He loved his car. He loved his suits. And he followed his rules. Frank Martin of the Transporter series has to be one of the most elegant action heroes of the past decade. Jason Statham made him so. The Transporter released in 2002 and played a big part in launching Statham as an action star who can make the ladies swoon and leave the guys awe-struck. A sequel followed in 2005 and the third installment came out in 2008. By then Jason Statham was a big action hero, and even though the movie did modest business in the USA, the box-office collections were higher in the overseas markets. However, despite the popularity that Jason Statham has earned on account of this movie series, the studios would not have made much of a profit, if anything at all. The three movies put together grossed $235 million worldwide as against the production budget of $95 million; add the marketing costs and remove the exhibitor’s share from the earnings, and the costs and revenues might just about tally. A TV series was later launched, titled Transporter: The Series, with actor Chris Vance taking over the role of Frank Martin, but following the same rules. And that sort of seemed the right way for the franchise to go.
So it was a surprise when a reboot of Transporter series was announced earlier this year for a theatrical release. Luc Beeson who created this character as well as produced the original trilogy is in the thick of things once again. His production company EuropaCorp will be distributing this film through the newly launched domestic marketing and distribution joint venture with Relativity Media. Beeson will be producing the movie too along with China’s Fundamental Films, and it is very likely that we may have a lot of action this time in China itself (the way Transformers: Age of Extinction benefited from its Chinese adventure).
But the big question is, who is going to take the mantle from Jason Statham. The new movie titled The Transporter Legacy will see Frank Martin return, but this time in the guise of new actor Ed Skrein (pictured above). That’s a name very few people would be familiar with, given the limited movies that Skrein has been a part of till now. Maybe the fans of Game of Thrones HBO series would recognise him as the character Daario Naharis (from the third season), but for others, his real break is going to come through The Transporter Legacy. Ed Skrein is a British actor, aged 31 as of now, has released a music album too (he’s a rap artist), and seems quite an athlete having swum the English Channel in the past. Will that be enough to make him the next Transporter?
Jason Statham oozed his own brand of coolness; his demeanor and charisma gave that character a style which isn’t easy for anyone else to carry. It would not have been possible to keep Statham in this series without inflating the budget, which is of paramount importance here, given the modest box-office collections that the franchise has seen in the past. But to replace him and still hope for the fan base of the original trilogy to make a beeline for the theatres is going to be a tough ask. Many of us, including myself, were watching the sequels only for Statham. That’s a big job handed over to Ed Skrein now. The best thing that the film-makers can ask of Skrein is to breakaway from the Statham mould that Frank Martin finds himself in. If Skrein were to try to replicate Statham’s Martin, then comparisons would be unavoidable and I fear that Skrein would not be able to match up. As this is a reboot, the movie may take an altogether different path than the original films and keep little connection with them. Which could include a different personality of Frank Martin. Maybe make him more vocal, maybe make him more boyish. But do not mess with the rules! The rules were as much integral to the movies as Statham himself, and with the latter missing, the former’s importance all the more grows.
Luc Beeson plans a new trilogy now, with The Transporter Legacy slated for a March 2015 release. Camille Delamarre is directing the movie, someone who is well-versed with fast-paced action movies having worked as an editor for Transporter 3 and Taken 2 before making his directorial debut with 2013’s Brick Mansions. He’s also worked on the TV series The Transporter: Series as a second unit director. So there are still familiar people involved with the upcoming movie, though Jason Statham will be a big miss. In a packed 2015, The Transporter Legacy will find the going to be tough, but hopefully Ed Skrein will give us a Frank Martin to remember.
And just to remember those good old days, here is the trailer of 2002’s The Transporter with Jason Statham as the original Frank Martin! Oh and in case you had forgotten, he’ll be back behind the wheels too, in next year’s Fast & Furious 7.