The world has caught up to the Bourne movies, and the latest installment doesn’t deny it, name-checking Snowden at least twice and featuring an Assange-like character and a global network of hackers. After Bourne Legacy, which should’ve been a better movie considering the hellish inconvenience we in Metro Manila had to endure while it was being shot, Jason Bourne brings back the elements that made the series work: its original star Matt Damon, who has less and less dialogue as the series goes on, and the director responsible for its relentlessly kinetic style, Paul Greengrass. (It is also unswervingly loyal to Moby, whose song is still played over the closing credits.) This movie is almost exactly like the previous ones, with new players. Tommy Lee Jones is the scheming CIA guy, Alicia Vikander the hotshot surveillance girl, and Bourne’s former handler Julia Stiles sets events in motion. Vincent Cassel is the fearsome fighting opponent, a role that was filled by Clive Owen, Marton Csokas and Karl Urban, among others. The new element: Riz Ahmed as a tech billionaire launching a social media platform that guarantees privacy. As for character development, we don’t get speeches, we get fists—to punish himself, Bourne participates in underground fights.
If it’s the same movie, why should we watch it? Because it is executed so well, and it just hurtles along so fast, we have no time to complain that it’s all been done. Greengrass takes the most memorable elements from the previous movies—the car chases, the hand-to-hand combat, the tradecraft, the surveillance—then ratchets up the degree of difficulty. The chase scenes occur in even more crowded locations: a protest march in Greece, a tightly-packed convention center, a traffic jam in Las Vegas. It’s all chaos and confusion, and yet we always know where Bourne is in relation to his pursuers. Clarity! Geography! We see a world that seems to be falling apart, but its silent center holds.
My ancient Star Trek paperbacks, which the cats attempted to use as scratching posts
Star Trek Beyond is brisk and efficient, with impressive set pieces and the comedy partnership of Spock (Zachary Quinto) and McCoy (Karl Urban). All that was missing was Bones saying, “He’s dead, Jim.” The big action scenes could be clearer—the geography is muddled, the lighting murky—and the evolution of the villain Krall be explained better (How did he start draining his victims?), but the writers have homed in on the essence of Star Trek: scientific thinking employed with humanity, Spock + Kirk. Also I approve of a universe in which the Beastie Boys is classical music. And appreciate the lovely tribute to Leonard Nimoy even if I’ve forgotten how there came to be two Spocks, and how the writers paid tribute to the living George Takei by revealing that Mr. Sulu is gay. I will miss Anton Yelchin.
I understand that given the cost of making special effects movies, the filmmakers have to make the product accessible to the widest audience possible. What I’m missing is the compelling, brain-bending science-fiction I took for granted when I was watching the reruns of the original Gene Rodenberry series in the late 1970s. The effects were laughable, the sets tore during the fight scenes, William Shatner was pure Roquefort, the make-up was hilarious, but the stories!
The current writers are hard-put to create storylines that boldly go where no movie has gone before, so why not do a bit of time-travel and retool some of the classic Star Trek stories? City on the Edge of Forever, Amok Time, Mirror Mirror, even The Trouble With Tribbles. They need not be slavish remakes, but tweaked, expanded, reworked. That episode where Kirk split into his good and bad halves—Chris Pine would kill in it. Amok Time, where Spock goes into heat (Vulcans do) and fights to the death for a mate—Quinto would be brilliant.
Why are people furious over the very concept of a Ghostbusters movie starring women? Since the Ghostbusters remake was announced there has been a concerted campaign to make the project fail. What, only guys can design and aim proton packs? Ghostbusters starring Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones is amiable, amusing, and hilarious in parts. The funniest bits are in direct response to the irrational online hatred: Kristen Wiig reading a comment on YouTube (Never do that), Bill Murray (the original cast all have cameos, inc Annie Potts at the hotel reception and Sigourney Weaver in the end credits) wondering why women would want to catch ghosts, and best of all, Chris Hemsworth as Kevin the receptionist. Because men aren’t the only people who can be scientists, and women aren’t the only people who can be hot and brainless.