Saturday, July 30, 2016

Jason Bourne Review

It's been nine years since the character of Jason Bourne has graced theaters and I've got to say that it's really good to have him back! The original Bourne trilogy is one of my all-time favorite trilogies. I was going to watch them in preparation for this new film, but life got busy and I didn't get around to it. Oh well. I know them well enough to know what I like about them and what I expect from a new Jason Bourne movie. There are a few things that make this one of the greatest trilogies. First, all three movies are really good. That alone elevates it above a lot of trilogies. Sure, I could rank them from favorite to third favorite, but there's no weak link like there often is an a trilogy. Second, there is an overarching story that connects all three movies beautifully, yet each movie can stand on its own as an excellent film. Third, the action in each movie is phenomenal. Fourth, the aforementioned story is intense, intriguing, mysterious, and captivating. Fifth, the characters are all well-written allowing some great story arcs and character moments throughout, especially with our title character Jason Bourne. Thus these movies work well as action movies, thrillers, and character pieces. So yeah, this new movie had a lot to live up to. But we had our old crew back, so I was confident!

Yeah, there is a fourth movie in this series. But like everyone else, I'm going to mainly choose to ignore it. Why? Well, first off it's not really a Jason Bourne movie. It's an Aaron Cross movie. Paul Greengrass, director of Supremacy and Ultimatum, chose not to return as director and when that happened, Matt Damon chose not to return either. So we had a Jason Bourne movie without Jason Bourne. Jeremy Renner was cast as a Jason-Bourne-esque character named Aaron Cross and while he did a great job as the character, the movie spent the whole run time trying to justify why they were making a Jason Bourne movie without Jason Bourne instead of coming up with a good story. When you have a Jason Bourne movie with a poor story, that's a problem. The second half of the movie ended up being a ton of fun in terms of the action, but a decent action movie is all it was. It wasn't even a good thriller or a good character piece. I didn't hate the movie as much as some. I even gave it a decent review on this blog back when I was still fairly new to this movie reviewing thing. But I haven't seen it since theaters and I don't really have a strong desire to either because it's a very forgettable movie. All that really matters is our Matt Damon Bourne movies.

With those thoughts out of the way, it's time to get back to our real Jason Bourne movies. I was super excited when Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon decided to return for this fourth true Jason Bourne movie and thus this was one of my most anticipated movies of the year. The title announcement during that Super Bowl spot surprised me, though. They broke the trend of titling it "The Bourne _________" and just titled it Jason Bourne. They could've stolen another title from the book series. That's what The Bourne Legacy did. That fourth book and fourth movie literally have nothing in common outside that title. The fifth book is titled The Bourne Betrayal. That would've been a cool title. We also have a total of 13 books now (the last ten written by Eric Van Lustbader with the first three written by the late Robert Ludlum). We could've stolen a title from any of them. But no. Just Jason Bourne. Not bad, I suppose, since the books and the movies never really had a whole lot in common anyways. But I was stoked nonetheless. When I saw the score on Rotten Tomatoes for the first time, my heart literally sank. It's currently at 57 percent. That's only one percent higher than the 56 percent of The Bourne Legacy. I hate it when one of my most anticipated movies gets trashed by critics. Was this really going to be that bad?

No. Plain and simple. It's not that bad. So let's correct these Rotten Tomatoes scores real quick. 56 percent for Legacy is about right. As is 93 percent for Ultimatum. I'm bit surprised that Identity is only at 81 percent while Supremacy is only at 83 percent. The fact that nearly 20 percent of critics gave those first two movies a bad review is embarrassing for them. All three belong in the 90 percent range. So what about Jason Bourne? This belongs in the high 70 to low 80 range. It's not quite the masterpiece that the first three are, but it's still pretty good and is certainly much better than Legacy. Since Ultimatum did do a decent job of wrapping up the trilogy, how do they manage to extend this story? If you want that answer, you're just going to have to see the movie. I'm not going to dive into specifics with this story because this is a case where the marketing team for this movie actually did a great job with the trailers in NOT giving away the movie. If you read my most recent review of Nerve, I personally enjoyed the movie, but I was frustrated like heck that I knew exactly what was going to happen after every turn because the trailer for the movie was a two-minute cliff notes version of the entire movie. This didn't happen with Jason Bourne, though, so I'm going to respect that marketing and not even give you a general premise.

I will say that Legacy spent the whole movie trying to justify the fact that they were making another Bourne movie without even having Bourne in it. They spent so much time doing that that they forgot to tell an interesting story. No justification here for Jason Bourne. They simply pick up a certain period of time after Ultimatum left off and continue the story almost as if they never missed a beat. Unlike Legacy, this feels like a Jason Bourne movie! We follow the same formula that made the first three movies a success and thus I sat back and had a great time. I don't know if the trilogy is old enough for me to feel nostalgic while watching this new movie, but those are the feelings I had. It was good to see the crew back together. It was great having Matt Damon back as Jason Bourne. And it looked like everyone was having fun making this movie. It didn't feel like a cash grab for the studio and Matt Damon didn't look like he was there for a paycheck. If you listen to interviews with Matt Damon, the guy loves playing Jason Bourne. He loves having the title of being Jason Bourne follow him around for his whole career. Some actors aren't a fan of that. Matt Damon is fine with it. He loves Jason Bourne and you could tell that from this performance. It felt like he was enjoying being back in this role and thus it was fun to watch him.

