Bourne vs. Bond

I was pleased to get the opportunity to watch The Bourne Ultimatum on Friday night. I have become a big fan of the “Bourne” movies and was very interested to see how the trilogy would finish out. After viewing the movie (which was very good despite their refusal to utilize tripod technology), I started thinking about the character of Jason Bourne and another famous movie spy James Bond.
I read an article a few weeks ago where they compared the two and Matt Damon was quoted as saying that James Bond is a relic of the 60’s and basically has no place in the 21st century. I suppose in a certain line of thinking that may be true. The “Bond” movies feature a spy with unlimited resources, unlimited one-liners, and unlimited willing one-night-stands. Watching the Connery-era films, one will notice that they do feel very dated. They seem ultra-campy and not very realistic.

Meanwhile, Jason Bourne’s character eschews one-liners and is a troubled spy who regrets all the kills he has made. He’s also monogamous, unable to get over the woman he fell for in the first film. He never even so much as kisses the heroines in the sequels. He also relies purely on resourcefulness and quick-thinking, no Q-produced gadgetry.

So, yes, there are lots of reasons to distinguish the two and label Bond a relic of the politically incorrect past. But I see another, more interesting distinction. James Bond fought for his country and never questioned the orders he was given, while Jason Bourne’s mission is to right the wrongs being committed by his own government.

I see this as a trend that has been slowly taking place ever since the Nixon presidency. No longer do we have the sense of unwavering trust in our government and leadership. We are more likely to assume that they are doing wrong by us behind closed doors than to assume they are working for our good in all situations. James Bond is a tool of his organization, but he always believed in the cause. Jason Bourne has realized that his organization betrayed him and he’s out to right the wrongs that he himself committed. I definitely think that this started in the 70’s with Nixon’s impeachment and resignation. The people of this country began to think that the government was corrupt through and through. Before Nixon, we never would have seen a TV show like The X-Files, which was based on elaborate conspiracy theories. And we never would have seen movies like those of the Bourne Trilogy.

Or consider another famous spy franchise: Mission: Impossible. The TV show was great, all about team work and accomplishing a mission from IMF. Great. First movie: a rogue agent from inside double crosses the team. Second movie: an agent defects and the team must go after him. Third movie: a top spy is in league with the enemy. The times have changed since the 60’s. This new latent suspicion has been personified in our pop culture. That’s why we perceive James Bond to be a relic, because he trusted authority too much for our liking.

For the record, I really like both movie series. I was pleased with Daniel Craig’s turn as 007 because the film-makers moved away from the campy action of the later Pierce Brosnan films in favor of more gritty action and creative sequences. I hope they can continue in that vein while still being fresh in an over-saturated action film market. Someone needs to take the torch from the n0w-concluded Bourne series. If Bourne was the reformed Bond, can Bond now reform himself? We shall see, the next Bond film is already in production.

But what of Jason Bourne? Have we seen the last of him? Well, the movie took in over $70 million this weekend. Draw your own conclusions.


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