Following Paul Walker’s tragic death, his brothers Cody and Caleb stepped in to finish his filming on Fast & Furious 7, which appeared to complete Brian’s story. However, Cody recently revealed that you can’t rule anything out.
“You know, there’s a lot of things that are said about the franchise, there’s a lot of rumours going around. I think anything is possible and we’ll see what the future has in store,” he explained.
However, we feel that any return for Brian O’Conner should not happen in Fast & Furious 9 or 10 – and it shouldn’t really be something Fast & Furious fans want either.
Back in 2013, director James Wan and the cast of Fast & Furious 7 were in an unthinkable position. Paul Walker had sadly died in car accident during a Thanksgiving break in filming, with Universal suspending production on the movie to work out what to do next.
The solution was for Paul’s brothers Cody and Caleb to step in to film the action scenes that he hadn’t completed before his untimely death.
Weta Digital worked on the visual effects to complete his role in the movie, using a computer-generated face in 260 shots, with 90 shots coming from previous footage or outtakes from the series.
Yes, some of the digital effects are noticeable, but the most important thing was the way that Wan, along with writer Chris Morgan, managed to end Brian O’Conner’s Fast & Furious journey.
The final scenes of Fast & Furious 7 see Brian decide to retire, with Dom leaving him on the beach with his family without saying bye. “It’s never goodbye,” Dom says, but Brian catches up with him on the road.
Cue a montage of Dom and Brian throughout the series as Dom says in voiceover: “I used to say I live my life a quarter-mile at a time, and I think that’s why we were brothers, because you did too.
“No matter where you are, whether it’s a quarter-mile away or halfway across the world, you’ll always be with me and you’ll always be my brother.”
It works as both a fitting end to Brian’s arc and a beautiful, emotional tribute to Paul Walker. In a series that’s as over-the-top as Fast & Furious, it’s a quiet and well-judged moment that’s better than any fan probably hoped for.
So why risk ruining that by bringing Brian back as a fully-CGI Paul Walker in a future Fast & Furious movie?
Fast & Furious 8 showed the way when it came to Brian’s future in the franchise. When Dom appeared to turn to the dark side, Roman said that “Brian would know what to do”, leading Letty to reply: “We can’t bring Brian and Mia into this. We agreed on that.”
The end of that movie also saw Dom name his new child after Brian, adding a nice coda to Walker’s Fast & Furious journey, and reflecting real life as Vin Diesel named his daughter Pauline in tribute to Paul Walker.
Jordana Brewster is returning as Brian’s partner Mia in Fast & Furious 9, but we don’t yet know if it’ll be a major role. Whether she’s a key part of the plot or a cameo, all it needs is her to say that Brian’s looking after the children, and that’s that.
No fan of the series would question such an easy out, as they know the circumstances behind it.
Visual effects are improving all the time, but you’ll know that if Brian appears, it’s because of computer trickery, and it will be difficult to detach from that. You could even be looking at a similar result to the dodgy Peter Cushing and Carrie Fisher‘s appearances in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
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Whether or not similar unused footage exists of Walker, it’s hard to see how it can be used to create an ending that’s as emotionally satisfying as the one they crafted in Fast & Furious 7. It’s just not worth the risk.
Fast & Furious 9 is released on May 22, 2020.