lt's interesting if you think of James Bond and Jason Bourne.
They're superficially very similar characters.
They're cut from the same cloth.
They're characters that originated in Cold War books -
the lan Fleming novels and the Robert Ludlum novels novels of the Cold War.
They were both spies.
But on film Jason Bourne is a very different character from James Bond.
But is his point of reference the Bourne and Bond from their respective literary sources? Or filmic interpretations?
James Bond embodies a value system. He's an insider. He loves the secrecy of it. He loves being a secret agent.
Does he? Certainly, he enjoys aspects of the job but "love" is too strong a word. He actively dislikes part of his work but does it anyway because he is a professional. In the novels, internally, Bond does not feel part of the establishment - he feels like an outsider getting a glimpse behind the curtain of people and events. The film Bond fluctuates but they don't revel
per se in the job.
He kills without remorse or regret.
ln fact, often he rather enjoys it and finds it humorous.
Obviously Greengrass is basing this on the movies (and is ignorant of litBond).
I guess Bond is a trained assassin like David Webb was. Webb had little regret when he offed dictators and oil barons.
The humour is interesting. The best Bond quips bubble up dryly to relieve Bond's (and our) tension. It is a misreading to think that he is enjoying killing.
He's an imperialist,
No, no, no, no. He's patriotic. Big difference. Here's a thing. In Bond world, 007 travels to other countries, has alliances with natives of those countries, explores and revels in the culture and women of those countries. He is outward looking.
What does Bourne do? While in other countries is obsessed with only what his nation's intelligence service is doing, spends time only in his nation's institutions, and spends time exploring his past. The allies serve to expound on Bourne and his operations. We do not go into their worlds. Bourne is inward looking.
Now, this is not a criticism of Bourne. The nature of the stories (the movies rewrite from more expansive Ludlum novels) dictate that. But the Bond worldview is much larger and expansive and exploratory. The Bourne worldview is all about Bourne. Sure, he goes to many locations but the story is, by necessity, all about Bourne and the intelligence services of his nation.
he's a misogynist.
Well, sexist arguably (although the defence to that is Bond's attitude was normal for the time). But misogyny (as in "How many women does it take to change a lightbulb? None, let the bitch cook in the dark") - hatred of women - no.
He worships at the altar oftechnology - he's always got a gadget or some gun that comes out of a turret on the end of his car some way whereby technology will rescue him.
I can see that in some films. But generally, for Bond, technology is a tool. He doesn't worship it (Q will attest to that!). He merely uses it, in the field, in a throwaway manner. Often inverting in the intended use (exploding Lotus, fingerprint scanner, DAD ejector seat). Bourne, of course, needs
that grid. 50% of narrative drive of a Bourne movie would be lost if an EMP explosion happened.
ln the end he protects authority and he has no doubts.
Well no, he protects authority but does have doubts.
And Bourne, of course, just wants to be left alone. If he'd been left alone in Goa with Marie, he wouldn't be trying to shut down the illegal CIA operations. He'd be living the highlife on their proceeds, ignoring their continuing injustice. The only time Bourne fights for anything is if it interferes with his lotus eating. Bourne's world is personal and isolationist.
But Bourne is a different character. Bourne is an outsider. He's on the run from authority.
He's subversive of authority. He doesn't trust them at all.
He doesn't want to kill at any cost. He would rather not kill.
He's absolutely not a misogynist.
He's a man wracked with doubt and confusion desperately searching for an answer.
And that's what makes him contemporay and youthful.
Yup, so he's quite like Bond. Yes, and Bourne is great and his adventures are wonderful. And Greengrass and Damon are a terrific team. The Bourne films are fantastic entertainment and put together are an exquisite spy saga.
But while Bourne may be overtly more contemporary (how well will they age?), Bond is certainly more classic.
And that's why, in the end, l think that the Bourne character the Bourne franchise, speaks to today. Today's world, today's problems, tomorrow's problems in a way that Bond cannot ever do.
Well, this is the nub. Bond is the benchmark. Bond is so relevant today (culturally and arguably in content), that all up-and-comers have to put him down to get media attention. Note Greengrass isn't comparing Bourne to Ethan Hunt (in some ways a more direct comparison). Or Jack Ryan. Copy is gleaned only by Bond bashing.
Bourne won't be around tomorrow, slyly and wittily commenting on global realpolitik
in 5 years time. Bond will. Bourne's box office is a significantly smaller fraction than Bond's (we won't even begin to compare the profitability of the first 3 Bonds with the first 3 Bournes!). That Bond 21 outperforms Bourne 3 is phenomenal in the industry. No matter the domestic (US) gross of Bourne, Bond outstrips Bourne nearly 2 to 1 globally. I know we shouldn't measure a film by box office but this does go to relevance.
I know Greengrass was just opining something for a commentary and did not expect to be taken to task on every line. And he is a fine, fine director and writer who has done some powerful work. I'm a big fan. But I get Bond-bashed by Bourne all the time and have equipped myself with return fire.