While it's unclear whether Matt Damon will return for a completely unnecessary fourth installment in the super-successful Jason Bourne franchise, Universal appears to be moving full-speed ahead with the project, as the studio is reportedly making a deal with the trilogy's screenwriter, Tony Gilroy, to direct the latest sequel, according to Deadline.
Damon has previously indicated that he wouldn't reprise his ass-kicking amnesiac assassin unless director Paul Greengrass ("The Bourne Supremacy," "The Bourne Ultimatum") returned behind the camera. That plan fizzled when Greengrass exited the project after Universal began developing it while he was making "Green Zone" for the studio.
Deadline reports that Universal plans to make "Bourne 4" regardless of whether it has to replace Damon, with the website suggesting that the Oscar-nominated actor would be "crazy" to turn his back on the popular franchise and the huge paycheck that comes along with it.
Here's the thing … leaving the Bourne franchise behind him would be the best thing Damon could do for his career. There's no character for him to play in this overly-serious spy series. Jason Bourne is an emotionally cold cipher of a human being, which makes it impossible for the audience to relate to him.
The Bourne movies had the cultural impact that they did because of Greengrass' hyperkinetic visual style and Christopher Rouse's influential editing. But plot-wise, the trilogy practically ran on story fumes. It takes six hours to get around to the not-so-mind-blowing revelation that "Jason Bourne" brought all of this danger upon himself by signing up for a government program that would erase his memory. There was no great conspiracy. He was just a dumb young kid with an overwhelming sense of duty to his country.
What's funny is that Gilroy seems to be fully aware of the series' shortcomings. "They weren't about human behavior. They were about running to airports," he once said. Gilroy famously agreed to write "The Bourne Ultimatum" on the condition that he would only have to write one draft and that he'd never have to speak to Greengrass. So at least Gilroy knows what the franchise is missing and is now in the position to be able to do something about it.
Still, if Universal was going to lure me into seeing a fourth Bourne film, it should've gone with an experienced director with a clear sense of style, or a young up-and-comer. After all, this is the studio that has Daniel Espinosa directing "Safe House" and Rupert Sanders directing "Snow White and the Huntsman," so clearly execs are not afraid to gamble on unproven talent.
Gilroy directing "The Bourne Legacy," as it's tentatively titled, represents a natural progression for both the franchise and his filmmaking career, but it seems like the studio is playing it safe. But since Gilroy directed "Duplicity," his track record should be considered mixed, at best, and even "Michael Clayton" was overrated. Gilroy is a solid screenwriter by any measure, but I shudder to think what a Bourne movie will look like under his direction.
Frank Marshall will produce "Bourne 4" along with Jeffrey Weiner and Ben Smith of Captivate Entertainment. The over-praised franchise remains a high priority for Universal, whose Donna Langley and Peter Cramer have been working hard to revitalize the lucrative property.
Gilroy is represented by CAA.