As expected, the nerds are up in arms over the treatment of computer hacking in Jason Bourne. “It all feels like Bourne for Dummies“, says Slashfilm while The Verge calls the “tech explanations vague and improbable”.
Yes, the hacking scenes looked too much like the hand of the viewer is being held to guide him towards comprehension — not nerd-standard comprehension but just enough to make the story understandable.
What the nerds who are up in arms don’t seem to realize is that, unlike previous Bourne films (excluding The Bourne Legacy), Jason Bourne was not based, not even loosely, on a book that majority of the viewers, presumably die-hard Bourne fans, would have read and, therefore, presumed to be able to understand the hacking scenes without need for guidance. While it usually takes large blocks across several chapters to explain such intricacies (think The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo), there is no way that such detailed explanations can be successfully injected into a few minutes in the latest installment in the Bourne franchise.
The truth is, none of the Bourne films are big on philosophizing, deep thinking and especially on carefully explaining technology to non-techies. The fictional Bourne, after all, is an assassin caught up in the internal politics and power struggle within the CIA — a CIA according to the creative minds of the story writers. This isn’t Mr. Robot. It’s Bourne. And any comparison between the two is plain silly. Gary Wolcott of Tri-City Herald has the best advice: “Buckle up, suspend disbelief and enjoy the ride.” And it is a fast and exciting ride.
But why am I even wasting time on the nerds who lambasted the entire film based on the not-so-perfect hacking scenes alone? Bona fide movie writers would have viewed the film from a much broader perspective that includes actor performance, production design, cinematography and so on, and so forth. They may be real techies but they’re not very good movie reviewers.
Obviously, I enjoyed Jason Bourne. The story isn’t perfect but the pace is good, the action is non-stop and, more importantly, coherent.
What’s there to like about the story? The attempt to modernize and put Bourne’s character in 2016. Consider that The Bourne Identity was published in 1980, The Bourne Supremacy in 1986 and The Bourne Ultimatum in 1990. There was no internet and the only way to expose government wrongdoing was to go to a newspaper and beg it to publish classified documents that have to be physically stolen by breaking into highly guarded government buildings. But it’s 2016. Banks get robbed via hacking (think the 2016 Bangladesh Bank heist); why not government agencies? And why involve media at all when the exposé can be done by simply uploading the documents to the World Wide Web? Julian Assange has done it.
But what resonated even more was the attempt to put into debate whether highly trained intelligence operatives who move and operate in the shadows are necessary in today’s world at all. If they are, should they operate only within certain parameters? Who should set those parameters and to whom should these policy-makers be accountable?
That, after all, was the gist of Nikki Parson’s actions — the hacking and theft of CIA Black Op files — that set the entire story in motion. Before she was killed, Nikki had allied herself with people who believe that such information should be made public ostensibly so that no one — not even the highest officials in the intelligence community — is unaccountable. They spend taxpayers’ money, after all.
Wait… didn’t the nerds catch that part? Never mind.
But what’s really interesting is that Jason Bourne is the third film released in 2016 to go toward that direction. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War already got the viewers thinking whether it’s really a good idea to have superheroes who can kill and destroy, vigilante style, without being held accountable. Jason Bourne, though to a lesser extent, asks the same question about government officials and their operatives, their motives and agenda, why they are not being held accountable for their actions and why the public is being kept in the dark.
In short, we, the viewers are being asked to re-assess our admiration for fictional characters who, stripped off their costumes, superpowers and skills, are really nothing more than vigilantes. That, I think, is a brave effort on the part of filmmakers. But the effort is useless if all we’re going to do is cherry-pick and howl that the hacking scenes just weren’t nerdy enough.