Expect a whole lot more Jason Bourne… just don't expect him to talk much

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There’s an old expression: Let your fists do the talking. And it seems that Jason Bourne is really taking this to heart. Matt Damon’s famed amnesiac spy is returning to the big screen for the first time in 9 years when the simply titled Jason Bourne releases in a couple of weeks, and he’s definitely not trying to make up for any lost dialogue time.

In in-depth interview in The Guardian with himself and director Paul Greengrass (which I highly recommend you read in full if you’re in any way a fan of the franchise), Damon revealed that in this fourth installment, Jason Bourne only has about 25 lines of dialogue in total. And according to the actor, that reticence is a natural progression.

Well, I’ve done it three times. In the first movie, the Marie Kreutz character [Bourne’s girlfriend, played by Franka Potente) is still alive, so Bourne has a sounding board and he’s more confused about who he is and a lot more chatty. Once she dies in the first act of the second movie, it’s really a very lonely character. And we talked about that mostly on the second one. I remember [screenwriter Tony Gilroy] writing me an email saying, ‘You do realise what this means? You do realise you’re not going to talk in this movie.’ I said, ‘No, I love that.’

In other words: Expect Bourne to do a whole lot of punching this time around, which suits me just fine! But speaking of, well, not speaking, Guardian asked the two men what they thought The Bourne Legacy, the Jeremy Renner led spinoff that was a failed attempt to take the franchise in a new direction, spinning away from the series of Robert Ludlum novels that inspired these films. Greengrass declined to comment, handing the question over Damon who only responded with a diplomatic “I think in retrospect, I understand very clearly why everyone did what everyone did.”

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And in a nutshell it was simple: After The Bourne Ultimatum closed off the main story arc for Jason Bourne by giving him back his memories, both Damon and Greengrass strongly stated that they were done with the character and wouldn’t go back.

“Yes, you couldn’t cheat on that idea,” says Greengrass. “I remember looking at the poster for Ultimatum at Oxford Circus tube. It said, ‘I remember. I remember everything.’ And I thought, ‘Well, I’m done. He remembers everything. That’s it.’”

But for Universal Pictures it wasn’t it. The franchise’s three entries had made just under a billion dollars, and they were not willing to let it die. But with their star and director not playing ball, they needed to do something. More importantly, they needed to do something quickly or risk having their film adaptation rights to Ludlum’s characters lapse. So they turned to Tony Gilroy, who had penned the previous films, to write an original story and direct it as well. The result was a decent effort, but didn’t generate anywhere near the same amount of buzz and money, and left the franchise’s future in limbo.

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Luckily Greengrass and Damon had an abrupt change of heart a year or so ago, specifically when the director realized that the real world had changed. Whereas the previous films were a reflection of the results of the “war on terror”, the new film could exist in a post-Julian Assange and Edward Snowden world where superhackers and whistleblowers on governmental surveilance were the order of the day.

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It also helped that Damon kept being pestered by people about when him and Greengrass was going to make another. Eventually the peer pressure got to him, as he explained to The New York Times.

“At a certain point, I said to Paul, ‘People really want to see this movie, and that’s not something to turn our noses up at. Having made movies that didn’t find an audience, I didn’t want to thumb our nose at this opportunity.”

And Universal Pictures chairwoman Donna Langley was only too happy about the about-face. And she’s not going to let the franchise end up in the same boat again without it’s leading men. Ever.

“Even though Matt and Paul had been very definitive about not wanting to come back, we weren’t really willing to submit to that [joking]. Look, here’s what I think the goal is: to keep Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass doing Bourne movies till they can’t do them anymore.”

Well, okay then. At least she’s openly stating her cow milking intentions right up front! Personally though, as a gigantic fan of the series, I have no problems with these ad infinitum plans as long as the movies retain and their quality. And according to Damon it’s all about staying original… but not too original.

“It’s this weird thing where you can’t give them exactly the same thing, or they’ll be resentful. But you have to give them enough of something they recognize that they feel like they’re getting what they paid for.”

Whether Jason Bourne manages to walk that fine line, I can’t tell you right now, but the trailers certainly seem to indicate that Damon and Greengrass have pulled it off again. I’ll be watching the movie next week Tuesday, so expect a more definitive answer after that.

Jason Bourne releases in the US and UK tomorrow, but opens locally next Friday, 29 July. It also stars Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones, Julia Stiles and Vincent Cassell.

Last Updated: July 22, 2016

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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