#JusticeForHan: Does The 'Fast And Furious' Franchise Owe Fans Some Answers?

(Welcome to The Soapbox, the space where we get loud, feisty, and opinionated about something that makes us very happy...or fills us with indescribable rage. In this edition: what's up with that #JusticeForHan movement, anyway?)

If you're a fan of the Fast and Furious movies and you've seen The Fate of the Furious, you might have experienced a nagging feeling in the back of your mind when you left the theater. If you're like me, that thought was, "Wait...what about Han?" Without spoiling things yet, I'll just say that the new film never addresses Sung Kang's snack-loving member of Dominic Toretto's "family," who was killed off in 2006's The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift – a death later revealed to be a murder committed by Jason Statham's Deckard Shaw.

That death – and Fate's ignoring of it – is at the center of the #JusticeForHan hashtag, which hardcore fans adopted as a rallying cry in order to ask some serious questions about this beloved franchise. Read all about the Han-troversy below, and whether or not the film series owes us answers when we want them or if we should wait for the full story before we rush to judgment.

Warning: spoilers for the entire Fast and Furious franchise, including The Fate of the Furious, lie ahead. Tread carefully (pun intended).

Jason Statham in Furious 7

The Road Behind Us

Just so we're all on the same page, here's a quick recap of some key events thus far. Owen Shaw (Luke Evans) is the villain of Fast and Furious 6, who capitalized on Letty's (Michelle Rodriguez) amnesia and manipulated her into working for his evil crew. After Owen is put in the hospital by Dom (Vin Diesel) and his team at the end of that film, the movie's post-credits scene introduces Owen's brother Deckard (Statham) and shows him killing Han in Tokyo. Dom, Letty, and the crew spend most of Furious 7 facing off against Deckard, who is eventually locked away in an underground prison by special agent Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson).

But The Fate of the Furious sees Deckard freed from prison and joining forces with Dom and the family in order to fight a new villain (Cipher, played by Charlize Theron). We even see Owen, scarred and fresh out of the hospital, reunite with Deckard to save Dom's infant son from Cipher's grasp. But after being so pissed off about Han's death in Furious 7, I don't think a single member of Dom's team mentions Han's name in Fate, and they all seem to welcome the help of the Shaw brothers with open arms and no serious reckoning with the incalculable damage inflicted on their "family."

fast and furious counting han

Why Fans Are Upset

At the end of Fate, Deckard shows up at one of the famous Toretto family barbecues and delivers Dom's son safe and sound. But some fans aren't convinced that the crew would so easily accept Deckard as one of their own. Not only did Deckard kill Han, but Owen is responsible for the death of Gisele (Gal Gadot), so that's two family members taken out by these English brothers.

Dominic Toretto is the magnet at the center of this whole franchise, which has always seen any opposing force either die or eventually come around into the open arms of the family. The Rock's Hobbs, introduced in Fast Five, was trying to track Dom and his team down before eventually letting them go at the end, just like Paul Walker's Brian O'Conner did at the end of the original movie. (And like Keanu Reeves' Johnny Utah does with Patrick Swayze's Bodhi at the end of Point Break, a film on which the first movie is clearly modeled.) So Statham's Deckard Shaw becoming a new member of the team is in keeping with the saga's history – although they've never accepted someone who's murdered one of their former members before.

Indiewire film critic David Ehrlich, whose review of the movie you can read here, explained his beef with Fate's unceremonious treatment of Han in an e-mail with me.

"It's not that I think Han is an immortal cinematic icon, and that s***ting on his sacrosanct legacy is some unforgivable sin," he said, "but that dismissing the character's history and the weight that it was supposed to hold in this franchise is emblematic of a movie that completely fails to grasp the soul of its series."

That's a fair point – when the death of a character means so much in one movie but nothing in the next, it seems like a sign of sloppy storytelling.

Continue to the next page to hear what the cast and crew have to say about this and let's speculate on how the future Fast and the Furious films may address this controversy.

fast and furious counting family

The Family Speaks

As I mentioned when we reviewed The Fate of the Furious on the /Filmcast, there's a scene in the film in which Hobbs reads Deckard Shaw's military history and realizes he's a decorated veteran. The new info pivots the character from a villain to a misunderstood hero who has a code much like Dom's: he's in it to protect his family. There's clearly more to Deckard than we've seen, and writer/producer Chris Morgan has hinted that there's a chance we see Han again in a future film and that Shaw's past will be explored and some of our lingering questions will be answered.

In an interview with The L.A. Times' Jen Yamato, Morgan and much of the cast spoke about the #JusticeForHan movement and what the future holds for the Fast movies.

Jason Statham hinted that we don't know the full story yet:

"...You know, that whole episode has not fully detailed exactly what happened. I'm not going to say anything more than that! But [Morgan] likes to annoy the fans and please the fans and get all these angry protests. So, more to come."

But last night, at a screening of Better Luck Tomorrow in Hollywood, director Justin Lin (Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6), was flabbergasted to learn what happened at the end of Fate. At a Q&A following the screening, he said he hadn't seen the new film yet, but when Yamato (who moderated the discussion) explained it to him, he was shocked. "What?" he asked incredulously. "Statham's character is now part of the family? Aw..." He was very obviously disappointed at the decision.

Longtime Fast actress Michelle Rodriguez certainly sympathizes with the #JusticeForHan supporters. "When [Deckard] was introduced, they didn't even think for us to give him any flack when he walked in. And we were like, 'Yo, dude, this guy killed one of our boys! You know it doesn't fly like that!'"

"At the end of the day, you're talking about a Hollywood demographic blockbuster character overriding story," she said. "That's the battle that you have when you make movies this big. They were like, 'We know that the grand majority of the audience wants to see this guy be on your side, so that overrides the fact that he killed one of your guys.'"

That sounds like a damning portrait of Hollywood filmmaking, but Morgan clearly has something up his sleeve:

"I think you'll learn a lot more about it, and I don't know if that hashtag will be the appropriate one to put on it down the road," he told the L.A. Times. "But I can tell you this: We will definitely be talking more about Han. But I would say this. From the initial conceit of Deckard, I've never really thought of him as a bad guy. He was definitely against our team but he's a guy with a code who loves his family."

Han Seoul-Oh Fast and Furious

Justification and Judgment

For me, this whole thing boils down to how fans think about these movies. Do the majority of Fast fans place more value the individual parts of the franchise's twenty-year saga, or on looking back and seeing the story as a whole when all is said and done? I can see why defenders might take the "wait and see" approach because it's nice to think that a franchise you love is being planned out ahead of time and leading to a known conclusion. But I don't think that justifies problems within the individual parts.

As Morgan told me in my own interview with him, he considers this franchise's storytelling to be more like that of a cable TV series; using that comparison, there are certainly episodes (and even seasons) of Game of Thrones that don't work nearly as well as others, and just because I still love the show doesn't mean it's flawless. I think we have to look at the individual components as opposed to the larger story because that's all we have.

Han might come back in future movies. Fast 9 might open with Letty ranting about why the team allowed Shaw on the team. But even if those things come to pass, nothing will change the fact that at this exact point in this series, a saga that's supposed to be about family threw one of their own under the bus.