When the movie The Bourne Identity came out in 2002, how many of us thought “that is going to make a heck of a film franchise”?
I didn’t actually see the first Bourne movie until well after the second one had been released, when it was announced that The Bourne Ultimatum was coming out and I was informed I would be watching the first two so I could join my friends in seeing it.
It. Was. Awesome.
Not only was there a compelling mystery, but the sequences of events and action are such that will keep a viewer intrigued. Multiple viewings just bring things to the forefront that you might not have noticed on previous viewings. And while we have to thank the screenwriters, directors, cinematographers, and actors for such a gift, there is one man without whom this would never be possible:
Robert Ludlum, opens a new window (1927-2001) might not have gotten to see his masterpiece and subsequent Bourne novels brought into film (though he did live to see a television miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain produced in 1988), but his legacy is one that survives not just in film but in books, thanks to Eric van Lustbader and other authors taking up the mantle and continuing to write about the Bourne universe, even when not writing about Jason Bourne himself.
The Bourne Identity, first released in 1980, brings the reader into a world of (sadly, dated) science and intrigue. We start out with a man who doesn’t know a thing about himself, after he has washed ashore in France. In the process of trying to figure it out, he enlists the help of Marie (well, maybe enlists isn't the right word), an academic in town for a conference. (If you’ve already seen the movie, don’t let the setting and appearance/characteristics of familiar characters deter you! Marie is actually a much more interesting character, even if Ludlum’s treatment of her leaves some female fans...unhappy.) The plot of the novel strays very far from the plot of the film from there, and we end up going on a quest for not only identity, but purpose in a time of Cold War intrigue and the need for the Western nations to hold a certain position. As one who read after having seen, it was a bit to separate what I knew from what I was reading, but it actually led to a much more interesting read—I had no idea where it was going thanks to my preconceived notions about what would be happening.
There are all kinds of science-y things to take heart of in The Bourne Identity and its subsequent novels and films: the science of amnesia, opens a new window in regards to trauma, the capabilities of science when it comes to both brainwashing, opens a new window and reprogramming (which in the context of the film is not really a thing in science), the methods and factors of vengeance, and even the science of assassination, opens a new window and physical combat. Beyond that, someone reading the 1980 book and taking information from that time period to the books and films created today can assess the changes in science that have to be acknowledged and admired as they appear in the progression of time. Obviously, when you compare both the outcomes and outputs of the twin Bourne Identity creations, many things will be different beyond just the plot. But it’s a fascinating study in—if nothing else—the evolution of spy drama.
Want to know more about the Bourne Effect? Check out some of these scholarly articles utilizing The Bourne Identity etc.
Want more Ludlum? See what the library currently has available, opens a new window.
Are you seeing Jason Bourne this weekend?