If I go back to the reasons why the Bourne movies are so great, we have three things. Great action movies. Great thrillers. Great character pieces. Once again, I'm not diving into super detailed specifics here, but I want to analyze Jason Bourne against those three aspects in order to fairly determine how it holds up to those movies. Legacy wasn't good because it only got the action right. It missed the other two aspects. Jason Bourne manages to successfully hit all three, but the issue is that it didn't hit quite as high in either category as I was hoping. Let's start with the action. One staple of the Bourne movies is the brilliant use of shaky cam. There's a lot of people that will say that this stylistic choice is inherently bad. I disagree. Is it overused sometimes? Perhaps. Is it always necessary? No. But it's not inherently bad and this franchise is a great example of that. Paul Greengrass does a great job of implementing the shaky and making it improve his movies. In my opinion, the shaky cam enhances the action sequences and makes the movie more intense. However, if you are one that got sick or dizzy watching the Bourne movies, I totally understand if you don't like it. If you were hoping that this one would be different, sorry. It's the same as the others, so proceed with caution. That aside, the actual action here was phenomenal... when it happened. Great opening sequence. Great closing sequence. A few fun fights in between. But we did go a long time without any action.

That leads me to the next point. Thriller. This movie is a lot more thriller than action, almost to a fault. In each Bourne movie, Bourne is trying to get answers to something while others are trying to hunt him down for some reason, thus making for a very intriguing story that leaves you on the edge of your seat. Same formula here. If it ain't broken, don't fix it. That's the philosophy they use with this series and it works once again. Mostly. But in this case, there was a lot more hunting him down than actually fighting him. Jason Bourne spends a whole heck of a lot of time walking and others spend a whole heck of a lot of time trying to catch up to him or find him. I wanted a few more confrontations along the way. That would've helped our balance not be so lopsided. But it definitely was a lot of really intense walking because the people were almost catching him, which made me nervous. Then we had our super intense score playing the whole time. So good. The biggest problem with the thriller element, though, was it was kinda like one of those heart monitors. Spike. Drop. Spike. Drop. Spike. Drop. What I mean there is that there are actually two plot lines going on. One interesting one. One boring one. I wanted to stay on the interesting one, but we didn't. The movie kept getting derailed with this second plot line that I didn't care about and that was frustrating.

Finally, the characters. The Bourne movies always have great characters on both sides. Jason Bourne is trying to figure out who he is and why people are trying to kill him while the people on the other side have pretty dang good motivations for trying to stop him. In Jason Bourne, I loved all of our characters. But I didn't completely understand the motivations behind everything. Motivations were clear in the original trilogy. Here they weren't and thus with this specific element of the movie it felt more hollow and unbelievable than it should've. It wasn't bad. It just wasn't as compelling. But the actors did a great job with it anyways. As I said earlier, Matt Damon looked like he was having a blast playing this character again. Then we had Tommy Lee Jones and Alicia Vikander. Tommy Lee Jones played your typical old guy in a Bourne movie role. We have a lot of old crazy people in this franchise and Tommy Lee Jones just might be the best one. And Alicia Vikander just might be the most interesting part of this movie. I won't say why, but this girl is special. Ever since she made my jaw drop in Ex Machina last year, she has been on fire. She was great in The Danish Girl. She was great in The Man from U.N.C.L.E. She was great in this. She's definitely an actress who is going places.

The discussion of expectations are an interesting one. With Nerve this week, I absolutely loved myself. But I went in with really low expectations and that's probably a good part of the reason why I enjoyed myself so much. With Jason Bourne, I was slightly let down, but that's because Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon have proven in the past that they can team up and make a nearly perfect action thriller and thus when they don't hit that level again, it can be seen as disappointing. That's why I honestly think this movie has such a low score on Rotten Tomatoes. Expectations were so high that it's easy to trash the movie because it didn't live up to those lofty expectations. But yet this movie doesn't deserve to be trashed. No, it's not a great movie. But it's still a good movie. There's not as much action as I wanted, but the action that's there is still pretty dang good. Our thrill ride was disconnected frequently by another plot line that didn't belong, but it was still a good thriller. Our character motivations weren't as clear or interesting, but we still had great characters. Overall, I still really enjoyed myself with this movie, even if it wasn't as good as it could've been, and I hope another sequel is on it's way with this team. I'm going to give Jason Bourne an 8/10.

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