By the title, many of you probably realize that I enjoyed The Bourne Ultimatum on the USA network this past weekend. Good stuff! Exotic locales, gripping story line, attractive actors and plenty of action. Tons of action. Non-stop.
Not a laugh to be had, of course. But that was by design. It’s what the young and hip now refer to as a feature, not a flaw.
So I was more than a little surprised to find myself thinking that the movie was very much like Chuck, which really seems like a ridiculous thought when I type it out. I mean, comparing Chuck Bartowski to Jason Bourne? Really?
Oh, you’re jumping ahead already. I can tell. It’s not Chuck who’s like Jason Borne. It’s Charles Carmichael, of course. Better, it’s the Chuck who faced down Alexei Volkoff in his father’s cabin that’s like Jason. It’s the Bartowski who faces down Shaw who doesn’t smile, ever. So, oh yeah. There is a side to Chuck that we only glimpse, and I’m guessing Faith and Thinkling and Amy don’t find that guy “adorkable” at all. He’s magnetic, and we only get him in small doses.
But it has been four seasons, and in that time we’ve seen much of him (and much more action) than can be shown in a two hour movie. Jason Bourne runs over the rooftops of Tunisia (Chuck runs over the rooftops of suburbia) and jumps across a 5 story drop to the next building (Chuck leaps across the building, almost makes it, needing Orion to pull it up as he hangs on by his fingertips). Jason battles a younger, stronger version of himself in a martial arts battle supreme done in close quarters (Chuck battles Shaw, Intersect on Intersect, in the Buy More). Jason has been struggling to discover his identity, and figures out that he’s been, essentially, created as a government project and used like a puppet by the megalomaniacal head of “the agency”. Almost ditto for Chuck.
It goes on. When I think of Chuck racing backwards down a street in Moscow (to stop Vivian and Riley) I’m reminded of several car-chase scenes from the Bourne movies done in the streets of Rome. Or London. Or Brussels.
And there was one more scene that struck me especially hard last weekend. At the very end of Ultimatum, Jason jumps from a five story roof into a river just as the big, evil government baddy who’s been running his life shoot him. We see Jason floating, apparently lifeless, in the river. The woman he’s been running with (not quite a love-interest, but close) hears that he’s “presumed dead”, and then, intercut with Jason miraculously coming back to life and swimming away, she smiles a very slight half smile, like she knows something. It’s Sarah’s smile at the end of Lethal Weapon. It’s the smile she uses when she hears Chuck say that he won’t let “this thing” (The Intersect) stop him from being with he woman he loves.
You may disagree with me (please do!), but there is so much humor, romance and genuine love shown on Chuck in every episode that it’s almost hard to remember how strong the adventure is. It’s simply not what comes to mind first when I think of the show or hear the music. The adventure is almost like a new discovery when I do my summer re-watch marathons, and as many times as other characters have carried the action (Bryce, Orion and now Morgan anyone?) I followed the romance, which was always focused on Chuck&Sarah. That caused me to downplay it in my mind; a mistake.
But it works both ways. When I think of Matt Damon’s movies now, I can’t help but think that something’s missing, that humor and romance I’ve been focusing on for four seasons. In our comments we’ve often mentioned the balance we hope to see, and we often talk about the interplay between the elements we’ve come to expect. That balance often comes with perspective, though, which is something that’s always changing. After Season 5 ends, we’ll have a different perspective and a lasting final impression.
Tonight is when I start moving to that spot. I’ve been avoiding spoilers, so I don’t know exactly what’s coming with “The Morgansect” and Mama Burton, and I’m trusting that there’ll be a surprise or two along the way. What I do expect, because I’ve seen it for four seasons already, is a story that speaks to me like a conversation. I’m talking to Chuck, to Sarah, to Casey and Morgan (and to Zac and Yvonne and Josh and Adam) and I’m listening to Allie and Kristin and Rafe and Lauren and all the writers and even to Chris and Josh like they’re talking to me alone. It’s been that personal. That’s something very different from what I got in the Jason Bourne movies.
Because of that private conversation, no matter what happens this season, Chuck will always be superior in my mind. It’s already there.
Added: Speaking of mistakes, I’ve corrected the spelling of Bourne. Thanks, Michael!