How 'F9' Will Find Justice for Han

F9 Still 2 - Publicity - H 2020
Giles Keyte/Universal
The soap opera quality of the series offers a number of possibilities for the fan favorite character to return.

Justice is coming. Universal Pictures didn’t simply release the trailer for F9, the studio turned it into an event. The trailer for the highly anticipated ninth installment of The Fast Saga was preceded by a concert, live-streamed around the world, and the cast and returning director Justin Lin doing early press for the film. Lin, who has directed the most entries in the franchise — Tokyo Drift (2006) through Fast & Furious 6 (2013) — and helped revitalize the franchise, returns after seven years away. He’s brought a box of new toys and a welcome familiar face along with him in what is shaping up to potentially be the most outrageous installment of the long-running franchise, which is saying a lot.

The trailer picks up a few years after the events of the eighth entry, The Fate of the Furious (2018) and sees Dom (Vin Diesel) and Letty (Michelle Rodriguez) settling into domestic life with their son Brian. But their peace is upended by the unexpected arrival of Dom’s younger brother Jakob (John Cena), “a master thief,” “assassin” and “high-performance driver” with a personal grudge against his brother, and sister Mia (Jordana Brewster). Never mind the fact that neither Dom nor Mia have mentioned the existence of another sibling in the prior entries.

This is the kind of soap opera-esque drama that has given the franchise it’s legs. Although Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson) and Shaw (Jason Statham) are out of the picture, and leading their own spinoff series, Cena’s character looks more than capable of filling in the hole they left behind with both competitive brawn and charismatic villainy. And just as Dom, Letty and Mia are backed by their own team of Tej (Ludacris), Roman (Tyrese Gibson) and Ramsey (Nathalie Emmanuel), Jakob has formed a partnership with Fate’s big bad, Cipher (Charlize Theron) that’s sure to have devastating results for all involved.

The trailer offers no shortage of vehicular warfare and impossible physics: Dom seemingly catches a car, a rocket engine is strapped to a Pontiac, and a vehicle performs a Tarzan swing across a chasm thanks to the magic of magnets. It’s absurdism at its finest in a franchise that knows exactly what it is. Between all of that there’s the emotional core, bound together by the Fast Saga’s magic word: family. There are a few lines about this being the end, and riding side by side until death that points to a finale, but of course, these movies will continue on with the tenth film. Endings within this franchise are seemingly just as impossible as the laws of gravity. And on the subject of endings, the trailer withholds its best moment until the post-title tag.

Han (Sung Kang), a fan-favorite character, was killed off in the very film in which he made his first appearance, Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift. Though a retcon moved the events of that film and circumstances surrounding his death until after Fast & Furious 6 in which a post-credit scene saw Han killed from a new angle and by the hands of Statham’s Shaw. In the eighth film and last year’s spinoff, Shaw was redeemed and formed a terse relationship with Dom and his crew, fans have been crying out with the hashtag “justice for Han.” His appearance here, and character poster with the phrase “justice is coming” may be the closest the franchise has ever come to directly acknowledging fan-service. There are many questions surrounding the character’s return, and rumors of Han’s continued involvement in the series began late last year thanks to the mysterious, yet unrevealed, adversary pulling the strings in Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw.

Han’s return may seem implausible, given that we’ve seen his death play out twice now, but the franchise has built towards increasing implausibility. After all, just last year the villain Brixton (Idris Elba) introduced superpowers by way of cybernetic enhancements into this world. And again, in this very trailer, Dom catches a car. Han could be a clone for all we know and it would still work within the context of this world that his moved from street racing and heists to full-on spy missions and superheroics. But what does “justice is coming” really mean for the character? It seems like more than just a statement about the character’s return for the fans, but a comment on Han’s arc. It’s possible that he’s witnessed his family patch things up with the Shaw family, who was not only responsible for his death but that of his girlfriend Gisele (Gal Gadot). It doesn’t seem entirely out of the question for Han to rejoin Dom and co. as a wolf in sheep’s clothing, perhaps as an agent of Cipher, looking for justice against the family who left him behind and moved on.

There’s no telling how Han’s resurrection will play out, or how it connects to Jakob and Cipher. The franchise has become one of surprising twists and connections, that may break any sense of realism but create a hell of a theatrical experience. With the return of Justin Lin, the Fast Saga is speeding off in an exciting direction that makes any potential dangers of fan-service and questionable stakes for the series feel like hazards easily avoided by safe hands behind the wheel.