Damon, your ass is Greengrass
There's a certain amount of pleasure to be derived from a discussion of which fictional character is better than another. Superman vs. Captain Marvel. X-Men vs. Avengers. Heck, they even made a movie out of one hypothetical: Alien vs. Predator.
So I'm not offended by the question posed to actor Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass, asking them to compare and contrast James Bond and their own big-screen effort, Jason Bourne. I am, however, offended by their answer:
Bond is "an imperialist and he's a misogynist. He kills people and laughs and sips martinis and wisecracks about it," Damon, 36, told The Associated Press in an interview.
Damon's new film, "The Bourne Ultimatum," opens Aug. 3.
"Bourne is this paranoid guy. He's on the run. He's not the government. The government is after him. He's a serial monogamist who's in love with his dead girlfriend and can't stop thinking about her," Damon said. "He's the opposite of James Bond."
Paul Greengrass, Damon's director on Universal's "Bourne Ultimatum" and its 2004 predecessor, "The Bourne Supremacy," agreed that Bond is a relic from a different era.
"He's an insider. He likes being a secret agent. He worships at the altar of technology. He loves his gadgets. And he embodies this whole set of misogynistic values," Greengrass said. "He likes violence. That's part of the appeal of the character. He has no guilt. He's essentially an imperial adventurer of a particularly English sort.
"Personally, I spit on those values. I think we've moved on a little bit from all that, the martini shaken, not stirred."
This is where the discussion of the comparative merits of one fictional character over another step outside the realm of the fan-boy, and take on some significance: where the characters stand for a set of real-world beliefs. So let's take a look at those values that Greengrass and Damon "spit on."
James Bond is derided for his misogyny, his violence, and his supposed lack of guilt. Boiled down to its essence, the criticism of Bond is that he's not sensitive enough - towards women, towards his opponents, and towards himself. Apparently even worse, Bond "likes being a secret agent" and an "imperialist."
Bourne, on the other hand, is lauded as a "paranoid guy" who is "not the government."
Let's get past the fact that Ludlum's Bourne was just as much a tool of his government as Bond is until Bourne lost his memory. Let's put aside the fascinating backstory that the producers created for their updated Bond (hit the "Enter Site" button, and look in his "Dossier"), one that explains a great deal of his own weaknesses and strengths.
No, let's simply look at the morality of the two characters: one uses his unique talents to benefit his country, and the other uses them to help himself. The distinction is important: Bond is to Bourne what the taxman is to the thief, what the policeman is to the vigilante, what the soldier is to the insurgent. Of course, if you don't subscribe to the idea that governments should have a monopoly on violence, that point won't sway you. But I'd guess that Greengrass and Damon aren't the Second-Amendment-libertarian types, which makes their case somewhat problematic.
Of course, it's only a problem if you're interested in intellectual consistency, rather than lurching about with each indoctrinated emotional wave that sloshes over your decks. I suspect, though, that the sixties-child Greengrass and the Hollywood-poisoned Damon are simply so enthralled with their romantic notions of Bourne's supposed fight against The Man that reason doesn't enter into their position at all.
Until recently, James Bond films have been nothing more than a visual roller-coaster, junk food for the soul. Other than for Casino Royale, I'm not much interested in defending them as anything other than a distracting romp.
But what Greengrass and Damon fail to realize is that much the same can be said for Bourne. At least Bond, viewed in his best light, is ridding the world of threats to Britain and the west. All of Bourne's violence, all the knife fights and the shootings and the car chases and the bombs are just to benefit him. If you worship at the altar of me, myself, and I, if you regard patriotism and duty as dangerous anachronisms, if your personal considerations outweigh the needs of a society far greater than you, then I guess Bourne should be your action hero of choice. But give me Bond any day of the week.
Oh, and speaking of fantasy match-ups, Daniel Craig could wipe his ass with Matt Damon and not even break a sweat doing it. What's more, I'd take Barbara Broccoli in a cage match against Paul Greengrass any day of the week. And my dad can beat up your dad too. Afterwards, he'd laugh and wisecrack as he drank his martini: shaken, not stirred.