Contradicting Popular Opinion :
An Enquiry Concerning Why Your Favorite Movie Sucks
Our one year anniversary special!
Well, this column will make one full year’s worth of CPOs, and really it is all thanks to The Matrix. The first time I saw that film, I was very underwhelmed. Everybody I know had built this thing up to be the end-all be-all movie of a generation, the alpha and the omega and so on and so forth. To me, it just felt like a mediocre Keanu Reeves vehicle.
I thought, for a moment, could there be something wrong with me? Am I missing something? I didn’t see the broad appeal of a martial arts movie sans martial artists blended with a science-fiction story without science blended with an thoroughly unheroic hero myth.
So, I decided, Fuckitall. No one should be afraid to say that they do or don’t like a film.
And here we are. A year later, and we are still doing the same thing. Okay, so maybe we are taking the occasion break to talk zombies and super-humans and such.
What’s wrong with The Bourne Identity
For as long as there have been stories, there have been “wrong guy” stories. As in, “Mister, you got the wrong guy!” Now there are two main classifications of these things. The first is a case of mistaken identity. Our plucky protagonist is mistaken for somebody else, and a plot ensues. This could be something like The Dude being mistaken for the other Jeffrey Lebowski, or one of those Coreys being mistaken for a secret agent. Our second “wrong guy” classification covers the wrongfully accused. The Fugitive didn’t really kill his wife, he’s innocent. You got the wrong guy.
We see “wrong guy” movies quite a bit, and some are quite good. Hitchcock, could make the hell out of one of these. Take for instance, North by Northwest. Cary Grant is not only mistaken for somebody else, but is also wrongfully accused of a crime. It fits both types, with an added twist that the man for whom Grant is mistaken does not actually exist. A History of Violence is also a “wrong guy” story, with its twist being that our protagonist is actually the right guy.
What does any of this have to do with The Bourne Identity? Well, at its core, Bourne is a “wrong guy” movie. Bourne starts the film with no memory of his identity. With no knowledge of such things, it isn’t unreasonable to say that he has no identity. Therefore, when the antagonists of the film start going after Jason Bourne, “they got the wrong guy!”
Simple enough, eh?
The problems with the film lie in the fact that it never really goes beyond that thing. Wrong guy scenarios are generally used either as a device in a much larger machine or as a first act set-ups to the inevitable climax of the film. Our protagonists generally have to step up and assume a role that heroic role for which they were unprepared. In The Fugitive, not only is Harrison Ford running from the law, he is also trying to solve his wife’s murder and find her murderer. He is pursued by a worthy adversary who at any instant could dash any hope Ford’s character has of clearing his good name. The Bourne Identity is basically 2 hours of Matt Damon running from strangers.
Bourne beats up cops and military with little provocation. He has no friends nor family. His memory loss seems to have the unfortunate side effect of erasing any sort of personality. He never seems like he is in any real danger. Bourne’s first objective is merely to avoid capture. The audience is given no sort of notion of the peril Bourne would face were he captured. Bourne’s secondary objective is to discover his own identity, an objective which he loses interest in halfway into the picture.
The Bourne Identity is an okay first act, stretched out over an entire movie.
Now, some might say, “Kennedy, at least it is a smart action movie for a change. Give it that much!”
To which I would respond, “nuh-uh” or possibly, “Tcha!” The Bourne Identity is not a smart action movie. People tend to think of it as smarter than the average action movie for two reasons.
1. It takes place in Europe.
2. The character Bourne is smarter than many mono-syllabic action movie heroes.
When we take a closer look at the movie itself, we see a lot of stupid things. For instance, when hiding out with the love interest’s friend’s house, Bourne sees that he is being staled by a fellow assassin. So Bourne, randomly shoots outside causing a massive explosion, making it hard for the bad guy to see. Smart on Bourne’s part, dumb on the movie’s.
Or, when Bourn is taking refuge in his own apartment. Covert agencies want him dead! How does this cabal of secretive, powerful geniuses go about there aim? By sending in a lone assassin. Okay so he’s working alone. They talk about that point in the movie. These super-trained mega-assassins always work alone.
Well, you see instead of rooftop sniping, or planting a trap ahead of time, or exploding the building or poisoning the contents of Bourne’s fridge, this super-trained mega-assassin decides the best way to deal with Bourne quickly and quietly is by…
wait for it….
…rappelling through Bourne’s window while carelessly firing a machine gun!
These are not things that happen in smart action movies. These are the sorts of things that happen in Chuck Norris movies. At least Invasion USA makes no pretenses towards any sort of intelligence. It is very honest in it’s delivery of ridiculous action sequences, and far more entertaining than anything prominently featuring Matt Damon.
I’m just saying.
What better way is there to celebrate a solid year of columns than by writing a shorter than usual column? I certainly can’t think of one.
But if you can, please send all letters and presents to:
Contradicting Popular Opinion
c/o ML Kennedy
5430 S. Drexel Ave.
Chicago, Il 60615
(Note: sending anthrax is so 2001.)