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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish. "The Bourne Legacy" opens in theaters next week. It's the fourth thriller in the "Bourne" movie series and the first without either Jason Bourne or the star playing him, Matt Damon. Critic Bob Mondello explains how they're both suddenly unnecessary.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: When a film hit becomes a film franchise, it's not wise to get too attached to the stars. Tinseltown takes that show-must-go-on thing pretty seriously with pictures that make a couple of hundred million dollars, and contract disputes, artistic differences, even deaths aren't going to interfere when profits are on the line. I mean, "Harry Potter" fans were mostly lucky, just one major replacement in a decade of films: Professor Dumbledore, shrouded helpfully behind a thick beard.

But we've seen five Batmen in eight movies, three Hulks in three movies and then, of course, there's the granddaddy of all the recast film franchises - "007" - in which we got Sean.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM SERIES, "JAMES BOND")

SEAN CONNERY: (as James Bond) Bond.

MONDELLO: George.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM SERIES, "JAMES BOND")

GEORGE LAZENBY: (as James Bond) Bond.

MONDELLO: Roger.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM SERIES, "JAMES BOND")

ROGER MOORE: (as James Bond) Bond.

MONDELLO: Timothy.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM SERIES, "JAMES BOND")

TIMOTHY DALTON: (as James Bond) Bond.

MONDELLO: Pierce.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM SERIES, "JAMES BOND")

PIERCE BROSNAN: (as James Bond) Bond.

MONDELLO: And now, Daniel.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM SERIES, "JAMES BOND")

DANIEL CRAIG: (as James Bond) Bond, James Bond.

MONDELLO: And in the "007" movies, that was just the start. The alphabet parts also changed: new Q's to give Bond his gadgets, new M's to give him his orders. M even changed gender without audiences batting an eye, maybe because all these characters are British, and the Brits had been watching the regenerating "Doctor Who" nearly as long as "James Bond." Not that American audiences can't keep up. They'd been perfectly comfortable with those interchangeable Darrins on TV's "Bewitched" back in the 1960s. Dick York.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BEWITCHED")

DICK YORK: (as Darrin Stephens) Sam.

ELIZABETH MONTGOMERY: (as Samantha Stephens) Darrin.

MONDELLO: Replaced by Dick Sargent.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "BEWITCHED")

DICK SARGENT: (as Darrin Stephens) Sam.

MONTGOMERY: (as Samantha Stephens) Darrin.

MONDELLO: Casting that really should have inspired a "Sergeant York" headline, don't you think? There've always been lots of replacements on TV, possibly because there, almost everything is a series, and with long-running hits, producers don't have much choice but to barrel ahead, as they did on "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air," when Janet Hubert's Aunt Viv got replaced by Daphne Maxwell Reid's Aunt Viv after the third season.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THE FRESH PRINCE OF BEL-AIR")

JEFFREY TOWNES: (as Jazz) You know, Ms. Banks, since you had that baby, there's something different about you.

MONDELLO: Standing on the sidelines, Will Smith just gave the camera a knowing look, and that was that. With movies, though, there's more at stake, which is why Tinseltown has developed what it's calling the reboot. Not quite a remake, but not quite new either, a reboot, I'm convinced, is called that because it's a good way to gently kick a star to the curb. "Spider-Man's" Tobey Maguire, for instance, who was 27 when he first played high schooler Peter Parker, but is now 37, old enough to have fathered a high schooler of his own.

So for the reboot, "The Amazing Spider-Man," we get Andrew Garfield, who is amazing, though not all that much younger. Anyway, this process is not going away, unless audiences simply stop showing up. At which point, Hollywood will stop making sequels, prequels and, for symmetry, shall we call reboots requels? Stop making them until producers can figure out how to reboot the whole industry, that is, because those three forms accounted for all 12 of the top dozen hits last year. I'm Bob Mondello.

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