When Taken came out in January of 2009, it was not expected to be a runaway success. In fact, it was an action movie going up against the Super Bowl. But the film became an honest-to-goodness word-of-mouth hit. Liam Neeson was reborn as an action star – leading to The A-Team and Unknown – and the film made $145 Million at the box office. A sequel was assured and spoken of repeatedly. Earlier today Deadline Hollywood wanted to throw some cold water on that fire, reporting that either the film would go forward without Neeson, or shoot in another year. Now it appears that those contract disputes have been resolved, and shooting is to begin either at the end of the year or the start of 2012
Luc Besson wrote and produced the original, and has been working on a sequel with writer Robert Mark Kamen with eyes on Olivier Megaton to direct. Megaton previously helmed the Besson-produced Transporter 3, and Megaton comes from the stable of younger directors who’ve worked under Besson until they break into Hollywood. This group includes Clash of the Titans‘ Louis Leterrier and Taken‘s Pierre Morel, who was working on the update of Dune for a while. Besson – wanting to move forward – had come up with a list of suitable replacements, including Ralph Fiennes, Mickey Rourke and Sean Bean, but that list has proven unnecessary.
It’s likely that the earlier news break was part of ongoing contract negotiations. But if anything, the success of Taken suggests more of a right time/right place/right story than anything Neeson brought to the table, as he’s been hard pressed to capture the public’s attention as successfully (see also: Unknown). If Neeson wants a franchise, this is a good one to have in his pocket.
The biggest problem facing the sequel is that as much as audiences are willing to go to follow-ups to films like this, heroes like the sort Neeson played – be they like Paul Kersey in Death Wish, or John McClane in Die Hard - rarely make for good sequel stories, and often the second film just remakes the original to less effect, as in Escape From L.A..
Do you have a better joke title than Taken 2: Electric Boogaloo?