Scott submitted the following on why the Bourne Movies fail. I completely disagree, and so we did a kind of point/counterpoint thing.
Why the Bourne movies are a failure by Scott
I recently sat down and watched the Jason Bourne series with my dad and I can see why people like them: they’re stylish and fast-paced with plenty of action (I can particularly see why my father, who constantly complains that most movies are ‘too long’ --- despite the fact that he will gladly sit through any 3-4 hour WWII epic, likes them as they all clock in at under 2 hours). However, I found myself not really enjoying them all that much and I think I know why.
After seeing Kevin Smith’s ‘Zac and Miri Make a Porno’ I came to a crucial conclusion about romantic comedies: in order for a romantic comedy to be a success we have to CARE about whether or not our two leads end up together; this did not happen in ‘Zac and Miri’ and that is why that movie is a failure. So, what does this have to do with the Bourne movies? Well, I also found myself not caring about what happened in these movies either, which brings me to my main point: in order for a suspense/action/thriller (or any other film where the main characters are constantly in peril) to work, I have to care about those characters so that I can, at least, summon some level of concern for their well-being. In the Bourne movies, I could not do that and that is why they are a failure.
It’s become very hip recently to say that ‘the Bourne movies’ are the new James Bond, but they aren’t. Bond was charming, his supporting cast was likeable--- even each movie’s double-entendre nomenclatured femme fatale was likeable; The Bourne characters are not. They are all one dimensional: Evil guy pulling the strings, person trying to help from the inside, girl who is in over her head, etc. But, perhaps worst of all, is Bourne himself. We know nothing about him other than the fact that he is some sort of super-assassin. We don’t know if he has any hobbies, childhood experiences--- anything that might make him more of a person--- he just simply IS. On top of that, due to the character’s amnesiac nature, HE doesn’t know anything about HIM either. Basically, without any knowledge of who he is, Jason Bourne is nothing more than a walking collection very impressive, very deadly skills which, ultimately, makes him no different really than any of the nameless assassins he escapes in each movie. And, worst of all, he is given so little work as a character, I don’t even care if he ever finds out.
Good Villains should also be 'likeable', even so much that, in many cases, we like them more than we like the hero --- at their best they can also be charming, charismatic, sympahthetic--- and, at their very best, absolutely terrifying (Hannibal Lechter and Heath Ledger's Joker)--- or, at the very least, simply be a larger than life embodiment of evil (Darth Vader in the first two Star Wars movies). In the Bourne movies, the bad guys were very... professional. Perhaps a more 'realistic' way to portray professional assassins and spies, but, utlimately, this just made them boring.
Why they are so NOT by Geoff
Maybe -- MAYBE -- in a perfect world the Bourne movies would not be respected. But we live in our world, with the Transporter, Taken, G.I. Joe, Wanted, Bad Boys, Wolverine, Shoot em Up, and Live Free or Die Hard. In that world, you are not allowed to use "professional" in a bad way -- the villains are professional because the movie making is professional, and that is its strength. Kill Bill is ambitious movie, a work of genius way beyond professional, and no one is looking to the Bourne films for such tense dialogue, or acrobatic violence, or interaction with the history of the action movie. Kill Bill is a rare thing. But a movie that just tells a solid story, that runs like a machine, whose set pieces work and work together, that avoids the ridiculousness of taking out a plane, in mid air, with a truck driven off of a highway; a movie that is not driven by absurd coincidence, or features a guy with metal claws and a 0 body count, or involves firing bullets around corners, or out of magic guns; a movie whose leads are not obnoxious jerks acting like children, or how children imagine adults to be; a movie that gives weight to violence when it occurs, is rare too -- though it obviously should not be. The Bourne movies are solid. That should not be a compliment, or not a dramatic one, but it is. The Bourne movies may lack a charismatic characters as dramatic as Heath Ledger's Joker, but it also lacks anyone like Will.i.am; there is no Captain Jack Sparrow, but there is also no one like the romantic couple in the Pirates movies, whose names I cannot even begin to remember. And the Bourne movies' Chris Cooper and Albert Finny, David Straithairn and Julia Styles and Joan Allen are all great actors -- solid actors, who given a part just do a good job with it. You don't see the movie just because they are in it, but there is something good about a movie where everyone is solid, instead of a movie like Pirates of the Caribbean or (to a lesser extent) Dark Knight where basically one guy carries the whole thing, and a lot of the smaller players kind of suck or are distracting. While I think you could care about the characters more, they live in a world you can care about because it basically makes sense, and is presented believably, as a real place of real physics and real people with broken bones. And the fact that we know nothing about Bourne is part of his appeal (though I admit it has limitations) -- as a guy who can't remember anything but a badass set of skills, he is the perfect POV character for the viewer who wishes he were him. Scott McCloud account for the popularity of superhero comics because under that mask, anyone could be Spiderman -- and even with the mask off, Peter Parker is so generic looking many of us can still feel close enough to his look to imagine ourselves as him. Jason Bourne has this same level of abstraction. Sometimes you want fine food, and sometimes in the pursuit of fine food disastrous things happen when the chef thinks he is better than he is. But sometimes you just need a good deli sandwich on your lunch break, and when everything on your block is fast food, a well made ruben is well worth respect.
In a way, you're right-- the Bourne movies are kind of perfect-- like a good ruben, they are lean, well-crafted works that certainly get the job done...
But I don't really care for rubens and, sometimes, you just want fast food-- now, that doesn't mean you have to get the triple cheeseburger with bacon, chili-fries and substitute a shake for the drink-- but a burger and fries can really hit the spot. Also, sometimes places let you substitute a healthier side and, sure, while a baked potatoe or salad may be better for you, that just doesn't go with that burger the same way the fries do. And sure, sometimes, they accidently put mayo on when you asked them to hold the mayo or the fries have been sitting out too long but, sometimes, the fries are just fresh out of the fryer and you've been depriving yourself of fast food for awhile and, when you taste it, it's absolute perfection. It's kind of like that.... I also get the feeling you're probably in much better shape than me.
Scott, you used my metaphor too much and broke it. Now you owe me a new metaphor.