Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Damon, your ass is Greengrass

Babble on.

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.

Babble off.

11 Comments:

At 10:11 PM, Blogger Leny Vilekoskytch said...

Bond is, at his core, is just a pencil pushing bureaucrat. His enemies tend to be captains of industry or other wealthy types (including one media baron). On the other hand, Bourne is committed to reducing the size of government (granted, one person at a time, but still). Bourne is Reagan while Bond is some sort of US Attorney.

 
At 10:59 PM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

Bond is, at his core, is just a pencil pushing bureaucrat.

I guess that's one way to describe an officer of the Royal Navy turned intelligence agent. I'd suggest you not use that description to a sailor's face in real-life, though, unless you're truly interested in finding out what else he can push.

On the other hand, Bourne is committed to reducing the size of government (granted, one person at a time, but still).

So is Osama Bin Laden. Not your best argument.

 
At 11:48 PM, Blogger Leny Vilekoskytch said...

But Borne is dedicated to downsizing his own government.

Bond is all about the government taking care of your problems for you.

 
At 2:19 PM, Blogger Babbling Brooks said...

But Borne is dedicated to downsizing his own government.

I'll point out, yet again, that not everyone who wants to "downsize" government is worthy of your admiration. A gangbanger who shoots a cop, a jihadi who blows up a soldier, a terrorist who beheads a diplomat, an assassin who kills a head of state - these are all people who are downsizing their government one life at a time too.

Bond is all about the government taking care of your problems for you.

Some problems legitimately fall within the purview of governments, national security being one. That's not some nanny-state social program, but rather one of the more reasonable uses of our tax dollars.

 
At 8:11 PM, Blogger Leny Vilekoskytch said...

"rather one of the more reasonable uses of our tax dollars"

You are saying that Bond's various toys are a reasonable use of our tax dollars? Rocket packs, various modified cars, $10,000,000 poker buy-ins?

A boondoogle I tell you.

With respect to the characteristics that you attribute to Bourne in your original post, you seem to be describing someone closer to Bob Barnes in Syriana than the legitimately persecuted Bourne.

Finally, I would note that "let's take a look at those values that Greengrass and Damon "spit on."" is inaccurate. Only Greengrass spits upon those values he attributes to Bond.

 
At 9:45 PM, Blogger dorkafork said...

You are saying that Bond's various toys are a reasonable use of our tax dollars? Rocket packs, various modified cars, $10,000,000 poker buy-ins?

Although they certainly sound extravagant, considering Bond's track record of saving the world from nuclear annihilation/world domination/etc., I'd say the money was arguably well spent.

 
At 8:48 PM, Blogger Bruce Gottfred said...

I'm not sure if you've seen the movies. Bourne is mostly defending himself in them or getting revenge for what's been done to him. I wouldn't say he's only 'looking out for himself'.

I regret what Damon and Greengrass said. Damon's a known dolt, but I was surprised the director of United 93 would have such a swishy 'progressive' take on James Bond. But it won't stop me from seeing the new movie. The Bourne Ultimatum has been my most anticipated movie this summer -- and this has been a good summer for movies.

I heartily recommend watching the two other movies. Sure, part of the government is the enemy, but it's clear that it's only a rogue unit. I give it the neo-con seal of approval. The Bourne Supremacy was a far better flick than the last James Bond -- and that was the best Bond in a long time.

 
At 10:25 PM, Blogger Bruce Gottfred said...

After having seen the final Bourne film now, I withdraw the neocon seal of approval. You know that whole 9/11 thing the government did? Well, next to the conspiracy depicted in this movie, it was nothing. *Sigh*

 
At 2:56 AM, Blogger Candace said...

I used to love reading Ludlum, until one weekend I read a bunch back-to-back (including the Bourne series). Only by doing that did I realize just how formulaic his writing style is, and the headaches were caused by all the CAPS and ITALICS for pages on end. That was before email was commonly used in offices and it took me a while to realize I was constantly being yelled at.

Traded my Ludlum's in on... who knows what? and never looked back. Won't waste a dime on the movies, either.

 
At 10:05 PM, Blogger Robert Swim said...

Man, you people have no concept of reality. I could take the points one at a time, but I just basically have to agree with Babbling Brooks that the idea of Bond VS Bourne is both meaningless and has really led to an offensive set of remarks by Damon and Greengrass as to the "Morality" issue. There is no morality involved in killing at the level of this type of "career path, " Hell, I was a sniper in the late "80's and I will be the last one to try and justify that job, and let me be clear, IT IS A JOB, and one that is necessary, skilled, difficult and creates a real dilemma if you let it and try and be noble and a "save the world" type.

Why don't you go research what has been going on in reality the last few years in the Middle East, or at least look up the last few technological and combat skills manuals and recommendations from SOCOM http://www.socom.mil/ or just stop playing fantasy games and realize that we have to sometimes get "wet" to go swimming. And yes, I hid a lot of meaning in that, so get over it.

There is no real comparison of Bond and Bourne, JC, man, this is a load of BS from hell, if you bothered to READ Bond or even take any interest in the reality that Ian Fleming portrayed, you'd realize that it was not written for outsiders, it was written by an insider to poke fun at his own youth, the deviltry prevalent in war, and the obnoxious behavior of governemnts and the difference between bureaucrats and "technicians," and it is clear who has a reasonable idea of what technical issues we are talking about!

 
At 10:06 PM, Blogger Robert Swim said...

Man, you people have no concept of reality. I could take the points one at a time, but I just basically have to agree with Babbling Brooks that the idea of Bond VS Bourne is both meaningless and has really led to an offensive set of remarks by Damon and Greengrass as to the "Morality" issue. There is no morality involved in killing at the level of this type of "career path, " Hell, I was a sniper in the late "80's and I will be the last one to try and justify that job, and let me be clear, IT IS A JOB, and one that is necessary, skilled, difficult and creates a real dilemma if you let it and try and be noble and a "save the world" type.

Why don't you go research what has been going on in reality the last few years in the Middle East, or at least look up the last few technological and combat skills manuals and recommendations from SOCOM http://www.socom.mil/ or just stop playing fantasy games and realize that we have to sometimes get "wet" to go swimming. And yes, I hid a lot of meaning in that, so get over it.

There is no real comparison of Bond and Bourne, JC, man, this is a load of BS from hell, if you bothered to READ Bond or even take any interest in the reality that Ian Fleming portrayed, you'd realize that it was not written for outsiders, it was written by an insider to poke fun at his own youth, the deviltry prevalent in war, and the obnoxious behavior of governemnts and the difference between bureaucrats and "technicians," and it is clear who has a reasonable idea of what technical issues we are talking about!eqgnuznb

 

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