Words by Benjamin Pinsent
As you are no doubt aware a new Bourne sequal is on the cusp of being realised. We all remember the original Identity, Supremacy and Ultimatum. These films redefined the action film, from the Massive guns and explosions to quiet explorations into the questions of duty and the extent to which an individual country would try and protect their interests in a globalised world. It was a step away from cold war conspiracy focusing closer to home, and its influence can be seen on many other action films from Daniel Craig’s James Bond to the multitude of Middle East war films.
But what am I getting at, well remember how the series ended? That’s just it, it ended, 5 years ago, it ended the way it should have and there was no real need for a new part to the series. This could be seen as a money grab for studios to return to a profitable series, but I will pass judgement when I see it. What I will say is that The Bourne Legacy raises an awareness that there has been a trend for big returns to major (and sometimes nostalgic) franchises, with previous entries including this summer’s Prometheus turning the Alien quadrilogy to quintiligy, and the other recent reinvention of The Amazing Spiderman.
These types of movies are nothing new, in fact, lets review those films that are part of classic series: Indiana Jones, Terminator, and Star Wars have all had recent additions to their series (although the Star Wars prequels were planned around the same time as the original trilogy). Apart from not really being needed, they were also all below average films.
One of the major problems with returning to a series that is that was so good that it has become a piece of nostalgia to young and old, is that it is a nostalgic series. Nostalgia warps peoples opinions of things, the amount of hate over the Star Wars prequals got for “destroying childhood” was an overreaction to a bellow par series of films. The newer films seemed to lack an originality that the first three had and this is the main cause of so much fan backlash. Similar observations can be seen in Indiana Jones,with the introduction of aliens to a series grounded in adventure fantasy. What sets Bourne apart is that while it is as popular as all previously mentioned films, it is a relatively new series and thus has not had enough time to become as big a part of our collective memory.
The point, with the first critical and financial successful sequel to a stand alone series of film, is it gives big movie bosses ideas. Like returns to Back to the Future giving Robert Zemekis the motivation to motion capture the forth film. Or setting Gremlins 3 alongside the cast of Jersey Shore were the Gremlins come to terms with what humanity has become since the 80’s. That may just be the ramblings of a paranoid synic, disillusioned with the Hollywood studio system, but it may be something to think about.
Remakes are nothing new and can sometimes be better than the original for example the recent True Grit remake by the Coen Brothers, but the sudden escalation in amount of them is rather worrying. Total Recall is getting a 21st century make over, as is Robo-Cop, both classic science fiction films. Even Pixar, a film company praised for its originality has been turning out sequels to its films, Toy Story 3, Cars 2, Monsters University and now a Finding Nemo sequel.
Unoriginality has become an expected from Hollywood, where adaptations, remakes and sequels rule. These films are even highly anticipated, despite the sub par track record for these types of films critically. It is rather saddening that because of this, original films are pushed to one side to make way for the next superhero movie, films like The Raid: Redemption and Electric Children pushing them into smaller theatres and depriving them of a much deserved general release.
What is even sadder is that I, like you, will stand in line to see the next comic book adaptation or sequel to classic science fiction and the money that I use to see that will give the movie execs the idea that people like these and continue to remake and serialise films that didn’t need to be remade or expanded, fearing that originality may not lead to critical acclaim but financial bankruptcy.