Saturday, August 04, 2007

"...then it fell apart, it fell apart."

Jason Bourne is today's action hero. And, unlike most of his ilk, his story arc is actually worthwhile, his films more than strobe lights and punch lines to which popcorn is eaten. Which is why I am so disappointed.

Backtracking, let me say that I am one of those individual's who is always looking for the "original." The movie is never better than the book. An ever-so-rare exception to that rule is Jason Bourne. Robert Ludlum's novel The Bourne Identity is a string of clichés unworthy of publication. Like a lot of books, actually. There are many other problems with the book, as well, including an inflated opinion of Bourne's intellect. A puzzle that took him dragging chapters to solve was obvious to this reader from the moment it was slyly laid out on the restaurant table. In summation, Identity is one of those novels so horrid I refused to finish it.

The film The Bourne Identity, in contrast, is superb. Perhaps because it kept only the base premise from the novel and discarded the pulp. But it still wasn't enough to make me a rabid fan. A fan, yes, but not rabid.

That distinction had to wait for The Bourne Supremacy (again, film not book--you think I'd subject myself to another Ludlum?). In many ways an inferior movie to the first, it was still very praiseworthy in its own right. I suppose it convinced me that Bourne was a full enough creation to exist outside the bounds of the initial one-sentence premise (man with amnesia turns out to assassin). And he is.

But you wouldn't know it from the third filmic installment. The Bourne Ultimatum, in theaters now, retains all the flaws from Supremacy but adds nothing in story. Well, there is the hint that Julia Styles and Matt Damon had a prior relationship and still have potential, but that was just for the benefit of forum junkies. Does that count as an addition? I don't see the point. While "Bourne III" boasts a marvelous cast (including David Strathairn and Goodbye Lenin's Daniel Brühl), it is essentially the same old song with little of the tune intact. Viewers thrilled at the Mini chase in Identity and to both chases in Supremacy. But Ultimatum is nothing but a chase scene in several acts, with only a few lines of copied-and-pasted dialogue to hold it together. Which, of course, cannot hold it together.

And yes, they really did reuse shots to lengthen the chase scenes.

In summation, if a Bourne IV is ever released I will definitely see it. But only out of deference for the first two.

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