Cinematic universes are all the rage, with various studios trying to expand the value of their properties by making them part of a larger interconnected story with other films. When handled well, this adds more depth to the individual stories and makes them appear to take place in a large, vibrant world; when handled poorly, the films seem weighed down by unnecessary universe building.
Universal is hoping to add another universe in the "handled well" column with the creation of a shared universe based on books by Jason Bourne author Robert Ludlum. The first film in this new cinematic universe is being developed with Mythology Entertainment, Bourne producers Captivate Entertainment and Dwayne Johnson.
THR reveals that the film being used to kick off the new cinematic universe is Ludlum's The Janson Directive, which will see Johnson in the role of the titular former Navy SEAL Paul Janson. Other Ludlum books such as The Parsifal Mosaic, The Sigma Protocol, and Covert One are also being planned for adaptation as part of the new Ludlum universe. Given that Ludlum authored 27 novels, that provides a lot of material for Universal and its partners to draw inspiration from.
The Janson Directive is being adapted for the screen by James Vanderbilt, from a story co-authored by Akiva Goldsman. Vanderbilt is also working on two other Ludlum adaptations as part of the deal to create the cinematic universe, though the specific stories that he's working on haven't been revealed. Vanderbilt's treatments will be adapted by other screenwriters before those movies move into active production.
It is unclear at this point whether Johnson's Janson will make appearances in any of the other films, or if crossovers are planned down the road that will bring the protagonists of several different films together for a single mission (a la The Avengers). It also hasn't been specified whether the existing Bourne films will be retroactively made a part of this shared universe, though the involvement of Captivate suggests that they might.
While some shared universe ideas seem forced, this one has some real potential. Given how Ludlum's novels generally operate in the world of covert ops, it should be easy to set the different stories in the same world without having to find reasons for the characters to cross over every few movies. Major events from the different movies could be referenced without every character being buddies with Jason Bourne and Paul Janson, and the filmmakers could take their time bringing the characters together if they do eventually decide to have a crossover film.
Of course, some fans may not be thrilled with the idea of connecting Ludlum's films like this. Fortunately, the nature of the stories could still allow the studio to keep the different films largely stand-alone in nature. Connections to the different films will still be there, but if the franchise is handled well then they should be largely in the background.
Jason Bourne opens in U.S. theaters on July 29, 2016.