The North American summer blockbuster season is running out and looks like being the most disappointing ever, in commercial terms. The reason is not hard to find – too many sequels and not enough originality.
It is pleasing to note a Kiwi film, Hunt for the Wilderpeople, has so far grossed $8.7 million, way ahead of Hollywood’s most popular film released here this year, Finding Dory
at $5 million and still going.
Disney’s Finding Dory is one of the few sequels to fire. Disney’s other hits include a remake of The Jungle Book and a sequel, Captain America: Civil War.
But none of them topped the surprise comic-based Deadpool, which had an age restriction and was basically a parody of the genre.
Other sequels all performed below par, among them Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men Apocalypse, Ice Age: Collision Course, Kung Fu Panda 3 and Independence Day: Resurgence.
Star Trek Beyond, Now You See Me 2, Alice Through the Looking Glass and The Divergent Series: Allegiant are way down the box office list, while the less said about the comedies Neighbours 2: Sorority Rising, My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2 and Zoolander 2 the better.
The drought for sequels might break with Jason Bourne (Universal), which reboots a series that ran strongly from The Bourne Identity (2002) until The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) but failed with a 2012 spinoff, The Bourne Legacy, that replaced Matt Damon with Jeremy
Nearly 10 years on, Damon is back and so is director and co-screenwriter Peter Greenglass, who is still remembered for his 9/11 based-on-fact thriller United 93.
The Bourne films are based on spy thrillers by Robert Ludlum, who put action ahead of characterisation and plot. That has changed in the latest outing, which catches up with
Bourne, a former CIA agent, eking out an existence as a bare-knuckle fighter in the Balkans.
His onetime CIA offsider, Nicky Parsons (Julia Chiles), enters a hackers’ den in Iceland and breaks into CIA files looking for information on Bourne’s background.
She is soon tracked and cut off by a CIA cyber-expert (Alicia Vikander), who is immediately fascinated by the rogue agent.
Thus kicks off a thin plot that starts with anti-austerity street riots in Athens as Parsons and
Bourne team up, monitored at all times from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and chased by a foreign hit-man (French actor Vincent Cassel).
The first of several car chases ensues as Greengrass demonstrates he is the best in the business at creating twisted metal on wheels.
This is overdone: the climactic chase in Las Vegas includes a hundred-odd cars that look parked on the road before they are wiped out by Cassel in an armour-plated vehicle.
Las Vegas is the setting for a rerun of the climax of The Manchurian Candidate as a geeky Zuckerberglike figure (Riz Ahmed) takes to the stage to announce some dodgy bigbrother
surveillance software with the CIA boss (Tommy Lee Jones).
Unlike Eye in the Sky, Greengass stretches technology beyond the present or desired limits of legal intelligence gathering — a pity because it’s realism that lifts spy stories above the ordinary.
Rating: Mature audiences (violence) 123 minutes.