Franchise reboots are not only quite common in Hollywood nowadays, they also tend to happen sooner than later. For example, Peter Parker in the live-action Spider-Man movie series has now been played by three different actors in less than fifteen years. Sometimes studios try to go the “soft reboot” route by spinning off a franchise around a different protagonist, rather than recasting the lead role. This happened when Universal Pictures released The Bourne Legacy: a film set in the Bourne movie universe, but centered around one onetime government assassin-turned fugitive Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) rather than Jason Bourne (Matt Damon).
Bourne Legacy, while not at all a flop, was less successful both critically and commercially than Bourne films past. Now Damon is returning to the franchise with Jason Bourne, a movie that also brings back Bourne Supremacy and Bourne Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass behind the camera. However, Damon has now made it clear: one way or another, he expects the Bourne movie franchise to eventually continue on without him.
Damon, speaking the press (THR included) in Seoul, South Korea, while on the Jason Bourne promotional tour, said that he’s “definitely going to be replaced some day by some new young Jason Bourne,” before adding that he’s “totally fine” with the Bourne role (and franchise) being rebooted some day in the future.
The Oscar-winning actor/screenwriter further explained his outlook on the situation as follows:
“The only control I can exercise is over the [Bourne movies] that I’m part of. I’m the curator of them as long as I’m involved and that’s why I battled so hard to make sure that we got the same creative people [including director Paul Greengrass] to get involved in this one.”
Regardless of what Universal Pictures decides to do with the Bourne movie franchise after the (overall) fifth installment hits theaters, Damon has indicated that Jason Bourne is designed to complete his run playing the film’s namesake. He expanded upon that idea in Seoul, saying:
“It’s difficult when you’re 45 compared to when you’re 29, but you still have to run as fast as you can. That part was a challenge but to get to revisit the people was wonderful. But I said, let’s smell the roses as we say and appreciate that we get to be here together and make sure we have fun [especially because it was so tense on the set for the other films].”
Whereas Harrison Ford is going to be in his mid-70s by the time be plays Indiana Jones in Indiana Jones 5, it sounds as though Damon doesn’t have much interest in making Bourne 6 and/or beyond – not for the time being, anyway. That will in part depend on how Jason Bourne plays with general audiences, of course. After all, there’s nothing to stop Damon from changing his mind if a sixth Bourne film (and/or a crossover pairing Damon’s Jason Bourne with Renner’s Aaron Cross) is fast-tracked by Universal Pictures.
Either way, it still begs the question: should the Jason Bourne character be recast after Damon is ready to call it a day? James Bond has famously been recast multiple times on the big screen. This has allowed 007 to stay relevant as part of the pop cultural zeitgeist for more than fifty years. On the other hand, a character such as Jack Ryan has now been re-cast as a younger man twice in the 21st century alone (The Sum of All Fears and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) and neither attempt to re-launch the Jack Ryan movie franchise was ultimately a successful one. Ryan just hasn’t been able to transition from being a 1980s/’90s action hero to a protagonist that most filmgoers seem all that interested in seeing more of nowadays.
Author Robert Ludlum first envisioned the Jason Bourne character as a Cold War-era secret agent, but the character’s transition into a post-9/11 hero on the big screen during the 2000s was a fairly smooth one (all the more so compared to Jack Ryan’s). Jason Bourne will offer something of a trial run for any future attempts to reboot the Bourne character in that respect, as the movie places Damon’s version of Bourne in a “post-Edward Snowden world” – a way of testing to see if he resonates with the filmgoing public in 2016 as much as he did back in the mid-to-late 2000s.
Jason Bourne opens in U.S. theaters on July 29th, 2016.