Should Matt Damon Return or be Recast for ‘Bourne 4’?

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With yesterday’s news that Tony Gilroy has been brought back to the Bourne franchise to write The Bourne Legacy, the question in the air was whether or not Matt Damon would return to the role. Last we heard from Damon he was saying he wouldn’t return unless Supremacy and Ultimatum director Paul Greengrass also returned, and with Greengrass already saying he’s out we have our conundrum. However, could it be for the best?

One super-spy that’s never shied from being recast is James Bond and he seems to be doing just fine (it’s MGM that’s having the problems) and wasn’t everyone talking about Bourne early on and how this character could be the next Bond? Now’s the chance.

When we last left Jason Bourne he was flying off a building and swimming for safety. He’s fully aware of his roots and with those that would cause him harm, for the most part, out of the way, it would seem a series of new adventures could begin. The question is, what kind of new adventures?

I agree with the few commenters on the Gilroy article saying Bond and Bourne aren’t exactly comparable. Bond movies are mission movies, while Bourne is all about the chase, but let’s face it, the chase is over. To make another Jason Bourne movie and have him being chased or chasing down the truth behind his past would be tiresome at best. I love The Bourne Ultimatum, but like “Winchester” said in the comments “there was – even by it’s turn in 2007 – some serious repetition of action moments and styles from Bourne Supremacy” in Bourne Ultimatum. To do it all again in 2012 would be more than just repetition, it would be forgotten and dismissed.

Just as the Bourne movies to this point virtually dismissed everything that went on in Robert Ludlum’s source novels, it would be best if the action and elements of the first three Bourne films were also left behind. As producer Frank Marshall has expressed in the past, it would be best to begin culling elements from other stories written by Robert Ludlum now that Universal has acquired the entire library.

Matt Damon and Julia Stiles in The Bourne Ultimatum
Photo: Universal Pictures

Already Universal has put into motion an adaptation of Ludlum’s “The Parsifal Mosiac,” which was once thought to be a project for Ron Howard, but I’m no longer sure if that’s the plan. That 1982 story centered on an intelligence agent in the United States, who believes his lover and partner is assumed to be a KGB double agent. I’m not sure how interesting it would be to have Nicky Parsons (Julia Stiles) chasing Bourne down after they shared something of a “moment” in Ultimatum, or what they would do with that story, but I think you get my drift.

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As for Damon, why not recast? Hasn’t the Jason Bourne character Damon portrayed satisfied his story arc with little room left to go other than an apartment complex with five other friends and coffee shop below? Isn’t this the best time to bring in a new actor if Universal wants the franchise to continue? Otherwise, if you are going to bring Damon back shouldn’t Bourne basically burn down the entire U.S. government or end up dead in the end? There is only so much exposing of government dirty laundry one character can do. Isn’t there?

I won’t even begin to speculate as to who could or should replace Damon, much of that depends on the direction they take the story. I could imagine them picking up The Bourne Legacy 10-15 years after Ultimatum at a point where Bourne has entirely dropped his alter-ego and is living by the name David Webb or something else and has become a hired assassin or perhaps runs a curio shop in Manhattan’s Chinatown where he sells mogwai to unsuspecting inventors. Who knows? There are plenty of possibilities, but I think Jason Bourne as we know him has run his course, and unless the writers plan on killing him this fourth film will need to some kind of major turnaround.

Bourne isn’t like Bond, or even Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt who will be returning in Mission: Impossible 4. It’s never been about the mission for Bourne, it’s been about reaction and I’m not sure there is enough left to provoke the character that hasn’t already been explored. Of course, I am just spit-balling here and trying to come up with editorial content and am in no way a screenwriter, but I know watching another movie with Jason Bourne running through the streets of a foreign city while engaging in hand-to-hand combat with an unnamed assassin has pretty much been done… Aren’t we going to need a little more this time around, and perhaps a new actor to add an additional freshness to it all?