I spun up the HD DVD version of The Bourne Supremacy over the weekend and found it an eminently watchable flick. Not quite as engaging as the first one, with perhaps a trifle bit of pretentiousness that especially shined through via the director's ( Paul Greengrass) various commentaries. It was, nonetheless, an excellent waste of time, with Matt Damon doing his usual great job as Jason Bourne and Joan Allen as the CIA opponent, looking for answers to several mysterious questions.
The movie opens with Jason Bourne and Marie (the ever luminescent Franka Poente) hiding out in India. Of course, real world events catch up with them when he is framed for the killing of a double agent and Bourne begins a hunt of his own. Meanwhile, there's trouble brewing in the CIA, where Pamela Landy tries to get answers to who killed her double agent, and it uncovers the slimy legacy of Treadstone, the assassination bureau that Bourne was an early member of and is now closed down and covered up. Many fights ensue and several great car chases, and finally Bourne gets to unburden his soul.
A truly excellent reference HD DVD, to be sure. Amazing clarity of picture and a real nice workout for the speakers contribute to a film for showing off your home theater setup. The explosions felt real and the crashes shook the floor. Even the soundtrack was pretty good. I did have a minor skipping problem, but a good cleaning fixed it up completely. I really have to get into the habit of cleaning the DVDs before viewing.
Speaking of stunts - top notch all the way around. I loved the explosions, especially the one in the apartment of the other Treadstone assassin. There was a great shot of this one from the outside and I wondered how they made it look so cool. And the car chases were amazing! I even watched the ending one in Moscow over again. There's a great view of them flying out of a side alley and into 5 or 6 lanes of traffic that is breathtaking.
Too bad the new car chase technology was abused horribly. According to one of the extras, they used a new toy called the "Go-Mobile", which basically let them do car chases in a brand new way. They could strap the body of the car in the chase onto a fast chassis and drive it with a stunt driver. This gave them nearly unlimited freedom in how to film it, as you could do it from the outside or the inside of the car. And they nearly ruined the movie, as any time the action heated up, they would move to these hand-held cameras with their faux-documentary shaky feel and it was jarring to say the least. In the extra, they even showed some cool panning shots they could do, which unfortunately they eschewed in favor of the jittery closeups. Even the fight scenes suffered from this defect, which actually seems to be more common. Just when the action heats up, they move in for closeups, making it virtually impossible to tell just what the hell is going on. Truly too bad.
The HD version had a plethora of extras. The unique to the HD "Total Experience" extra was much like a commentary track, only instead there was a tiny window at the bottom right. Once again, great technology horribly used, as most of it was merely the actors expounding gratuitously on their character's motivations and what they were doing - truly a pointless exercise. There were a couple of nice parts where they would show how it was getting filmed at the same time as it was showing on the screen, but in general it was a nice technology badly used.
But there were plenty of other extras on the DVD:
1. Commentary by Paul Greengrass - Director
1. "Bourne Instant Access"
2. Deleted Scenes
3. "Bourne Instant Access"
4. "Keeping It Real"
5. "Blowing Things Up"
6. "On the Move With Jason Bourne"
7. "Bourne to be Wild: Fight Training"
8. "Crash Cam: Racing Through the Streets of Moscow"
9. "The Go-Mobile Revs Up the Action"
10. "Anatomy of a Scene: The Explosive Bridge Chase Scene"
11. "Scoring With John Powell"
12. "The Bourne Mastermind"
13. "The Bourne Diagnosis"
I particularly liked the "Blowing Things Up", which showed how they did the cool explosion, as well a the Go-Mobile description So, all in all, an HD DVD I might just be adding to my library, even despite the nauseating handheld work. I'll have to check out the original The Bourne Identity on HD DVD as well as perhaps reading the Identity book again, which was a huge favorite at the time I first read it, perhaps 20 years ago. I was a huge Ludlum fan, until I realized just how similar all his books were, so I gave up. And I've been afraid of going back and rereading Identity, as it might be another early idol shot down. But I thought the amnesia was a clever plot twist on the super spy genre, so it may be worth revisiting.