I like to think my bullshit detector is fairly accurate when it comes to movie-related rumors, and my track record speaks for itself. Eddie Murphy, Angelina Jolie, or Shia LaBeouf in the next Batman movie? Bullshit. Steve Guttenberg making a comeback? Bullshit. Anything posted as a scoop on MarketSaw.com? Bullshit. Avatar will beat Titanic‘s box-office? Bull– well crap.

The latest rumor sweeping the blogosphere involves Universal’s plans for the next Jason Bourne movie, and the fact that anyone is taking this one seriously makes me chortle. We all know a fourth film in the series will hit eventually, but it’s had a bumpy few years with the studio struggling to find a script everyone likes. Director Paul Greengrass recently parted ways with the project over the script issue, and Matt Damon has said that he won’t do a fourth Bourne without him. The issue stems from the general problem of finding something for Bourne to do now that he’s recovered his memory, and Damon himself has said “If you have any ideas, call Universal… they’d love for you to get in touch!”  Empire Online spoke to Damon this past weekend and asked him for a status update on the sequel. Feeling cornered, tired of the same question, and possibly inebriated, Damon responded with the following off the cuff remark:

There’ll probably be a prequel of some kind with another actor and another director before we do another one,” he said, “just because I think we’re probably another five years away from doing it – we’ve got to get a script…”

And just like that the news spread like wildfire across the web. “Matt Damon Says Next Bourne to Be Prequel” says /film. “Damon Says Next Bourne Might Be a Prequel” says FirstShowing. Pajiba has even gone ahead and cast the prequel’s new Jason Bourne (and if it were to happen I’d actually be pretty happy with their choice). Most sites are reporting this as news and while they suggest it may or may not come to fruition I’m going on the record and saying there’s no chance. It was a throw-away comment from Damon and there are no legitimate plans for a prequel. Bam said the lady!

Even in print Damon’s comment sounds like a toss off answer meant to reflect the current Hollywood mantra of “remake reboot retread” but there’s admittedly a certain logic at the most most basic level. The three Damon-led Bourne films have grossed almost a billion dollars worldwide, and you just don’t drop a franchise like that over script troubles. Especially one that goes against the law of diminishing returns… each Bourne sequel has made more money than its predecessor. Universal wants to keep that cash flowing, but the success of the series isn’t strictly in the Bourne name.

Several folks have already given veracity to the rumor by saying that Universal pulling a stunt like this would be like Sony doing a complete overhaul of their very lucrative Spider Man franchise… ie shocking and surprising but well within the realm of possibility. But I’d argue that comparison is an inaccurate one.

Ask anyone what they loved about the Spider Man movies and the list will include things like the action, the villains, the effects, the comic book story lines and sensibilities, etc. No one ever says their favorite thing about the films is Tobey Fucking Maguire. You can pop anyone with a reasonable amount of talent into the role or behind the camera and if you include enough spandex and spectacle people will respond. Contrast that with the same question about the Bourne films though and the answer is a little different… the action, the story of discovery and redemption, the Bourne character and Damon’s portrayal of him, etc. A prequel by definition would take place before Bourne loses his memory (spoiler alert for those of you who haven’t seen the first five minutes of The Bourne Identity) which means everything people love about the character’s quest for identity, supremacy, and ultimatum (?) would be non-existent.

Forget the fact that people are committed to Damon as Bourne. Forget that an eventual and proper fourth sequel will happen and that a loosely related prequel would just muddy the water. A Bourne prequel isn’t a Bourne movie. It’s a generic action film about an assassin. And while Hollywood may be dumb, they’re not that dumb.

Does anyone think this would be a good idea? Or that it could actually happen? And how many of you are now hoping they do make a prequel just to prove me wrong?


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