‘The Bourne Legacy’ Movie Review – In Need of a New Identity
When you really look at it, The Bourne Legacy is a spin-off movie. Historically speaking, spin-offs have not been successful, with a few notable exceptions. Even with the exceptions, they normally don’t equal the original. Tony Gilroy’s return to the Bourne franchise in The Bourne Legacy is an example of how revered originals can hurt subsequent spin-offs. In this case, it would’ve been better to distance themselves from the Bourne name (much like the narrative does) in order to ease these expectations, because really, The Bourne Legacy is a great action movie with a decent narrative.
Interestingly, Legacy doesn’t opt to take place after the last movie in the franchise (The Bourne Ultimatum). Instead, they interweave parts of the previous story into a stand-alone plot. Although it’s ultimately not distracting to new viewers (I’m assuming here), it’s a nice little call-back for fans of the old stuff.
However, like I’ve said, this isn’t really a Bourne movie per se, because Jason Bourne simply isn’t present (pictures of him across news stations don’t count). Legacy is about a different black ops agent named Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) who suffers some blowback due to Bourne’s escape in Ultimatum. Instead of trying to salvage the Treadstone/Blackbriar debacle, the higher-ups decide to liquidate the program altogether. While most of the agents don’t fare so well, Cross’ instinct for survival keeps him alive under-the-radar.
Although he may seem like a natural survivalist, Cross is actually aided by some mysterious blue and green pills (or “chems”) which pharmaceutically enhance his skills. With no more supply, he enlists the help of a damsel-in-distress scientist, Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz). Much like Cross, Shearing finds herself in dire straits when she becomes a targeted loose end.
These two must team-up to help save each other’s lives while trying to expose the politically-corrupt organization that is exploiting them.
While I’ve made it pretty obvious this doesn’t fit exactly into the Bourne franchise, I will give it some props on overall style. Much like the others, Legacy is less about the action and more about the plot. There are scores of corrupt government action movies, but what makes the Bourne movies so much better? They don’t care (as much) about fist fights, assault rifles, and explosions. In this sense, Legacy keeps up the good work…up until the final action sequence.
These mysterious pills are one place where the movie strays quite a bit. Why wasn’t Jason subjected to these over the past three films? If the film wants to give us the impression “there was never just one,” then how come “the one” (Jason) seems superior to the others? It’s these types of questions that kill the movie’s fighting chance of keeping pace with the predecessors.
Like I hinted earlier, the story seems to fall apart as the action increases in the final act. This may seem disappointing to a person like me, but maybe it’ll appeal to the ones that argue the Bourne movies (particularly The Bourne Identity) seem boring at times.
This action really hits a snag in the final chase scene that feels like it goes on for 45 minutes. Gilroy’s jerky, high-speed approach to shooting the scene was too much, and spoiled a decently rich film. Yes, the scene probably lasted closer to 10 minutes, but it was a classic example of action-for-action-sake. They called for a chase scene with a predictable ending just to fill the quota.
The Bourne Legacy is in the same league as the other movies (albeit barely). However, I wish it had been a true spin-off and tried to make its own legacy. There are clever callbacks (especially the very beginning and very end) but besides that, they aren’t too connected. By capitalizing on the audience’s need for more, it begs for comparisons and falls apart in some ways. Jeremy Renner is a great “replacement” for Matt Damon, but he can’t overcome some of the issues which lands this film near the bottom on the “series.”
Or maybe it is the top of a new series?
Follow me on Twitter @jmacle