Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bourne again

Is it just me, or do you also feel like you need a fourth Bourne Identity movie like you need a shard of light bulb in your eye?

Of course, Green Zone, out today, is not technically another Jason Bourne movie. But it stars Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and is directed by the guy who directed the last two Bourne movies (Paul Greengrass), so for all intents and purposes, it is. If Green Zone were these two collaborating on a 19th century costume drama, that would be one thing. (And that would be a pretty funny name for the movie). But it's an action thriller about a Jason Bourne-like character, who's like Jason Bourne if only because he has combat skills and is played by Matt Damon.

It may only be me, actually, because the vast majority of people I know seem to feel quite strongly about The Bourne Identity and its ever-more-ridiculously-named sequels. Me, I got off on the wrong foot with them.

It all started when I went to go see The Bourne Identity with a friend back in 2002. My office was in the same building as the local multiplex, and I got off work at 4. He wasn't working predictable hours at the time, so he met me soon after I quit for the day, and we probably went to see a 4:30 show. It wasn't the only time I'd gone to a movie right after work, not hardly. But on this particular day, I must have been tired, because I yawned throughout the whole thing. Whether or not I should blame that on The Bourne Identity (directed by Doug Liman, before Greengrass got involved in the franchise) is debatable, but I do anyway. To make a second reference to that theoretical 19th century costume drama, I'd be able to understand yawning through something like that, with its necessarily slower pace. But a spy movie full of fisticuffs and gunplay? I shouldn't have been checking my watch. So I did blame The Bourne Identity, for making me yawn a lot more than the other movies I'd watched immediately after work had made me yawn.

Needless to say, I wasn't that excited for the theatrical release of The Bourne Supremacy in 2004. But there had been a change in directors, to some guy named Paul Greengrass with whom I was not really familiar. So I retained some hope that I'd like the second movie better. This hope was still not enough to prioritize a viewing -- until I saw Greengrass' United 93 in 2006, that is. The gritty realism of that movie impressed me and moved me hugely -- it was my third-favorite film of the year. Friends told me to expect the same kind of gritty realism from The Bourne Supremacy, which was supposed to look like one of those European spy movies from the 1970s. (I don't know exactly which movies I'm referring to here, but I imagine you get what I'm going for.) Well, upon finally renting it, I ended up being just as disappointed with The Bourne Supremacy as I was with The Bourne Identity, if not more so. Maybe I just don't buy Matt Damon as an action hero. Or maybe I just don't care that much about movies involving spies and international intrigue. Or maybe I just think amnesia is a dumb and lazy screenwriting gimmick. Maybe it was just a perfect storm of all of these, with my own maturation as a viewer and the particular ingredients of these films combining to leave me underwhelmed. However you slice it, I was simply not a fan of the Jason Bourne movies. Trying to make myself one was just an exercise in futility.

Which is why I skipped The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) entirely. What was the ultimatum? I may never know. Just how I never figured out what the "supremacy" was. Maybe it was "Get your memory back once and for all, or I'm leaving you." I guess I associate ultimatums with women telling their boyfriends they need a ring by such-and-such date, or we're through. That's probably not what The Bourne Ultimatum was about.

At least an actual fourth Bourne movie does not appear to be on the verge of materializing. In 2008, production was ramping up with screenwriter George Nolfi working on a script, and Damon and Greengrass both attached. This despite the fact that Damon had previously said they'd "ridden this horse as far as they can ride it," and that Greengrass had jokingly titled the fourth movie The Bourne Redundancy. However, the movie went into turnaround, and Damon recently described it as "at least five years away." What's more, Greengrass would no longer be attached to this theoretical project, with Doug Liman listed as a candidate to replace him, bringing the franchise right back to where it started. But all of this seems pretty speculative at this point, as does the potential existence of a Bourne prequel that would not involve either Damon or Greengrass.

But Green Zone seems like it will function pretty well as a fourth Bourne, doesn't it? Okay, Damon isn't a spy here, but he is a CIA officer, in search of weapons of mass destruction in post-Saddam Iraq. I'm sure there are not nearly so many fisticuffs or gunplay, but I do remember seeing at least one explosion in the ad. Maybe this will resemble a Syriana more than it will resemble a Bourne movie, but it's still Greengrass and Damon, two guys I like plenty well individually, but not so well in concert.

And as long as they don't become the next Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, maybe I'll continue to like them plenty well individually.

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