How to turn ‘Bourne’ into a sustainable franchise

"How do the Bourne films reinvent themselves enough to become a sustainable franchise without losing what made them so special to begin with?"

The following article contains spoilers for the recently released film ‘Jason Bourne’.

After a lengthy hiatus the ‘Bourne’ film franchise returned this year with the no nonsense if not slightly lame titled ‘Jason Bourne’ with series veterans Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass both returning. To call the Bourne films a franchise is still a little weird because for years we only had the Bourne trilogy – comprised of Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum – which concluded Jason’s narrative in a richly satisfying way with Bourne floating in the water after being shot in the back bookending the trilogy while Moby’s Extreme Ways plays for what we thought would be the final time. However soon ‘The Bourne Legacy’ was released giving us everything you expect from a Bourne film just without Jason Bourne himself, instead Jeremy Renner took centre stage as Aaron Cross. The Bourne Legacy has now seemingly become the estranged relative of the Bourne franchise, purposely being pushed aside to cater for the return of Jason Bourne himself. Despite being a fairly irrelevant film I enjoyed Jason Bourne a lot, about on par with The Bourne Supremacy, the weakest of the original trilogy, but the movie garnered a mixed reception from both critics and audiences which makes it apparent the old Bourne formula just isn’t enough anymore especially after Bond and other franchises have been copying it for years. So how exactly do the Bourne films reinvent themselves enough to become a sustainable franchise without losing what made them so special to begin with?

For Bourne to truly become a franchise it needs a much greater sense of continuity with several supporting characters appearing in more than one film. According to the Bourne films the CIA seems to shuffle around its staff on an annual basis with very few characters/actors returning for the next film other than Joan Allen as Pam Landy, Brian Cox as Ward Abbot and Julia Stiles as Nicky Parsons. Do you remember that Walton Goggins played a CIA analyst in The Bourne Identity? Well he did and wouldn’t it make sense to bring him back in another film instead of casting a new actor for essentially the exact same role. Walton Goggins in The Bourne Identity, Tom Gallop in The Bourne Supremacy, Corey Johnson in The Bourne Ultimatum and Craig Jeffers in Jason Bourne play essentially the same character and so why not actually have them be the same character because in a film series featuring an expressionless, almost silent protagonist the audience needs some interesting and relatable supporting characters. Hopefully Alicia Vikander’s character Heather Lee returns for the next film after being a highlight of ‘Jason Bourne’ but I don’t want her to become the head of the CIA like the ending suggests, it just seems too unrealistic for a film series constantly striving for realism.

To many viewers of the television series Homeland the show, during its second and third seasons, seemed like it was going on too long and was overstretching it’s already tired concept. However the espionage thriller reinvented itself during the fourth and fifth seasons while still maintaining the same protagonist by highlighting real world issues whether it was ISIS, Syria or European terrorist attacks. To become a sustainable franchise ‘Bourne’ could do the same thing by turning it’s tired concept into relevant stories worth telling. Jason Bourne succeeded in doing this with the Greece riots, social media snooping and CIA leaks and continuing this at least gives us a reason for why they are continuing with this franchise; although maybe next time the writers can be a bit more subtle with the frequent Snowdon name-drops.

The main thing they have to do with the Bourne franchise if it were to continue however is to mix it up a bit. We can’t have another film with the same formula of Bourne discovering a shadowy CIA program which reveals unknown information about his past while ‘an asset’ attempts to assassinate him. The amnesia plotline should be left alone completely with no more low frame rate dream sequences revealing little pieces of the puzzle instead I’d love to see Bourne return to the CIA and working with them in some capacity under new leadership like the ending of Jason Bourne suggests. After 4 films it would be great to see Bourne actually work with other people because that’s when the character was at his most interesting in previous films, when he was with Marie and Nicky and actually had a personality rather than the silent brooding tortured protagonist who does very little but walk through crowds like in Jason Bourne. It would be interesting to see Bourne team up with another agent like Edgar Ramirez’s character Paz from The Bourne Ultimatum who refused to shoot Bourne during the movie’s climax. Or maybe Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross from The Bourne Legacy could return to work with Bourne with them teaming up to stop terrorists rather than on the run from the CIA again with them discovering that is what they were born to do (pun intended), becoming active assets again but this time with a conscience. Or now that he’s a much bigger star maybe Karl Urban can return as Kirill who could have survived The Bourne Supremacy adding a greater sense of continuity between the original trilogy and the new movies. Whatever the future holds for the franchise the Bourne films need more than just Jason Bourne to succeed.

What do you want to see from the future of the Bourne franchise? Let me know in the comments and geek out with me about movies on Twitter @kylebrrtt.

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