Posted on Thursday, May 19th, 2016 by Ethan Anderton
Back in September of 2014, news surfaced that Dwayne Johnson would star in The Janson Directive, based on the novel of the same name from The Bourne Identity author Robert Ludlum. The project just so happened to be set up at Universal Pictures, the home of the Jason Bourne film franchise, which made the opportunity for a crossover easily possible. Thankfully, Universal isn’t trying to expand the world of Jason Bourne again, but they are looking to create a new cinematic universe.
The Janson Directive will be the first in a series of films based on Robert Ludlum novels that all take place in the same universe, and Universal has already assembled a team to shepherd the new endeavor. Find out more about the Robert Ludlum cinematic universe after the jump.
If you’re unfamiliar with The Janson Directive, here’s the official synopsis of the book from Amazon:
When billionaire philanthropist Peter Novak is kidnapped by a terrorist known as The Caliph, it’s up to Paul Janson — a legend in the notorious U.S. covert agency Consular Operations — to save him. But Janson’s rescue operation goes horribly wrong…and soon Janson is marked for death, the target of a “beyond salvage” order issued from the highest level of the government. Now Janson is running for his life, pursued by Jessica Kincaid, a young agent of astonishing ability who can anticipate and counter his every move. To survive, Janson must outrace a conspiracy that has gone beyond the control of its originators. To win, he must counter it with a conspiracy of his own…
Johnson will be playing the title character with the book being adapted by James Vanderbilt, the writer behind The Amazing Spider-Man franchise, White House Down and this summer’s Independence Day: Resurgence. Those titles don’t exactly inspire confidence, but at the very least, Vanderbilt has blockbuster film experience.
Vanderbilt worked with Akiva Goldsman (who is coming off building the Transformers cinematic universe) to crack the story for The Janson Directive, and he’ll also be working with his Mythology Entertainment partners Brad Fischer and William Sherak to develop the series of films that will be part of the Robert Ludlum universe. Captivate Entertainment’s Ben Smith and Jeffrey Weiner are also overseeing the cinematic universe creation as well.
Beyond The Janson Directive, other titles that Universal already had in development that will be part of this new universe include The Parsifal Mosaic, The Sigma Protocol and Covert One. That means these movies won’t be part of the Jason Bourne universe, which also includes The Bourne Legacy with Jeremy Renner, but that’s probably for the best.
After The Janson Directive, The Hollywood Reporter says the plan is for Vandebilt to co-write two more treatments for movies based on a couple of Ludlum books, though it’s not clear if they will include any of the three other aforementioned titles. They will help the cinematic universe take shape and other writers will be hired to turn the treatments into screenplays.
The appeal of a cinematic universe is obvious for a movie studio, but does Universal really need to link all of the Ludlum novels they had in development to create a larger cinematic world? Is there any narrative benefit beyond just having connective tissue between the movies? The trade mentions that the movies will have crossover points, which likely means certain characters will appear in several movies, perhaps even the main characters. Johnson is certainly excited about the prospect:
The Janson Directive is classic Robert Ludlum. Sharp, edgy and layered storylines. The character is complex, conflicted, bad ass and lethal — I can’t wait to sink my teeth into this and bring him to life. Between Jamie, Akiva, Captivate and Universal, it’s an exciting time to help produce and build out this awesome Ludlum universe.
Johnson is certainly a huge action star, but does he have the dramatic chops to pull off a role like this? After all, The Jason Bourne franchise had plenty of outstanding drama to go with the intense action. Frankly, I’m not entirely sure that Johnson could deliver the kind of nuanced, layered performance that Matt Damon has turned in and will reprise this summer. But not every main character needs to be like Jason Bourne, so it could work out just fine. Only time will tell.
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