The name’s Bourne, Jason Bourne. The initials may be the same, but that’s pretty much where most comparisons to James Bond end. The Bourne character was created by Robert Ludlum, who wrote three novels around the CIA assassin who suffers from severe memory loss.
The first book was adapted into a film starring Matt Damon, in 2002, and was an unexpected success. With a budget of $60 million, the film raked in more than $200 million worldwide, this opened the door for a franchise opportunity with the two following films also receiving praise from both fans and critics. However, the recent release of the fifth film didn’t receive the same kind of praise as the previous films. Here we consider the future of the Bourne franchise.
Material Ludlum wrote just three Bourne novels – Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum – and his death in 2001 (before any films had been made) obviously prevents him from writing any more. Following his death, and the success of the movies, a further eleven Bourne novels have been written by Eric Van Lustbader. The fourth film, The Bourne Legacy, borrows the title from the first Van Lustbader and little else. The novel still features Jason Bourne, whereas the film doesn’t feature the character or Damon (the first to do so) and instead features Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, an all new character created especially for this film. The most recent film, although saw Damon return as Bourne, featured no title or storyline from an existing novel. Even though Jason Bourne saw the return of Damon in the title role and Paul Greengrass as director, it’s not been enough to return the franchise to its glory days just yet.
The Bourne Identity emerged at a time when there wasn’t much completion in the way of spy movies. The Bond franchise was struggling with Pierce Brosnan’s final outing as 007 in Die Another Day (the less said about that film the better). But then Daniel Craig took over the role which led to a renaissance in the franchise, with many critics saying that Casino Royale was heavily influenced by the Bourne films. The most recent Bourne film did slightly echo the Bond movies with a trip to Vegas, although we didn’t see Bourne put his basic blackjack skills into practice. Furthermore, we’ve also seen Tom Cruise take the Jack Reacher character onto the big screen in two films (so far), maybe it’s a case that there are too many films vying for the same audience, and in this case it’s Bourne missing out.
To date, another Bourne film hasn’t been confirmed or denied, Jason Bourne made an impressive $410 million at the box office from a budget of $120 million, so a sequel is likely. The producers would be wise to try and keep Damon on board, although if they are forced to try somebody else, the new actor should still be playing Jason Bourne and not a different character, as in the case of Jeremy Renner. They may also want to try adapting a Van Lustbader novel and getting back to what made the original trilogy so successful. Even though the Bond franchise (with the exception of Casino Royale) hasn’t adapted an actual Bond novel since The Man With the Golden Gun in 1974, even though subsequent novel titles were used.