Most long-running film series stick to predictable titling conventions to avoid confusion - not the Fast and Furious franchise. Each new entry in the saga brings with it an entirely new take on how to title a movie.
The problems arise not with the first film, which is appropriately and confidently titled The Fast And The Furious, evoking images of not characters or even people but mythological figures interlocked in an eternal struggle between cool ethnic street racers and boring white cops. The inconsistency begins with the second film, 2003's 2 Fast 2 Furious. You get the sense that after just one entry the series was fast-forwarding into its current state of self-awareness. Shying away from the austere original title, that sounded like the name of a Dostoevsky book in comparison, it turned directly into its ridiculousness. They chose to throw in the number two twice, to replace the word "to," just as so many of us had recklessly thrown numbers into our email addresses in the wild early aughts.
This foray into unabashed fun was lampooned by people who had not yet accepted that numbers could, in fact, replace words in sentences if you simply stop caring about things. 2006's The Fast And The Furious: Tokyo Drift noted the inconsistency between the titles and declared that enough was enough. It was going to establish a firm precedent: "The Fast And The Furious" would be the "Star Wars" or the "Harry Potter and the..." prefix that the series would now strictly affix to the beginning of its titles. The prefix offers familiarity ("Ah, yes. A Star Wars..."), while the suffix clues us in on the next adventure ("...and it appears the Empire will seek comeuppance this time.") ... then 2009's Fast and Furious came out and fucked up that plan real good.
Each title assumes there's another title like it somewhere in the series when there isn't. Though, there is one exception that itself contains its own, smaller titling inconsistency to continue the pattern. There's a bold concision to Fast & Furious that gives it the weight of a stand-alone film that kicks off a series despite it actually being the fourth in the series. The confusion compounds when Fast & Furious 6 is released four years and two movies later. These are the only two that share a naming convention yet on their own seem like there should be four movies between them that also abide by the "Fast+&+Furious+[Number]" formula. Sadly, those movies don't exist. There's only one movie between them, 2011's Fast Five - a title that assumes you know what this is all about, so why bother with the rest.
2015's Furious 7 feels like a direct companion piece to Fast Five (when it isn't) and 2017's The Fate Of The Furious sounds like the end of the series (when it isn't). This brings us to the recently announced title of the upcoming ninth entry in the series, F9. The closest comparisons would be to Fast Five and Furious 7, but which F-word does the "F" represent? It's hard to say, and the film may not provide a definitive answer because who gives a shit.
But just so we can all walk away from this with some peace of mind, I propose a radical but still sensible theory: This "F" is pulling double duty by representing both F-words, thus unifying the ideas of fastness and furiousness after so many titles where they've been separated or, even worse, have stood alone. This means the ninth film, like the title itself, will be a concise and elegant distillation of everything we've come to love about the series so far.
Luis can be found on Twitter and Facebook. Check out his regular contributions to Macaulay Culkin's BunnyEars.com and his "Meditation Minute" segments on the Bunny Ears podcast. And now you can listen to the first episode on Youtube!