In anticipation for Jason Bourne being released on the 29th let’s take a look back and catch up on the history of The Bourne Franchise. In 1980 famed novelist Robert Ludlum wrote the first entry in his “Bourne Trilogy” – “The Bourne Identity.” He followed up with “The Bourne Supremacy” in 1986 and “The Bourne Ultimatum” in 1990. After Ludlum’s death in 2001 the character was passed on to Eric Van Lustbader, who has completed 9 novels with the Jason Bourne character with more on the way.
“The Bourne Identity” (2002)
In 2002 the first novel was adapted into a full-feature film starring Matt Damon and directed Doug Liman. The film was a success. Damon portrayed the role well and brought the character to life for the world to enjoy. In this movie he awakens on a fishing boat with no memory, and for a bulk of the run-time he tries to learn who he is, while at the same time falling in love.
As Bourne digs deeper he also learns of a highly classified operation named ‘Treadstone’ that serves as the basis for the entry of Chris Cooper’s character who was excellent. Bourne learns he was simply a military tool, an assassin that failed on his last mission, the one that left him floating for dead in the ocean for fisherman to find.
This was a solid espionage flick but it was weighed down with a common ‘couple on the run’ vibe but it didn’t ruin the movie at all. The action was gritty, realistic, and Liman’s direction provides a rich international spy feel that did justice to Ludlum’s novel. It was an entertaining and captivating espionage thriller that would span many more sequels.
“The Bourne Supremacy” (2004)
We reach 2004, Matt Damon is back in “The Bourne Supremacy” with Paul Greengrass stepping in for the directorial duties. Bourne is living with Marie across the globe in India while he is being framed for a faulty CIA operation that results in some casualties.
To make things worse Marie is killed by an assassin played very well by Karl Urban as he tries to eliminate Bourne. CIA Deputy Director Pamela Landy played excellently by Joan Allen steps in to take charge and begins to piece together her own information on the ‘Treadstone’ program. Bourne said not to mess with him but they did, and they killed his girl so he’s pissed, and that is what made this film better than the first.
Bourne was unhinged and able to further display his skill-set as he (again) rounds the globe searching for who set him up and more about his beginnings in ‘Treadstone.’ It was a fast paced thriller with more layers to the espionage plot as opposed to the first film that was basically a couple on the run story with an espionage overcoat. Although a very good one.
This film upped the tension, elevated the action-sequences with great fight scenes and well-crafted car chases and turned out to be one of the great sequels of all-time in my opinion.
“The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007)
In 2007 a third film hit theaters with a story that picks up immediately after the second film. Bourne is on the move to meet with a reporter that uncovers a CIA operation called ‘Operation Blackbriar’ that was also classed as a ‘Treadstone’ upgrade.
Bourne learns of, and comes to grips with his past as a CIA operative, and while he evades the efforts of ‘Blackbriar’ director Noah Vosen played by David Stathairn to have him killed. Despite the threat of his safety, Bourne continues to uncover the layers of ‘Blackbriar’ to incriminate those involved and bring some justice to Marie’s death.
I think this was the best of the trilogy and delivers an intricately layered plot filled with great action, a fantastic performance from Matt Damon, and a perfect unveiling of answers that had been framed up with clues going back to the first film. This film perfectly completed the original trilogy from writer Robert Ludlum and delivers a compelling adventure with loads of action, suspense, and tons of intrigue.
“The Bourne Legacy” (2012)
Five-years pass and in comes 2012 with a 4th Bourne-less entry in the franchise titled “The Bourne Legacy”. This wasn’t a very well received sequel or spin-off, or re-boot or whatever you want to call it.
I thought Jeremey Renner did a great job in the role but starring in a film titled after a character not even in the movie, there was only so much he could do. With such a well-known name as Jason Bourne, the shoes to fill for this entire film were large given Damon declined the project. It’s the equivalent of giving someone else on the team Michael Jordan’s jersey and expecting them to go out and drop 55 points to bring home the title.
This story takes place roughly right after the “Bourne Ultimate” starts and runs parallel to that story-line. I will admit for the first 30-minutes this was a very good film and an interesting premise as it follows Aaron Cross, one of the ‘Blackbriar’ operatives who was designated for termination after the journalist in “Ultimatum” is killed to keep his article quiet.
Cross of course survives and much like Bourne did in the first film he, covers the globe with a female companion played her generically by Rachel Weiz. This was a decent action movie with many solid sequences that will have you on edge. There are some fun locations and plenty of espionage babble but it’s all too similar to the “Identity” script and after the first-act, becomes very routine and surprisingly predictable. There were some entertaining moments in this film but as a spin-off of Bourne it felt like a cut and paste version of the first film and didn’t stand on its own legs.
And that is my recap of the Bourne Franchise. I can’t wait for July 29th to see Matt Damon back in the lead. This is my most anticipated film of the summer and I hope it delivers a quality story worthy of the name Jason Bourne.