We've spent 14 adrenaline-soaked years riding shotgun with The Fast and Furious franchise, the ludicrous-yet-irresistible series having taken some rather radical twists and turns along the way. The close-knit family of cast members has come drifting in and out, the liberal use of neon-lit underglow has been replaced by the equally electrifying Dwayne Johnson, and the expansive non-linear narrative has steadily become more complex than the exposed innards of a V12 engine (so I'm told).
It's easy to see why the Fast and Furious movies have (stick) shifted between such contrasting tones and styles. Street racing culture has evolved dramatically since 2001, with the franchise's sensibilities constantly adapting to the changing times. Not only that, but I'd argue that the evolution of the action movie genre more widely has also influenced the artistic direction of this world-dominating, multi-billion-dollar franchise.
As a lifelong spokesman for the study of typography, I take an exhaustive look at the history of Fast and Furious title cards, examining the aesthetic properties of each movie's logo, and drawing insightful conclusions on how they inform us on the overarching philosophies of these surprisingly complex films.
The Fast and the Furious - (2001)
This multi-tiered, layered arrangement of the inaugural movie's title seems to signify the emerging depth of its narrative. On the surface, Brian O'Conner (Paul Walker) portrays a hardened street racer, but there's much more to him than meets the eye. Peel off his exterior bravado and his true identity is revealed: he's an undercover cop.
But it's more complicated than that. Gradually, Brian nurses a growing sympathy towards those positioned on the other side of the law and the boundaries of right and wrong begin to blur, just like the movie's title blurs onto the screen before sharpening into focus. In the end, Brian transcends his status as a police officer by letting Dom, a criminal, escape.
Just like its logo, The Fast and the Furious begs the viewer to approach it on multiple levels, gradually revealing a hidden depth to those who search hard enough.
2 Fast 2 Furious - (2003)
Set in Miami, the sequel could be said to trade much of its substance for style, with the neon-drenched logo reflecting this shift. Brian has completed his transition from cop to criminal, now operating as a full time illegal street racer.
This over-stylized title card is indicative of romanticized street racer iconography prevalent in early 2000s culture. It was the era of souped up Nissan Skylines, fluorescent under-lit cars, and, well...Miami - all connotations incorporated in the movie title's aesthetic.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift - (2006)
Once again the title's text is stacked on top of itself, the filmmakers signaling that there are multiple angles to this narrative; a narrative which bears implications not wholly uncovered for another four movies. Han is betrayed by a mysterious killer-driver, the ramifications of which are explored further in the sixth and seventh films. Again: layers.
Let's pay attention to the title's font for a moment: 'Antique Olive Nord D Italic.' The etymological roots of 'Nord' stem from the Old Norse word 'norðr', meaning 'north.' Paul Walker comes from California - a state very much not in the north, but in the west. Is it a coincidence that this was the only movie he didn't appear in?
Furthermore, the font holds Proto-Germanic roots; a language which spread across Western Europe from c. 200. This clearly references protagonist Sean Boswell's invasion of the Orient, who, if you remember, is an American ex-pat that arrives to race against Kamata, a Yakuza member of Eastern heritage. And the 'D' in 'Nord D'? Well, I don't need to remind you of the significance of Drifting in this third installment.
Fast & Furious - (2009)
This film was a reunion in many ways, bringing back original cast members Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Michelle Rodriguez, thus establishing the close-knit family ties of the franchise we know today. Universal reflected this more intimate and domesticated tone by condensing the title, dropping the dead weight of the 'the's and returning to the core principle of the series: Family.
Plus, the franchise was becoming cleaner, more efficient, and faster paced, raising the stakes to a whole new level. That kind of badassery simply doesn't have time for connectives.
Fast 5 - (2011)
Director Justin Lin amped up the action of the fifth installment in every conceivable way - I don't think I'll be forgetting the epicness of that safe chase sequence anytime soon.
By bringing in the series' muscle in the form of the beastly Dwayne Johnson, the Fast and Furious franchise bulked up, reflecting this meaty weight in its block-lettered title. Notice also how the 'F' is greatly accentuated, and stretches across both the words 'Fast' and 'Furious.' This clearly signifies how 'Family' is inextricably tied to everything the franchise is about, and I'm sure Vin would be the first to back me up on that.
Fast & Furious 6 - (2013)
Notice how the '6,' curiously hiding behind the rest of the text, denotes some kind of hidden secret lurking at the heart of the series. Right from the offset, audiences should have known something sinister was about to emerge from the shadows. That secret was of course Jason Statham, who in the closing moments is revealed to be Han's killer all along. Should've seen that coming from a mile off.
Furious 7 - (2015)
The sparks are well and truly flying by the sixth movie, as reflected in this fiery title card.
Observe how the 'F' and '7' seem to wrap around the rest of the text, almost cradling the words like a typographic embrace. This intimacy is mirrored in Brian and Dom's long-standing relationship, not to mention Vin and Paul's well documented bond off screen. This title can be categorized as both passionate intimate and yet relentlessly furious, representing the two things the franchise holds dear: heart-stopping action and intensely-charged emotion.