Whenever a film franchise sees a change in the director's chair, you have to wonder how much the style of the film is going to be altered. This change could be good or bad depending on the circumstances and the quality of the directors that you're talking about. It's a risky proposition in the first place, but it's even riskier if the first movie was popular. That's because all involved might want to stay at least somewhat faithful to what's already been created, while the new director would more than likely want to add his own imprint on the picture. That's the case for The Bourne Supremacy as Paul Greengrass took over for Doug Liman, the director of The Bourne Identity.
In this sequel, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is still trying to put his past together as he's trying to gain his memory back with the help Marie (Franka Potente). Bourne and Marie have moved to a secluded area where they believe no one will find them. That dream soon fades once they realize that someone is out to eliminate Bourne for good. Believing his old organization is behind the attack, Bourne sets out to do as he promised the last time he spoke to them. He goes out of his way to "Bring the fight right to their doorstep."
Seeing as I am a big fan of the first film in the Bourne franchise, I couldn't wait to see the sequel. I was hoping it would be entertaining and I wanted it to live up to its predecessor if possible. As Greengrass took control, I had to wonder how similar the two films would be, but I also wanted to know how far the films would venture from the original material in the novels.
Although there is a new director and a darker tone, there are actually a ton of similarities that remain when comparing the two movies. Some of the music is exactly or close to the same and even some of the scenes are almost mirror images of what's shown in the first one. I understand wanting to stay close to the original, but I didn't like taking so many scenes from the first and only making slight alterations to them and placing them in the sequel. It makes it look like they didn't put too much effort into it even though I'm sure that's not the case. I think they were trying to build some continuity within the franchise and wanted them to connect in that way.
As far as the connection to the books goes, staying faithful to them wouldn't be legitimately plausible when bringing The Bourne Supremacy to the big screen. That's due to the fact that some of the characters that are in both the first Bourne movie and the novels have been either killed off or excluded all together. You obviously wouldn't be able to use the dead guys and they probably felt that a couple of the characters that are excluded wouldn't necessarily fit here. The inability to use these characters can actually be seen as a positive of sorts, because it opens the door for changes that allow the story to travel in new directions. That enables both new and existing fans alike to get into the movie and discover new things whenever they occur.
Another thing that's positive here are all of the action sequences. Much like the first film, The Bourne Supremacy contains a mixture of car chases, foot chases and hand to hand combat. I loved the car chase in the Doug Liman film and I loved the chase in this one just as much. They're done differently, but they're both equally exciting. The one in the Greengrass version is more violent, physical and like the movie as a whole, it's darker.
A good portion of the action that is shown in this film is also done differently, because it has more of a faster pace working for it. Some of it has a nice build up right before everything breaks out and the actual action set pieces are not as low-key or as patient as most of the set pieces in the original film. The faster style definitely makes this feel more like an action film than a spy film at times. I thought all of it was fun to watch, but if I had to point out the weakest part of the action that's on display here, I would have to say that it's easily the hand to hand combat. It's not bad, but it simply doesn't hold up to the car and foot chases that we see.
When compared to The Bourne Identity, I can't say that The Bourne Supremacy is as good simply due to the fact that it's not. It does have several good things about it though. The actors perform well with Matt Damon once again standing out in a role that was seemingly made for him, and everyone else handles their jobs just as professionals should. There's also a solid story and as I stated earlier, a ton of action. This is a fast and thrilling spy movie that offers fun and excitement while doing a great service to the franchise that it's created for.
Director: Paul Greengrass
Film Length: 108 minutes
Release Date: July 23, 2004
Distributor: Universal Pictures