No one could have believed, after the generic engine revving of 2009’s 'Fast & Furious' that we still would be talking about the box-office muscle of 'Fast and Furious 6' while also eagerly anticipating 'Fast and Furious 7' in the ongoing stories of Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and his chrome-domed partner in crime, Dom Toretto (Vin Diesel).

But that’s what happens when a modern action saga generates nearly $2 billion in worldwide ticket sales – improving its critical response with each passing sequel. It’s no surprise that Universal wants to keep the pedal on the proverbial metal when it comes to ‘Fast’ films. What shocks us is the fact that this franchise hasn’t crashed and burned. Yet.

With 'Fast and Furious 6' opening to an estimated $98M over Memorial Day weekend, Universal’s decision to move ahead on the as-yet-untitled 'Fast and Furious 7' seems like a brilliant move. Audiences obviously haven’t tired of the high-speed adventures of this road crew. ‘Fast and Furious 7’ is racing towards theaters. What do we already know about the sequel?

When Will It Open?


Universal quickly circled July 11, 2014 for the release date of 'Fast and Furious 7.' And those who stayed through the end credits of 'Fast and Furious 6' have a general idea where the franchise is heading (but if you haven’t yet seen 'Fast and Furious 6'...well, what the heck are you reading this feature for?).

While all of the ‘Fast’ movies have opened during the summer season, 'Fast and Furious 7' will be the first in the series to open in July. The initial 'Fast' opened on June 22, 2001. After that, each sequel has moved forward on the release-date calendar.

But in selecting a date that’s just over one year away, the franchise might have cost itself a guiding voice who has been directing the franchise since 2006’s ‘The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.’ That would be Justin Lin, who has announced that he is exiting the franchise after ‘Furious 6,’ and cited the short production window as part of the reason he will not be back with his ‘Fast’ compatriots.

Who Will Direct?


Knowing it couldn’t wait too long to fill the void in the 'Fast and Furious 7' driver’s seat, Universal hired James Wan to helm the next chapter in the four-wheeled franchise.

Wait, the guy who directed ‘Saw’ and ‘Insidious’ is going to direct a ‘Fast’ sequel?

Yep. Wan tried his hand at dark, vengeful action when he helmed ‘Death Sentence’ with Kevin Bacon back in 2007. But his name has been synonymous with creepy, ghostly horror. This summer, for example, he has two supernatural tales heading to theaters in 'The Conjuring' and 'Insidious Chapter 2.'

But Wan’s ready to switch gears, and Universal thought him the right option to take over the proven ‘Fast’ franchise … with Lin’s blessing. The former ‘Fast’ director said:

I’m thrilled that Universal [has] selected James Wan to lead the franchise into its new chapter.

Lip service? Honest admiration? We’ll see once we recognize what Wan is able to bring to the 'Fast' table.

Who’s The Villain?


This was answered in the revelatory post-credit sequence for 'Fast and Furious 6' so again, SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen the new ‘Fast’ movie.

Basically, Dom and Brian toasted main villain Owen Shaw (Luke Evans), a criminal leading a crew on an elaborate heist to retrieve a valuable microchip. The good guys, now cleared of all criminal charges, were free to return home to Los Angeles. Their colleague, Han Seoul-Oh (Sung Kang), chose to return home to Tokyo, though, where the current timeline finally caught up to the narrative of ‘Tokyo Drift.’

And if you have been paying attention this whole time, Han dies in ‘Tokyo Drift.’

So yes, Han dies in the end credits of ‘Furious 6.’ And we finally learn that his killer … is Ian Shaw, older brother of the newly deceased Owen Shaw who will be played by none other than Jason Statham!

That means 'Fast and Furious 7' will pit Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and their crew against ‘The Transporter’ and a former ‘Expendable,’ Mr. Jason Statham! Good thing they still have Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on their side, right? Well, about that...

Who Isn’t Coming Back?


A number of people who were staples of the ‘Fast’ franchise likely will take a back seat in the next chapter. Dom and Brian retrieved Letty (Michelle Rodriguez), even though she was believed dead. But in 'Fast and Furious 6' we witnessed the demise of Han, Gisele (Gal Gadot) and the villainous Riley (Gina Carano).

Does this mean they are gone for good? Hell no. Death is temporary in the ‘Fast’ franchise.

Contracts, however, are set in stone and Johnson has a contract to play Hercules in Brett Ratner’s version of the hero. He’ll be shooting that movie in Budapest for six weeks over the summer, which is when 'Fast and Furious 7' likely would have to shoot. This could mean that Hobbs will be out of the next adventure, but around to run with Dom and Brian somewhere down the line. Or that spinoff movie centered around Hobbs’ character could get off the ground. The Rock’s involvement in the ‘Fast’ universe isn’t drawing to a close. Scheduling just might keep him out of 'Fast and Furious 7' after all.

So, What Will ‘Fast 7’ Be About?


Details, obviously, are being kept under wraps, but given the fact that Universal has to begin shooting almost immediately, the cast and crew have shared a few secrets about the planned sequel.

The inclusion of Statham was a big “cat” to be released from a ‘Fast’ bag, and his actions in the closing credits for 'Fast and Furious 6' suggest that the next movie will be a vengeance film...possibly with Shaw targeting Mia (Jordana Brewster), Letty and those close to our ‘Fast’ crew.

But where will they be racing? Locations have been such a key component of these most recent sequels, with Rio and London and Spain providing exotic backdrops for the racing scenes. Diesel recently piped up on 'Fast and Furious 7' saying that there will be a segment in Tokyo, followed by a move to the Middle East.

It worked for Tom Cruise and his ‘Mission: Impossible’ movie. Can the ‘Fast’ guys race cars to the top of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai? I wouldn’t put anything past this franchise. We’ll find out when ‘Fast 7’ roars into theaters next July.