The Bourne Legacy Review: The Franchise Is Re-Bourne, But the Legacy Is Certainly Tarnished

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The Set Up:

The Bourne Legacy takes place around the same time as The Bourne Ultimatum, the previous iteration of the franchise.  But instead of showcasing the story of amnesiac assassin Jason Bourne, The Bourne Legacy centers on another assassin, Aaron Cross of the secret government program Outcome.  Outcome is an offshoot of the Treadstone/Blackbriar program that Bourne leaked at the end of Ultimatum and, fearing a scandal,  head of Outcome Eric Byer decides to eliminate the program, and all the agents involved in it.  But as Byer soon finds out, Aaron Cross is a hard man to dispose of.

Cast: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Albert Finney, and Edgar Ramirez

Written By: Dan and Tony Gilroy

Directed By: Tony Gilroy

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The Delivery:

Before I saw The Bourne Legacy this weekend, I thought it would be appropriate to revisit the franchise.  I remembered enjoying these films, although I never really loved them as much as most people did.  Seeing them a second time, however, changed that.  Well I still have my issues with the series (mostly with the first entry), I couldn’t help but appreciate how the Bourne films could be both kick-ass action films and (GASP!) intellectual thrillers.  The Bourne series is smarter than your average summer blockbuster, and I love the series for it.  

The Bourne Legacy, on the other hand, is quite a step down in both degrees: action and intelligence.  Which is shocking considering the talent involved.  Taking up the directing/writing helm this time around is Tony Gilroy, who wrote the first two films.  If you remember correctly, he also wrote Ultimatum but apparently, his script wasn’t up to snuff for any of the parties involved, including Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon.  Universal then hired Scott Z. Burns to re-write the screenplay.  And even though Gilroy’s name was still on the script, he was not pleased with the re-write, nor the reaction to his original treatment.  Back in 2007, it probably would have been a safe bet to say that Gilroy wouldn’t work on a Bourne movie again.

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But never say never!  After talks on Bourne 4 with Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon fell apart, Universal hired Gilroy to write a reboot/side story to the Bourne film.  Since writing the Bourne films, Gilroy had become quite an accomplished director, with Michael Clayton and Duplicity under his belt.  To avoid any further director/writer squabbling with the franchise, they hired him to direct as well.  Which was probably the worst decision they could have made.

And I’m not saying that as a Tony Gilroy hater; I actually enjoyed both of his previous films, and the scripts for the previous three Bourne films.  But this…this is not a good movie.  By ANY stretch of the imagination.  Furthermore, it’s conflicted as to whether it’s a reboot or a sequel.  Hell, it probably can be best described as a different thing altogether.  At this point, the Bourne in the title is just for branding purposes; it’s like calling a Kit-Kat a Hershey bar.  The only thing they have in common is that they are made by the same people.

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And that would be fine if the film didn’t try at EVERY turn to refer back to the previous Bourne films.  A good amount of the original cast returns for this one, but for no reason what so ever.  Every single one of them LITERALLY have about a minute of screen time.  I’m not even joking.  If they don’t even serve a purpose to the story, why the hell would you even bring them back?  Is that their way of rationalizing the Bourne link?  Because it’s a pretty piss poor one.

But even though that’s one of the bigger problems about the film, there’s plenty more wrong with this movie. First, let’s talk Aaron Cross.  It’s funny; the first Bourne film was about a man searching for his identity.  The Bourne Legacy is about a man with NO identity.  Well I really like Jeremy Renner, Aaron Cross has no personality what so ever, and barely even has time to shine in his own movie.  He has ONE trait, and that’s the fact that he’s addicted to drugs, and is willing to kill people to get them.  What a way to make a likeable protagonist, Gilroy.  Oh, and he can kick ass too…the ten minutes we see of him doing it.

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You know all those great action scenes that you’ve loved in the previous Bourne films?  Well, aside from an awkwardly shoehorned in final 15 minute chase scene around the streets of Manila, there’s almost none to speak of here.  Which wouldn’t be such a bad thing if the story wasn’t so freaking nonsensical and downright BORING.  And right when the film starts to pick up steam, you know what happens?  The credits, that’s what.  This is probably one of the most abrupt ending to a film I’ve seen in ages.  Not only does it feels incomplete, but it also feels trite.  Nothing that happens in this film has a purpose.  At the end of the day, it’s about a drug addict who murders a bunch of people to get his next fix, gets it, and then goes sailing for a bit.  I would label that as a spoiler but really, it’s not.  You can only spoil something that has, y’know, plot.

You can tell that somewhere here, there’s inklings of a decent movie.  As out of left field as that final action scene is, it’s competently done.  And there’s a few other good scenes here too, such as a pretty great one that takes place in a laboratory, and a scene pitting Aaron Cross against a wolf that would make Liam Neeson call PETA.  But none of that can make up for a generally uninteresting, uneventful two hours and fifteen minutes of film.  At the end of the day, I came away not giving a damn about what happened to the characters, or where the plot was going to go.  The only thing I cared about was when I could go home and watch The Bourne Ultimatum again.

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Overall:

The Bourne Legacy is easily the weakest of all the Bourne films, and another low for big budget Hollywood remakes.  At the end of the end of the day, it suffers from the same thing Jason Bourne suffers with; it has no strong identity.  But unlike Jason Bourne, The Bourne Legacy doesn’t seem to want to go out and find it.  

Score: 5 out of 10

-Matthew