If Jason Bourne Were Written By A Woman

I went to see the new Jason Bourne movie yesterday as part of hubby’s birthday festivities.  We actually marathoned all its predecessors (except for Legacy) before going so that teenager would be caught up on the storyline, so all the details of the originals were fresh.  I was really looking forward to this because I love watching Matt Damon fight, and I was excited about finding out more about who he really is.

I am sad to say that I found the entire movie disappointing.  I literally sat in the theater rewriting everything from the first pinch point on.  I felt like the entire thing was lazy storytelling, shoddy camerawork, and a bunch of nonstop action for action’s sake.  Now I love me a good action movie–but only if it is supported by an actual PLOT.  The first three Bourne movies were.  This…was not.

So I’d like to talk about everything that was wrong with it and what I’d have done different, as a writer.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Let’s just stick the preview in here for space.

 

SERIOUSLY, IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS, LEAVE NOW

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Still with me?  Okay then.

What’s wrong with Jason Bourne

So one of the things that makes The Bourne Identity compelling is how Marie grounds Jason.  We can see from the beginning that, despite whatever badass training he has, he’s actually a good person.  How he deals with her the entire story shows that and is a constant counterpoint to the fact that he turns out to be an assassin.  And then they go and kill her off early on in The Bourne Supremacy.  I’ve never quite forgiven them for this, particularly since that never happened in Ludlum’s books (which, I grant you, I never read).  But from a narrative standpoint, I can see what they did there in taking away the one person who believed in him absolutely.  It sets him on a path of vengeance for the rest of that movie and the next.  I didn’t like it, but okay.  Now part of what I noticed on this binge watch we did of the early movies this week is that they allude to some kind of history between him and Nicky Parsons, his handler in Paris.  To my mind, she was being set up as a potential love interest, so when I saw her listed in the cast list, that’s exactly what I expected and what I wanted.

What we GET is her risking her life at the start of the movie, hacking into the CIA to retrieve all their black ops files.  It’s a two purpose action: 1) She wants to get more information on Jason and who he was (a very personal motivation) and 2) She (working with some other hacker dude) want to expose all these programs from what they view is a corrupt government.  So she sets up a meet with Jason in Greece (who we first see riding in a truck to some fight somewhere, jumping in the ring, knocking a dude out with one punch, and then going on his way elsewhere–what the hell he’s doing there is never explained and we just kind of assume he’s been going around doing underground fighting maybe as a way to make ends meet?).  They use a public demonstration as cover and this turns into a riot that is the backdrop for a LOOOOOOONG ass chase scene (because of course the CIA figured out Nicky hacked them and has sent teams after her and Jason), at the end of which Nicky is fucking shot and killed. 

This is the point where they officially lost me.  Because it’s the lazy play, the obvious play.  They did it with Marie, and now they’re doing it again.  They’re treating him like James Bond and taking away everyone who could possibly care for him because he’s supposed to be a forever tortured badass and toxic to everyone who comes near him.  This absolutely didn’t work for me as a viewer because there is absolutely nothing to soften him, nothing to humanize him.  They wanted him as close to unhinged as he ever gets because, according to the Treadstone shrink, they believe he’s lost his reason to exist by leaving the program and he might could be brought back into the fold (and since he is, of course, a multi-million dollar asset, that’d be handy, right?).  But it just doesn’t play out like that.  Jason is never really unhinged.  He’s an in control badass (with apparently 72 lives).

Part of what made the original movies work is this contrast between who he is, who he was because of Treadstone, and the tiny kernels we find out about who he was before that.  That made those first three movies (but most especially the first one) very character driven, despite all the action.  We don’t get that in Jason Bourne.  The ONLY piece we find out about his past is that his father was an analyst for the CIA, he’s the one who envisioned the Treadstone program in the first place, and the mysterious “they” had Daddy killed off in a bombing in front of Jason (who was special forces) in order to motivate him to volunteer for the Treadstone program (which daddy didn’t want him to do).  The rest of the movie is totally a revenge plot taking out Director Dewey (dude behind the decision to kill his daddy) and the assassin/agent who actually killed daddy.  That’s it.  That’s all we got.

