Blog Credo

The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

Since I'm tired of writing about zombie-eyed granny starving, I thought I'd talk about the movie I saw last night.

The Bourne trilogy worked well, because at the center of it was a basic question that we shared with the central character: Who is Jason Bourne?  He didn't know, we didn't know.  That created a desperate void in the main character that drove him personally and the narrative as a whole.  The amazing stunts and chases and the usual tropes about secret government whozeewhatsis were all just ornamentation on a strong narrative need: Who is Jason Bourne?

The new film attempts to re-boot the franchise without that central question.  Instead, we basically get the story of yet more superhumans created in  government test tubes.  A kind of cynical X-Men scenario.

The character we are supposed to latch on to is basically addicted to the super-drugs that make him super-awesome.  He wants more so he doesn't become a moron again.  Which, I guess is laudable, but do we really need the idea that there is a pill that can short cut your path to personal improvement?  The film seems to function as an subtle indictment of a pharmaceutical company, while at the same time holding out the hope for a super-drug that can make us smart and strong.

It's not Jeremy Renner's fault.  He plays intelligently feral as well as Matt Damon played dangerously needy.  But this junkie's tale with elaborate stunts and locations doesn't work, because I don't give a damn about Alex Cross.  Jason Bourne's confusion about who he is and what was done to him, gives me a basic sympathy with him.  The loss of Marie in the second movie reinforces that.  Bourne is both potent and damaged.  Cross's character has lost that vulnerability.  The Flower for Algernon subplot never develops beyond - literally - a momentary look of confusion on Cross's face.  Then he gets his shot and all is cool again.

You can't help but compare this to moving from Sean Connery to Roger Moore, from dark and dangerous to light and frivolous.

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