Universal planning a Robert Ludlum Cinematic Universe with Dwayne Johnson

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It seems shared universes are all the craze now that it has worked so successfully for Marvel and the studios seem to all be jumping at the idea thinking it’s a guarantee to future box office receipt. Personally, it scares me as they are getting increasingly carried away with the idea – we obviously have Disney doing the same thing expanding the Star Wars movies, Paramount and their Transformers Universe which they want to expand and then Warner Bros has their DC Comics shared universe. We’ve also recently heard of Universe planning a monsters shared universe starting with The Mummy and then we have the Godzilla and King Kong films sharing the same universe. While I like the idea of narrative consistency, I don’t think the average movie goer cares enough to following all these universes and now Universal (being true to their name, I guess) have gone ahead and planned another one, based on the works of Robert Ludlum.

Universal will kick off their new universe with the Dwayne Johnson-led The Janson Directive, which has been in the works at the studio since 2011. Johnson, who seems to be the go-to man for action movies these days, has been attached to the project since 2014, and while it was always meant to be a name-brand franchise for Johnson, it’s now going to kick off even more. According to The Hollywood Reporter The Amazing Spider-Man and White House Down scribe James Vanderbilt will be crafting the series of shared universe films alongside his partners at Mythology Entertainment, Brad Fischer and William Sherak, as well as Ben Smith and Jeffrey Weiner of Captivate Entertainment.

The Janson Directive, which Vanderbilt is adapting on a story co-authored by Akiva Goldsman (Transformers) will see Johnson as a former operative who is now a world-famous security consultant. When he takes on a job to rescue a kidnapped Nobel laureate, his life is thrown upside down after the rescue mission goes horribly wrong and he’s charged with the victim’s death. It’s a typically clichéd story, but Lundlum is a master of building suspense and tension, so don’t expect it to be ordinary.

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Universal has apparently been working on bringing a number of Ludlum’s spy thrillers to the screen, including The Parsifal Mosaic, The Sigma Protocol and Covert One, and is now aiming to bring the titles together under one larger interconnected banner, rather than develop them separately. No word on how Johnson’s Janson (too soon?) will factor into the larger Ludlum-verse or how they plan to interconnect all the characters. I’m also not sure if they plan to include the Bourne series into this shared Universe, which would probably be too late to pull off now anyway, but I wouldn’t put it past them to get Johnson and Damon together in the same action movie.

The Bourne Legacy proved though that you can’t just copy/paste the appeal of Ludlum’s spy thrillers, so it will be interesting to see what direction they will take with these new films.

Johnson meanwhile is proving to be a super-hero of his own in balancing an absolutely packed schedule. His HBO series Ballers returns for Season 2 this summer, before he teams up with Kevin Hart in the action comedy Central Intelligence, which arrives in theaters next month.  He has already wrapped up filming on Baywatch  and has a host of new movies in development including Fast 8, the Jumanji remake, a Rampage adaptation with San Andreas director Brad PeytonSan Andreas 2, a ‘Lethal Weapon inspired’ action comedy from Will Gluck, and possibly Doc Savage with Shane Black. And now this.  Perhaps the studio should just film a documentary on his schedule and release it as an action flick instead – it may be just as crazy.

Last Updated: May 20, 2016

Craig Risi

A man of many talents, but no sense how to use them. I could be discovering the cure for aids or finding ways to achieve world peace, but I'd rather be watching movies and writing here instead.

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