There have been rumblings concerning a reboot of the Alex Cross franchise for quite some time. Cross, an adaptation of James Patterson’s latest book in the series, seemed like an ideal way to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Now, the project seems to be picking up serious momentum by signing a star and a director.
According to Deadline, Idris Elba (The Wire, The Losers) will take over the role originally played by Morgan Freeman in Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider. David Twohy (Pitch Black, Riddick 3) will direct and rewrite a script by Kerry Williamson.
Unlike the previous two films, Cross will be privately financed and production is scheduled to begin in the spring of next year. Elba’s career has taken off considerably in the last few years and a high-profile project with franchise potential like this should solidify his reputation as a future A-lister. He can next be seen in Takers which opens August 27th, but comic book fans will soon know him best as Heimdall in Thor.
Fans of the books know that Freeman, as skilled as he is, was always a little too old for the part and that Elba is a much closer match to the way Patterson describes Alex Cross. His quite intensity is a perfect fit for the character, especially the way he’s portrayed in Cross.
In the novel, Alex Cross is ready to forego hunting down serial killers in favor of spending more time with his three kids. Of course that wouldn’t make for a terribly interesting story, so before you can say “inciting incident,” Cross’s old partner shows up and asks for his help on a case.
A serial rapist targeting Georgetown coeds winds up having ties to the unsolved murder of Cross’ wife and after that realization, things begin to get interesting. The main antagonist, dubbed “the Butcher of Sligo”, is easily one of the most reprehensible characters Patterson has ever created - the flashback that opens the novel is particularly disturbing.
While it took twelve books and thirteen years for Alex Cross to confront the circumstances surrounding his wife’s death, the payoff wasn’t quite on par with the build-up. In my opinion, Cross is one of the weaker books in the series - and ironically enough, probably one of the entries most suited for a film adaptation.
While Kiss the Girls and Along Came a Spider had a few great moments between them, they still felt like were missing half of the story (if you're a fan of the books). Cross, on the other hand, favors delirious violence over character development, which I think leaves plenty of room for the filmmakers to not only hit all of the major plot points, but also expand upon the material as well.
I’m curious as to how this will work as the beginning of a new series, especially if they plan on adapting previous novels for potential sequels. Cross' frustration over not finding his wife’s killer is such an important part of his character - when you think about it like that, using Cross as the first installment in a franchise (rather than as its climax) is a bold move.
A lot of great books turn into mediocre movies. Cross is a mediocre book capable of becoming a great film. Here’s hoping that casting Idris Elba in the lead role is the first of many inspired decisions on the part of the filmmakers.