One of the other things really missing from this movie was the one-upmanship.  Jason is always ahead of the CIA in the other movies.  Because he’s the best.  He’s a total badass.  So that’s where we see stuff like him calling in and making reference to the fact that he can see Pam or that he’s caught Noah in a lie because he’s actually in Noah’s office or whatever.  There’s really only ONE moment of one-upmanship in Jason Bourne–at the very end when the hotshot cybercrimes chick, who they sort of try to lead you to believe is helping Jason for possibly noble reasons but who is really just in it all for herself, finds a little video recorder in her car proving that he heard every word of her conversation with whoever the bigwig was she was talking to when the audience finds out she’s not a nice person at all.

Jason was never motivated by wanting to expose the black ops operations.  He’s always been in it to find out who he was.  I think they were TRYING to make this movie about him carrying on what Nicky would have wanted, but it was an epic fail because they didn’t spend any actual TIME with Nicky outside the damned chase scene.  And I never bought that’s really what Nicky was in it for either.  The dastardly CIA black ops sector is tied in with a very Big Brother social media monitoring plot that, while timely to present day concerns, just didn’t really feel like it fit with the same kind of former spy movies the previous three were.

What I would have done differently

Well straight up, I would not have killed Nicky.  In my version, they had some kind of history together.  Maybe it was after he became Jason Bourne rather than David Webb (to preserve the mystery about his dad) or maybe they’d been together before Treadstone and when he up and volunteered, leaving her behind in the name of going after the people who took out his father and becoming his handler was how she kept up with him because she still loved him and hoped to get him out someday.  I could make either of those play and be fine.  But for the sake of this hypothetical narrative, let’s go with the first.  She’s his handler, he’s her asset (while he’s in Paris) and Lord knows they wouldn’t be the first pair to develop feelings.  Maybe they acted on them.  Maybe they didn’t. (I’m a romance author…they totally acted on it in my version). But they had that emotional connection.  And then he gets his amnesia.  Doesn’t remember her.  Goes through all this stuff, they think him lost.  And then he shows up again.  And she helps him evade the CIA during the third movie.  So fast forward to now, the time period of Jason Bourne.

Jason has been off the grid, punishing himself, torturing himself.  Nicky’s been off grid, too, doing the hacker thing.  So she hacks in, gets this information, takes it to him in the midst of this riot.  They evade the assassin.  Maybe she’s hurt, but she doesn’t DIE.  She gets patched up, things get heated, and Jason starts to remember that they were involved before.  This engenders his protective instincts (even more than where they already are).  So of course he thinks he’s toxic and she needs to get the hell away from him because see evidence: Marie.  They argue, but ultimately she stays with him.  But all is not well because the cybercrimes chick managed to upload malware into the files, so when they go to access them, it pings their location.  So the CIA sends a team, the assassin, and manages to remote wipe the files (this was actually in the movie).  Another escape, but not before he finds the next piece of the puzzle, the dude who did the surveillance on Jason before he joined Treadstone (again, already in the movie).  So they go through that whole situation, where he finds out more about his dad, surveillance dude ends up dead, and we get the next piece of the puzzle that sends them to Vegas (happened in the movie–but in my version Nicky’s alive and with him).  Since the next leg of the story takes place at an epic tech conference, Jason goes about what he has to in order to expose Dewey and take out assassin, and Nicky does some awesome techy thing to contribute to the plan (the details of which I really don’t care about because that whole thread was kind of dull, but I’m working with what they gave me–anybody who doesn’t already think the government is watching what we do and say online is fooling themselves).  Dewey ends up dead, so does assassin, and Nicky and Jason split.  Jason meets cybercrimes chick, leads her to believe he might be buying in, and then leaves the video in her car to prove he’s not.  And then Jason goes off to meet Nicky at some rendezvous point, where we have one of those nice glorious moments like we had in Greece at the end of The Bourne Identity so that there is some kind of positive payoff to this whole mess.

So basically I could have tolerated the rest of the movie if they hadn’t killed Nicky off.  Because they could have achieved the same motivation for him by having that as a threat.  He’s permanently terrified of this possibility after Marie and it would’ve made for some great personal conflict to see him caring about Nicky, fighting that, and ultimately getting to have their moment in the sunset.  He NEEDS someone to ground him.  And I, for one, would much have preferred to get more about his background than the pitiful crumbs left to us.

End rant.

One thought on “If Jason Bourne Were Written By A Woman

  1. The bad news: my husband will make me watch this movie anyway. And he will probably be in love with all the action, but will hate the fact they kill Nicky because it will make me TICKED (like it did you). I despise when storytellers kill someone because it’s the easy thing to do.

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