Saturday, September 17, 2016

Jason Bourne review

I loved the first Bourne movie. It wasn't a big movie, but it was tight one. The action was fast, clever, and somehow personal. The plot was interesting and kept your attention; you might have a pretty good guess about what the big secret was, but you still wanted to know for sure. Bourne was likeable, and had actual human interactions with other important cast members.

I think I've talked about this before, but I would say that there's three basic approaches to making sequels. The first is to try to do something different, the second is to do the exact same thing again, and the third is to do the exact same thing again but to make it bigger and better. Well, to make it bigger anyway; the thinking seems to be that making it bigger automatically makes it better. I don't believe that is inherently the case though.

The Bourne series chose the third approach. Every sequel had less of what I liked about the first and more of the kind of generic big Hollywood action set-pieces that don't really do much for me. What's more, I feel that there was less of a sense of danger after the first; they made a big point of lionizing Bourne (one of the big lines from the Bourne Supremacy trailer was "They don't make mistakes"), meaning that you no longer really wondered if he would fail or not, you just knew he wouldn't - he was Jason Bourne after all, and he was basically super-human.

Consequently, I enjoyed each sequel less and less. But I still enjoyed them. Unfortunately this latest one is the first that I didn't enjoy at all. Why? Well, the biggest reason is the scourge of modern cinematography: super-quick cuts and constant shaky cam. I'm not even exaggerating when I say that I'm quite certain the camera never stopped shaking. No matter how little was happening, no matter how quiet the scene, the camera was shaking. It actually gave me a headache at times.

I could never see what was happening in any of the action scenes. By the end I had given up; as Bourne was engaging in what I think was a big car chase and the final boss fight, I could not see a single thing and was just waiting for it to end. I no longer cared; I was done.

Also, the plot is the most basic version of the Bourne sequel pattern: he gets pulled back in from hiding, there's some kind of secret about his past that he wants to discover, a government agency led by a corrupt old dude hunts him while one woman on the inside inexplicable decides that he's not the bad guy and decides to secretly help him (oops, spoiler warning? Bleh, who cares, it's not really a surprise and not worth caring about). There's really nothing at all new here, and the old stuff isn't even well fleshed out.

The details holding the different scenes together didn't even amount to much in my view; most scenes basically just start with "the magic computer box says Bourne is here, go get him". Tracing hackers, facial recognition, whatever; it's all very lazy: people in a room stare at a computer and declare that person X is in location Y and a chase scene happens. Rinse and repeat.

What's more, this Bourne has zero personality. He has almost no dialogue, no emotions to express, and to be honest not much reason to even be there. Oh, there's a secret about his dad or something, but it is easily the weakest motivation they've come up with for him to be... I dunno, running around kidnapping old dudes or whatever. And there's straight-up no payoff at the end; the secret is so inconsequential that nobody really cared, not even Bourne as far as I can tell.

You know, I think I'm going to have to score this as a 4/10. This is probably the lowest score I've ever given in a review; I've certainly seen worse movies (usually not all the way through...), but I don't usually feel the need to review them. And even movies that I hate far more than this one I usually end up rating higher because I can at least see that they do some things well even if I don't like them. But I just don't think Jason Bourne has any real redeeming features: the plot was weak, the action was terrible, the characters were boring... I just never saw anything about it that was ever anything more than sub-standard. It's just... it's just bad. That's all.

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