Last year’s Salt earned considerable press long before it hit theaters because of a curious bit of gender-bending recasting: The titular CIA agent on the run was originally going to be played by Tom Cruise, but when Angelina Jolie expressed interest, “Edwin Salt” became “Evelyn Salt.” Since Jolie is essentially the only female action movie star, it seemed like a positively progressive maneuver – an indication that summer blockbusters didn’t have to resemble a frat house. Unfortunately, Salt itself was far from perfect – EW’s Owen Gleiberman gave it a B – and although it grossed $300 million globally, it underperformed compared to Jolie’s earlier, less expensive action-fest Wanted. Nevertheless, EW has confirmed that Sony has hired Salt screenwriter Kurt Wimmer to draft a script for Salt 2. Can the sequel improve on the original?
I’m actually cautiously – very cautiously – optimistic about Salt’s possibility as a franchise. Evelyn Salt isn’t so much a character as a unique vehicle for Jolie’s onscreen star power – similar, in a way, to the Ethan Hunt character from the Mission: Impossible movies. The thing I’ve always enjoyed about the Mission: Impossible series is that each film tells a very different story in a very different style, with a different director at the helm of each entry. So M:I 1 was a twisty espionage thriller that let Brian De Palma film everything from a bizarre angle; M:I 2 was basically a stealth Notorious remake shot in perpetual John Woo slow-motion; and M:I 3 was a Bourne-inflected caper shot with as many shaky close-ups as possible. (And who knows what Brad Bird is cooking up for Ghost Protocol?) You might not dig all the movies, but there’s something undeniably exciting about such a multi-flavored franchise.
With that in mind, I’d want Salt 2 to take a step forward from the first film’s machine-like precision. The end of Salt (SPOILER ALERT) implied that Jolie’s character was planning to begin a renegade manhunt of her fellow Russian-trained double agents. Wouldn’t it be nifty if the search took her on a globe-hopping adventure, as she slowly hunts down all her marks? It’d be a little bit like Kill Bill, with Salt slowly checking off a list of of ever-more-dangerous double agents? A director like Matthew Vaughn – whose X-Men: First Class felt like a backdoor audition for the James Bond franchise – could give a global storyline like that some serious atmosphere. Conversely, since the first Salt slowly morphed into an incredibly cartoonish actioner, why not take things even more over-the-top and hire Fast Five’s Justin Lin to direct? I envision some sort of chase where a train goes off an exploding bridge and then crashes into a boat, which then goes over Niagara Falls and crashes into a plane.
Readers, what would you like to see from Salt 2? Do you think this could be Angelina Jolie’s next action franchise, since she released two Tomb Raider films?
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