Bourne Potter, by Ric Meyers
I have a special relationship with Jason Bourne. But, before I elaborate on my entirely self-manufactured rapport, let’s establish something at the outset. Bourne (and/or 24’s Jack Bauer, for that matter) literally wouldn’t exist without James Bond. You don’t think that all their initials being “J.B.” is a coincidence, do you? In fact, the late author Robert Ludlum created the Bourne book series with the brilliantly simple and engaging high concept of “what if 007 got amnesia?”
So, perhaps I should rephrase my declaration: I have a special “bond” with Jason Bourne. Dr. No was the first “adult” film I ever saw. The Bourne Identity is the most recent movie I saw with my brother at a cinema. I saw its sequel, The Bourne Supremacy, on Christmas Eve, the last day of my first tenure as Santa Claus at the Danbury (CT) Fair Mall. Sitting alone in a dark hotel room as the snow fell outside, watching director Paul Greengrass’ frenetic, yet somehow followable, chases on a hotel’s small TV screen – prior to heading out for a Christmas celebration with my family – created an evocative memory.
Now there’s The Bourne Ultimatum, out this coming Tuesday as a single, non-special edition DVD. I originally saw the film at its New York screening, but truly appreciated seeing it again on an HDTV, since the DVD remote control allowed me to slow down the frenzied editing so I could truly enjoy the jigsaw-designed chases and hand-to-hand battles (especially a frantic fight in a cramped apartment where Bourne proves that the book is mightier than the knife).
Although it remains one of the worthiest second sequels in film history, I still found the DVD lacking for two small reasons. First, despite truly fascinating featurettes on the action sequences – “Rooftop Pursuit,” “Planning the Punches,” “Driving School,” and “New York Chase” – character building “deleted scenes,” which were excised when Greengrass decided that he was making a “violent ballet” rather than a character-driven drama, and a doc called “Man on the Move: Jason Bourne,” none (or all) of them really don’t communicate how agonizing the film’s production actually was.
Damon has been quoted as saying this was one of, if not the most, difficult productions he’d ever worked on … that is, before that kind of talk was shut down by the marketing department (it, too, may be more than mere coincidence that Damon is not part of the audio commentary). But the film’s labored, complicated, obsessive, piecing together would make the result all the more impressive, despite the seeming gag order.
Second, nowhere that I could hear did Greengrass, who’s the guy who actually does the commentary, mention the film’s biggest flaw (to me). After spending every second of this film being smart as he could possibly be, Bourne does something so blindingly stupid (albeit crowd-pleasing) in the home stretch that it darkened the film’s edges for me. On DVD viewing, I was able to extrapolate a tenuous reason for that, as well as the film’s credulity-stretching “happy ending.”
***SPOILER ALERT*** Skip to the next paragraph if you want to watch the DVD with fresh eyes. Bourne may have idiotically, not to mention egotistically, established his location in order to set-up a possible “exit strategy” for himself – allowing his nemesis to, apparently, mortally wound him (and, essentially, escape getting justifiably killed by Bourne). Although Jason knew that he could pass on damning evidence to the Joan Allen character despite his position admission, it unleashed such a dangerous reaction that the resulting mayhem belied my hopeful reasoning.
In any case, despite the last section stumble, resulting in mild dissatisfaction on my part, The Bourne Ultimatum remains a crackerjack entertainment, especially on DVD. It also can look back on its trilogy in the secure knowledge that it truly completed its mission. Fashioned in Bond’s shadow, it has irrevocably influenced 007. Casino Royale, aka “Bond Begins Again,” was clearly mounted in Bourne’s image, and now, the next 007 film has hired the action coordinator of The Bourne Ultimatum, Dan Bradley, to do his thing for "Bond 22. "
And speaking of Bond, the teen who has recently usurped 007 as the most profitable film series in history, has his latest film incarnation racing Bourne to the top of the DVD charts this coming Tuesday as well. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix arrives on a variety of DVDs December 11th, but, naturally, this column is concerned with its “2-Disc Special Edition.”
After a few shopping seasons of trial and error, DVD producers seem to be deciding that too many extras are too much, and that the special features experience should be about as long as the film itself. Curiously, there’s no audio commentary that I can find, and the main extra, a “making of” doc, is recycled from a television special that arrived prior to the film’s release.
New to the DVD are a bunch of interesting deleted scenes, and a featurette called “Trailing Tonks,” which is precisely what it purports to be: a film crew follows intensely happy actress Natalia Tena, who plays Nymphadora Tonks in the film, as she gives us a tour of the sets.
The most interesting extra (for me, at any rate) is "Harry Potter and the Magic of Editing," a nifty bit of DVD magic, which starts with director David Yates and editor Mark Day telling you how they piece the project together, and ends with you getting a chance to do the same. In other words, you get to choose the camera angles, splice them together, and even add music and sound effects.
Then you can see how your finished product stands up to what the pros can do. And, given that, with Harry Potter and James Bond, not to mention Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who, England is giving the rest of the planet a run for the money as the geographic center of the pop culture world, that had better be very good indeed.
Ric Meyers is really Santa Claus. Deal with it.