Flowers for Aaron

I’m always on the look out for traces of past pop culture in contemporary offerings. Perhaps in honor of The Bourne Legacy I should call this DNA or something, but I don’t know enough science to work the term into an apt metaphor. Anyway, it was when super soldier Aaron revealed that if he didn’t get the green pills he’d revert to a mental retard that I had the insight: The Bourne Legacy is merely Flowers for Algernon done as a thriller. Did screenwriting brothers Tony and Dan Gilroy read the Bantam classic as it was being passed around in class, the way I did? If I recall correctly, we read it on the sly because of the racy part where the mentally challenged/genius Charly has an affair with the beautiful woman running the experiment, just like in the movie.

My other flash to the past went back even further. It’s when the super-assassin is being introduced, and some CIA flunky exposits in voice over that he has been genetically modified to have less empathy. Where have I heard that before? I thought, and then it came to me: an episode from a Dick Tracy serial, circa 1930s. Dick Tracy’s brother has been kidnapped by an evil scientist who declares, rubbing his hands: “By a simple operation of the glands, he will be unable to tell the difference between right and wrong!”

I remember at this line the entire audience (college students, a Northwestern University film series screening) burst into uncontrollable laughter. The Bourne series is now officially asking, practically begging, to be parodied.