Tuesday, September 16, 2014


No action franchise has been more beloved in my household than the Bourne films of the 2000s. Those were the good ol' days. The spy genre has had a long string of adaptations from bestselling books and plenty of heroes. Bourne's main appeal? He wasn't 007. He and the franchise were the complete antithesis to patriotism of "Queen and country", caricature villainy, and a bottomless pit of disposable income. Bourne trotted around the globe, too, but it wasn't Bond's swaggy 5 star travelogue, and the enemy was within. The CIA. Secret projects. A total lack of transparency. This was gritty and underground and accessible to us regular folk. The first installment, directed by Doug Liman, remains my favorite because of that realism. Anyone who has ever backpacked through Europe will connect with the visuals of the winding roads in the Alps, the chaotic lines in an embassy lobby, car rentals, dingy hotels, quick cafés, back street mazes, and public transportation. It resonated. There was a sense of camaraderie. A character was doing things as a real person would. 

When Paul Greengrass took over directing duties, the style changed a bit (for better or for worse, depending on if you like rapid, MTV style editing), but some of that grit remained. Greengrass was able to bring the story full circle, and I still remember the hearty clapping from euphoric audience members at a sold out screening of The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) as the story drew to a heart-pounding, satisfying close. 

Damon famously joked that were there ever a 4th installment, it would be called "The Bourne Redundancy." He was done with the franchise. Seemingly, so was Greengrass. I respect industry folks who have respect for their craft. They can cash in on a good thing, but know when to walk away once a project has run its course. These guys impressed. It wouldn’t stop Hollywood from trying to cash in, of course, and so the unnecessary and unmemorable The Bourne Legacy (2012) was made to segue into something that didn't need rebooting.  Mediocre box office numbers confirmed it.

Now, Jason Bourne, Damon's Bourne, is set to return to the big screen. Sure, they can cook up some inferior scheme for him to get back in the game. Either he has a family in danger/killed in order for him to seek more revenge, or he will be asked to come out of retirement for his special set of skills in order to thwart something, which smells more like Bond than a rogue agent who wants nothing to do with his government. He isn’t the type to get involved in something for the greater good of the American people or world peace. Any of these scenarios will be contrived. In reminds me of Connery's return to Bond in Diamonds Are Forever (1971) for one last hurrah. He was too old and it showed terribly. It was embarrassing. The Bourne franchise belongs to Damon. Jeremy Renner cannot compete, even though he, too, has a sequel in the works. 

A new Bourne film with Damon will likely be made out of greed from the producers and out of career necessity for Damon himself. You'd think he was making the big money, yet all of his recent films flopped. The general public doesn't really buy him as a character actor and they, strangely enough, don't buy him as an action hero outside of the Bourne sphere either - see Green Zone (2010), Elysium (2013). They do buy him as Jason. Many are excited at the prospect of another entry. I have to say, I'm eager to see how Damon responds, if anyone even bothers to ask him, to his prophetic statements of redundancy. Will he openly admit he's cashing a cheque? Or will he try to sell some half arsed idea of "furthering the character" and "still having something to say"? Many of us love Jason Bourne. We wish there was more only because he is such a rich character. In theory, it's a fan's dream. In practice, Hollywood will most certainly find a way to muck it up.

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