How The Bourne Movies Almost Killed The Xander Cage Franchise

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The original Xander Cage was set to kick off a major new spy franchise, but here’s how the success of the Jason Bourne films nearly killed the series.

Here’s how the Jason Bourne movies almost killed the Xander Cage franchise before it got off the ground. In the late 1990s, Sony tried to launch their own rival James Bond series as they owned the rights to the first 007 novel Casino Royale and entered into a partnership with producer Kevin McClory, who held the rights to Thunderball. After a legal battle, Sony handed over Casino Royale to MGM in exchange for Spider-Man and instead set about creating their own unique spy series.

This came in the form of Diesel’s 2002 film, which saw the NSA recruit extreme sports star Xander Cage (Vin Diesel). The big pitch of Xander Cage was that James Bond was outdated, and Cage was the cool new spy for the 21st century who could skateboard or skydive his way out of danger. Diesel was coming off the back of The Fast And The Furious‘ success, so the first Xander Cage was a solid hit. Two more sequels would follow, although the franchise never became the James Bond slayer it was intended to be.

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That was largely due to a shift in the way espionage movies and TV changed in the 21st century. Instead of the somewhat goofy antics of Pierce Brosnan’s later 007 adventures, shows like 24 or The Sum Of All Fears presented darker, more grounded spy thrillers. However, the real game-changer from this era was The Bourne Identity, which cast Matt Damon – after Brad Pitt passed – as an assassin suffering from amnesia. The film’s stripped-down approach, handheld camerawork and Bourne’s reliance on his own wits and ingenuity to get out of trouble made The Bourne Identity feel like a new kind of sky movie. It was a surprise success, with the 2004 sequel The Bourne Supermacy doing even better – and their acclaim soon overshadowed the Xander Cage franchise.

Instead of ripping up the rulebook, Xander Cage ultimately felt like familiar territory in terms of story and action scenes. The film did manage to outgross The Bourne Identity – with both films arriving in 2002 – but the latter’s more innovative approach soon began to seep into other movies and shows. The Bourne Supremacy only sealed the franchise and character’s place in pop culture, and their style would soon be adopted for the Bond franchise itself, starting with 2006’s Casino Royale. In contrast, the over-the-top antics of the original Xander Cage movie were already looking dated, and its aim to become a major new franchise were further hampered by Diesel abruptly dropping out of State of the Union.

By the time State Of The Union – which cast Ice Cube as the movie’s new hero – hit screens in 2005, it looked embarrassingly out of touch. It was a cartoony, CGI-heavy blockbuster that also played like a flat conspiracy thriller, and it quickly bombed. The Jason Bourne movies would come to define this period of the spy genre, for better or worse. While their success may have wounded the Xander Cage series, they ultimately made a comeback with 2017’s The Return Of Xander Cage. A fourth entry is also in development, though a lawsuit has delayed it.

Next: Xander Cage Has A Villain Problem (How To Fix It)

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About The Author Padraig Cotter (3606 Articles Published)

It’s pronounced Paw-rick, not Pad-raig. Now that’s out of the way, a brief introduction. Padraig has been writing about film online since 2012, when a friend asked if he’d like to contribute the occasional review or feature to their site. A part-time hobby soon blossomed into a career when he discovered he really loved writing about movies, TV and video games – he even (arguably) had a little bit of talent for it. He has written words for Den of Geek, Collider, The Irish Times and Screen Rant over the years, and can discuss anything from the MCU – where Hawkeye is clearly the best character – to the most obscure cult b-movie gem, and his hot takes often require heat resistant gloves to handle. He’s super modern too, so his favorite movies include Jaws, Die Hard, The Thing, Ghostbusters and Batman. He can be found as i_Padds on Twitter making bad puns.

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