Judge Mike Rubino is hunting down Universal Studios because they're suffering from re-release amnesia.
Our reviews of The Bourne Identity (published February 17th, 2003), The Bourne Identity (Blu-Ray / DVD) (published January 29th, 2010), The Bourne Identity: Explosive Extended Edition (published August 10th, 2004), The Bourne Identity (HD DVD) (published August 3rd, 2007), The Bourne Supremacy (published December 20th, 2004), The Bourne Supremacy (Blu-Ray / DVD) (published January 20th, 2010), The Bourne Trilogy (published November 4th, 2008), The Bourne Trilogy (Blu-Ray) (published January 27th, 2009), and Universal 100th Anniversary Collection (Blu-ray) (published November 26th, 2012) are also available.
Get ready to be Bourne again!
The Bourne Files follows in the ridiculous trend of studios re-releasing films each time they have a sequel entering theaters. Consumers experience a confusing barrage of re-releases, special editions, extended cuts, and repackagings that they are expected to re-purchase. We saw it for Spider-Man 3 (Spider-Man 2.1), Fantastic 4 (Fantastic 4 Extended Cut), and Casino Royale (James Bond Ultimate Collections). The Bourne Files are essentially the first two Bourne movies re-issued with a bonus disc. Let's find out if this is worth buying, shall we?
Facts of the Case
The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Supremacy follow super-spy-turned-amnesiac Jason Bourne as he takes on the corrupt forces of the Central Intelligence Agency from the dreary land of Western Europe. Based on the novel series by Robert Ludlum, the Bourne films offer a bit of realism and freshness to a stale spy-thriller genre.
Here is a quick rundown of each movie (if you didn't catch them in theaters, or watch the previous DVD releases):
In the first film, The Bourne Identity, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) is pulled out of the ocean by a group of sailors, only to discover that he has no memory of the past few weeks. Bourne's only clue to who he is comes from a small projector embedded in his back. From there, Bourne travels to Switzerland in search of some answers. He meets a gypsy girl named Marie (Franka Potente), and the two try to outsmart the authorities and the CIA while traveling to Paris. Eventually, Bourne discovers that he was an assassin for a secret program called Treadstone. He then proceeds to get revenge.
In the second film, The Bourne Supremacy, Jason is living his life free and easy in India with his weird girlfriend, when suddenly they find themselves hunted by an assassin. Jason is accused of murdering CIA agents in Berlin, and is now being hunted, again, by the agency that created him. This time, his nemesis is Agent Landy (Joan Allen), who knows nothing about Treadstone, and insists upon using by-the-book tactics to capture this unique fugitive, while dealing with internal struggles and traitors. Bourne, sort of remembering more about himself, goes on a revenge mission (again) to clear his name.
The third disc in the set is called "The Bourne Files," and features three brief featurettes on the life and career of author Robert Ludlum.
Seeing as how this is the third time The Bourne Identity has been released on DVD, and the second time The Bourne Supremacy has been released, I'll focus much of my review on what's new here.
The Bourne Identity is a tight cat-and-mouse thriller with some very memorable scenes (the best of which involves Clive Owen chasing Matt Damon in a big field). The direction by Doug Liman (Swingers) was surprisingly well-done, and it was apparent that he was aiming for something a little more highbrow than the casual James Bond 3 G's (gadgets, girls, and guns). And while I didn't like it more than even the worst James Bond movie, I appreciated the effort. Matt Damon is "okay" as the action hero, and Chris Cooper does a fantastic impression of Tommy Lee Jones from The Fugitive.
The Bourne Supremacy tries to follow up on the success of the first film, with a similar tale of treachery and deceit, but I'm just not picking up what Bourne is putting down in this one. The story isn't as unique or engaging as the first, because we already know who Bourne is (for the most part). The biggest issue with the second film is the direction of Paul Greengrass (United 93). He goes completely insane with shakey-cam! Perhaps this had a better effect on the big screen, but the shaky-cam during the action scenes makes the DVD almost unwatchable.
For this DVD release, Universal has just re-packed the old Bourne DVD's, complete with all the old special features. Their decision to do this is both good and bad. Sometimes a studio will release a DVD with new special features, but leave out the ones from a prior release, making it necessary to own both version of the film (if you really care about special features). Then again, if you already have The Bourne Identity Extended Edition and The Bourne Supremacy on DVD, the only thing new with this set is the third disc.
