Sequels, remakes, sidequels and reboots are beginning to lap each other. Hollywood is basically throwing everything against the wall as it alternatively tries to keep successful franchises going with the original stars, introduce new blood to keep things fresh, selectively acknowledge or ignore previous entries and pay homage to what’s come before even as it tries to tell new stories. Ghostbusters is a remake…kind of. Terminator Genisys picks what it wants from four previous movies and ignores the rest. Jurassic World shunts two movies to the side completely. The Force Awakens is a dance mix cover of the original, new but also completely familiar.
Now Matt Damon is back as Jason Bourne in…well…Jason Bourne, the cinematic equivalent of a band giving their third album the name of the band itself. Damon, who starred in three previous movies, was absent the fourth entry, The Bourne Legacy, when the studio tried to position Jeremy Renner in a new role as the keeper of the franchise flame. But that movie failed to excite anyone and so Damon, along with director Paul Greengrass, is back as the amnesiac super soldier who once again remembers everything about the super secret spy group he was part of, only to find out that he never really knew anything. The story, which is fairly thin, is basically an excuse to take Damon to foreign countries where he can ride motorcycles in dramatic chase sequences, which is the point of these movies.
The teaser poster is pretty simple. It just shows Bourne stepping out of the shadows, gun in hand and looking ready to use it. We’re told “You know his name” by the copy, which is a nice way of acknowledging that Damon is back as the titular character.
The second poster kept the same idea, only this time the picture was a closeup of Bourne’s face, not the farther-away full body shot. So there’s not a whole lot that’s going on in the poster campaign, it’s just a big old reminder that Damon is back in the franchise and won’t you come see it please?
The first full trailer starts out with Bourne still hiding out but narrating that he knows exactly who he is. But he’s told that while that’s true it doesn’t mean he doesn’t know everything. The Treadstone group finds out Bourne is back in civilization, which means he’s quickly on the run again and being tracked and hunted. It’s clear from his actions that he’s upset at being lied to about why he volunteered for the job and that’s why he’s looking for answers. Most of the trailer is just him running or driving into or out of various situations either after those who can help him or away from those who are after him.
It’s a tight trailer that sells the movie as one action sequence after another. Lots of rocket launchers, high-speed chases through subways and the Las Vegas strip are on display here along with Damon’s furrowed eyebrows. Not that it’s not good, but it definitely presents the story as unfolding mostly through a series of action set pieces, with breaks for Tommy Lee Jones to act as the latest heavy who tells Bourne he won’t be finding peace anytime soon.
Online and Social
After the official website finishes loading you’re greeted with Damon’s face as the key art serves as the background for the home page.
Moving to the content menu on the left, the first section there is “About,” which has a decent story synopsis that’s heavy on talking about Damon returning to the role and the other people involved and light on any actual discussion of the story, meaning it’s either super-secret or it’s barely there.
After that the “Gallery” has about a dozen stills from the movie, which unfortunately can’t be downloaded. The “Videos” section just has the trailer and the Super Bowl TV spot that’s shared below.
“Remember Everything” is a stand-alone site that prompts you to login with either Facebook or Instagram and promises to test to see whether you remember the kinds of things you’ve shared because, as it says, the internet sure does.
On social platforms the movie had profiles on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, all of which shared the same kind of promotional images, though the first two also had some news and press about the movie scattered in there as well.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
The first look at the movie came in a Super Bowl TV commercial that starts off by showing Bourne in action, followed by a bunch of suits once again shocked that he’s still out there. He declares he remembers everything but is quickly told that doesn’t necessarily mean he knows everything.
It’s a slick, fast-paced spot that only hints at the story – another search for hidden secrets – but is primarily concerned with telling us that Damon is back to continue Jason Bourne’s story. Despite being the debut promo for the movie it only came in second in Cision’s ranking of movie spots aired during the game. And it came in third among movies in a ranking of Facebook ad engagement.
More TV spots followed, some of which dropped serious hints as to what the conflict in this entry in the series was going to be.
There were plenty of online ads run as well, with banner ads on websites and videos, including the trailer and some TV spots, being used as promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook.
Media and Publicity
Aside from the news that the movie was happening and that Damon was coming back, the first real news about the movie came when producer Frank Marshall tweeted a photo of Damon on the first day of production. While details were still sparse on the story and plot, Damon offered a few more tidbits on where the movie finds Bourne along with a first look photo in EW toward the end of 2015.
Around the time of the Super Bowl spot debut Damon talked about where the movie would find his character and what was likely in Bourne’s future. A few months later a new trailer along with other details was shown off at Universal’s CinemaCon presentation.
The studio partnered with Omaze on a campaign benfitting Water.org and which had Damon freaking people out in a mall for charity.
Both Bourne and Greengrass talked about the movie and what drew them back to the franchise after each taking some time away. Damon was also the focus of a multipart GQ feature that covered his fashion, his reputation with filmmakers and costars, his career history and more.
Of course Damon made the late night talk show rounds, including visiting his nemesis Jimmy Kimmel, to promote the movie.
The central theme, in case it’s not obvious from all the materials, of the campaign is that Damon is back and we’re really kind of hoping you don’t hold that Renner-starring movie against us. That approach allows the studio to not really focus on the story – whatever there may be of one – since it’s not the attraction, Damon is. It’s all about how we’ve enjoyed his previous outings as the character and after a misguided attempt at contract negotiations went awry he’s returned and now you can enjoy another trip to the movies.
The movie itself does look fun from what’s on display here. I’ll be honest, I have a hard time keeping the three previous Damon-starring installments straight in my head since for the most part they all take place in some random gray Eastern European city and are differentiated mostly by the CIA honcho threatening Bourne and the level to which he remembers his past. So this looks like it might put a cap on the franchise by bringing it all home, though I’d be shocked if they actually wrap it up in any definitive manner. But the story is secondary: The marketing is selling Damon and its success will be determined based on whether that’s something people are looking for or not.