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C'MON HOLLYWOOD: No Bourne without Bourne!

10.28.2010

By now, everyone knows that in the summer of 2012, another installment of the BOURNE franchise will be hitting theaters. Titled THE BOURNE LEGACY, this one will be helmed by Tony Gilroy, who has writing credits on all the BOURNE’s, and also directed the incredible MICHAEL CLAYTON, as well as the decent, but far-from-incredible DUPLICITY. To me, Gilroy seems like an inspired choice.

Many are upset Paul Greengrass is not returning, but let’s not forget that the first film in the series, THE BOURNE IDENTITY was directed by Doug Liman, and NOT Greengrass. The only question is whether he can handle action, but if they manage to get back Dan Bradley to do the second unit, all will be well.

All in all, THE BOURNE LEGACY sounds like a slam-dunk, right? Sadly, no, as star Matt Damon’s not coming back. Now, a BOURNE without BOURNE, how exactly does that work? Supposedly, the role will not be recast (thank God!), but instead, we’ll be getting another story altogether, taking place in the same universe (BOURNEverse?). As Gilroy himself explained it on Hollywood-Elsewhere, “Jason Bourne will not be in this film, but he's very much alive. What happened in the first three films is the trigger for what happens. I'm building a legend and an environment and a wider conspiracy… the world we're making enhances and advances and invites Jason Bourne's return [down the road]."

Umm, okay- but why is this still considered a BOURNE film? The reason the series is so popular is due to the fact that Matt Damon as Jason Bourne just happened to be one of those truly inspired casting choices, similar to Robert Downey Jr. as IRON MAN, broadening not only the appeal of the BOURNE’s to a wider audience that might not normally go for an action flick, but also completely re-wiring Damon’s career. Look at where he was in 2002. Initially, people thought Damon playing an action hero would be laughable, and the first film actually had a soft opening in the summer of 2002 (it got beaten by SCOOBY DOO). Heck, I went to see WINDTALKERS that weekend!

However, the white hot word of mouth led to THE BOURNE IDENTY breaking $121 million at the box office, before picking up an even bigger following on DVD. The sequel, THE BOURNE SUPREMACY did $176 million, and THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM did $227 million, meaning this is a series that actually gets more popular with each successive installment.

So, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? Well, therein lies the problem, as Damon seems to have no interest in returning, despite the fact that his last few films have been box office disappointments. He refuses to do the film without Greengrass, and while I have to respect the loyalty, he should be bold and see what Gilroy could do. I doubt the same guy who directed MICHAEL CLAYTON is interested in making some dumb follow-up that will kill the series, which he’s probably as much the author of as Greengrass.

For my money, the best thing Universal could do is hold off until Damon inevitably wants to return. If THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU underperforms, he might be more willing to go another round with BOURNE, but the financially-strapped studio (which has only had a handful of hits since ULTIMATUM) wants a BOURNE film pronto, and is unwilling to wait.

So, good idea or not, we’re getting a BOURNE-less BOURNE. While this is probably a dumb move that seems born (BOURNE?) out of greed rather than creativity, there’s still a way it could work. It all hinges on who they get as the leading man. Hopefully, they’ll get someone with a bit of stature, and not just default to Shia LaBeouf, or Sam Worthington, who seems to get all the action roles anyways.

It'll be a tricky process, as if they cast too young, they’ll alienate the older fans, but they also need someone who can handle action, so someone in their mid-to-late thirties would probably be best. He should also be an unlikely action star (Worthington, or even Tom Hardy seems too obvious), like Damon was initially. My choice would be for the filmmakers to spin off Edgar Ramirez’s assassin from ULTIMATUM, who was spared by Bourne at the end last film. Ramirez is charismatic as they come (just check out his star-making turn in CARLOS), and it would establish a nice continuity. They should also bring back Joan Allen, and some of the other supporting characters, like Albert Finney as the Treadstone doctor who helped make Bourne into a killer.

Hopefully THE BOURNE LEGACY will turn out to be an excellent addition to the franchise, but I have my doubts. Recasting is a tricky proposition, and while they’re not replacing BOURNE, this could turn out to be like one of the Clouseau-less PINK PANTHER films, (remember CURSE OF THE PINK PANTHER, or SON OF THE PINK PANTHER? Didn’t think so.). Hopefully sanity will prevail, and Damon will get a dump truck full of money and return, but that seems unlikely now. Fingers crossed this doesn’t ruin the franchise, as with the Bond films on hiatus (thanks to MGM’s financial woes), BOURNE is the last word in spy action.

Extra Tidbit: Who would be your choice to take over the franchise?
Source: JoBlo.com

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