The Bourne Identity disc is actually an amalgamation of the first "collector's edition" and the "extended edition." It has all of the extras of the extended release, but adds the Liman commentary from the first edition and forgoes the cast and crew bios (a special feature that isn't really that special anymore).
The Bourne Supremacy is identical to the previous release, except that it has also done away with the biographies, and features some trailers for more recent releases like Hot Fuzz. Still, there are a ton of special features here from the previous edition that are worth watching if you haven't caught them already.
The video quality for the two movies included in this set is just as before: pretty good, but not amazing. Both movies look a little washed out, but I think that was more of an artistic choice than the fault of the DVD. You can notice that The Bourne Identity is a little sharper than its sequel. Audio-wise, both movies fare well. That Moby song chimes in nice and clear on both releases.
The real meat of this release, or you could say the whole justification for this triple-dip, is the third disc labeled "The Bourne Files." The disc has four video features on it:
• "The Bourne Ultimatum Sneak Peak": This is essentially a glorified trailer for the movie coming out this month. Nothing really new here.
• "The Ludlum Identity": This 12-minute featurette introduces genre-writer Robert Ludlum, the creator of the series. Although he died before the first film was released, and it's supposedly very different from the book (I haven't read them), it's interesting that the series would go to great lengths to talk about the man. Then again, this is the most successful film adaptation of any of his books, so perhaps he had it coming. Either way, the featurette interviews a number of people who knew Ludlum, including his editor and other writers in the spy-thriller genre. It's a nicely produced feature that mixes film from interviews with scenes from the movie and Ken Burns-style photography animation.
• "The Ludlum Supremacy": Another 12-minute featurette, this time focusing on Ludlum's creation of the Bourne trilogy of books. This featurette uses extensive clips from a Ludlum interview with Bryant Gumbel, back when he was first promoting The Bourne Supremacy. Another interesting look into Ludlum's career that's produced with the same amount of style as the first.
• "The Ludlum Ultimatum": The third and final featurette on the bonus disc checks in at around 23 minutes and focuses more on the creation of the film franchise. Ludlum was extremely protective of the franchise, and wanted his character to be interpreted as he had first imagined. Up until his death, he was apparently working closely with the producers to make sure the movie was good. The featurette also interviews both directors, Liman and Greengrass, as they discuss their connection to the franchise.
Overall, these features are nice, but not really a good enough reason for Universal to triple-dip their chip. The featurette production values are high, but they could have easily been put on the DVD for Bourne Ultimatum. The overall menu and setup of the third disc definitely feels rushed—especially when you think about all the space they had left on the disc to add more special features.
Universal's packaging for The Bourne Files is very creative, if somewhat impractical. The set is made to look like a Treadstone accordion folder, with each of the discs sliding out on fake manila folders. It's a neat idea that looks cool when you pull it out and show friends, but doesn't seem very durable. This might seem like nitpicking, but you also can't really tell what it is if you line up all your DVDs on a shelf. It just looks like this tan accordion thing. And, of course, there isn't room for expansion in the set for when the third one is released…I wonder why.
I have to hope that consumers will have a little bit of foresight when they see this thing on the shelf. Maybe you will be tempted because some copies come packaged with Bourne-bucks for a discount on admission to the third movie…but really, don't be fooled. The only good thing about this set is that it's priced to move, with most places selling it at around $15. Then again, you could probably find the first two films for less separately.
This August, The Bourne Ultimatum comes out in theaters everywhere. And I guarantee that six months later you'll see it on DVD, and it will more than likely be followed by a trilogy boxed set of some kind. Just wait for that. The only people that should pick up this set are: A) those who don't have the first ones and want to get them all out of the way in one fell swoop; B) people who want to know more 40 minutes more about Robert Ludlum; and C) folks who love accordion folders.
Guilty of milking the consumers for every last penny possible on this triple-dipped nonsense. Sure the movies are okay, but not "buy them again every year" okay.
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What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice, The Bourne Identity
Perp Profile, The Bourne Identity
Distinguishing Marks, The Bourne Identity
• Alternate Opening and Alternate Ending
Scales of Justice, The Bourne Supremacy
Perp Profile, The Bourne Supremacy
Distinguishing Marks, The Bourne Supremacy
• Deleted Scenes
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