – or almost worked – in the original:

“When the movie finally gets down to the business of vehicular mayhem, it can be reasonably entertaining,” he wrote. “It has a laudable commitment to practical effects and car work.And yet even this action feels muted. The film seems reticent to attempt anything daring. There are no money shot stunts that make the viewer grip the arm rests or feel genuinely worried for the people on screen.” Also: “There is fun to be had in scattered moments and sequences.”

So, they just have to have a little more fun with the stunts and action and amp up the stakes, and maybe after a few more installments we’ll all be in love with the Need for Speed movies, just as we’re so enamored of the Fast and Furious franchise, which 14 years ago we weren’t so excited about. Or we’ll just get them whether we want them or not, a la the continued Transformers installments.

Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.