How Taken Ruined The Franchise

When Luc Besson introduced the world to Bryan Mills, a former government operative with a certain set of skills that could easily take down the men who abducted his daughter Kim, it was a fun exercise that felt fresh and new. By no means was Taken a masterpiece, but it did the job that it set out to do, which is to entertain the hell out the mainstream audience. Surprisingly, the film became a huge hit by making over $200 million worldwide. Taken actually introduced a new style of action hero, an aged veteran, and given how hot the brand was, executives decided to capitalize by milking this cash cow dry.

To the credit of Luc Besson, he somewhat switched up the premise by getting the daughter more involved in the sequel, but gone were the thrills that made the first film feel unique and fresh back in 2008. Still, Taken 2 made over $300 million, thus it was a success regardless. However, the sequel was never needed in the first place. It’s a nice callback to play off the original film by having Murad be the father of the man that Bryan killed. However, the story in the first film was complete. Bryan got his daughter back and there wasn’t any particular need to do another revenge flick of this nature. Taken wasn’t some complex action flick in the vein of The Bourne Identity saga. That franchise had layers upon layers of story that were surrounded by the central figure who was trying to understand his past.

Taken was about a retired CIA Agent on a mission to get his daughter back. There weren’t any other layers to the world or characters that needed further exploring. Is it possible that Taken 2 could’ve been a great movie? Yes, but the story would’ve needed to focus on another character. The Taken franchise could’ve been an anthology series that focused on a different set of characters who just happened to be taken. The story shouldn’t be the same nor should the characters be identical. Perhaps the sequel could’ve focused on a mom in the search for her missing kids? Or even an FBI agent who takes justice into his own hands following the death of a loved one? Realistically, there’s not much to squeeze of the premise itself; however, it is possible to play with the world by changing up the style of each film. However, it’s understandable why the filmmakers kept it on Bryan Mills and his family. Liam Neeson is part of the reason that the franchise was successful so he was an integral tool that executives likely felt was necessary. The only thing the sequel did was expose how paper thin the premise was from the beginning. Taken should’ve been a one-and-done film.

Part III only further confirmed that notion. This time, no one is taken, but it went into the lazy storytelling of Bryan being accused of a murder he didn’t commit. How many films or television stories have done this type of angle? Taken isn’t exactly known for it’s nuance and intelligent writing, so the fact that this was the route that Besson when was a mistake. It’s possible to create something fresh out of this stale premise, but it has to be a really clever script that either plays on the tropes of said films and turns it on it’s head, or completely outsmart the audience at each and every turn. It didn’t. What’s worse is that Taken 3 couldn’t even just be a predictable and fun actioner either. The first film established that this franchise was nothing more than popcorn thrills. The sequels felt trapped because it had to follow the formula that made the franchise successful in the first place. Any risk of deviating from what made the first installment so popular could hurt the brand, even if it would’ve made the films better overall. The sequel needed to desperately get away from being Taken. I don’t mean just the story, but the overall world, characters, and structure. And to the credit of both sequels, they managed to keep audiences invested because the franchise ended on a high note financially. So, in the end, Hollywood got to successfully milk their cash cow dry, but no one is going to fondly remember the Taken franchise as something that defined action movies as a whole. Bryan Mills and his family should’ve ridden off into the sunset happily and never returned to theaters. Sometimes it’s okay for filmmakers to just say no. Granted, movies isn’t just art, but it’s their job so I’m not going to be too hard on these creatives. It’s just a shame that the Taken franchise felt like nothing more than an unnecessary cash grab.

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