The Bourne Legacy is Universal’s attempt to extend the Bourne franchise without the involvement of Matt Damon or director Paul Greengrass. It’s not impossible for a new film in the franchise to score big with audiences, even with the introduction of the new protagonist, Aaron Cross. As long as the stars and director Tony Gilroy can deliver a movie that is as exciting and full of the great action we’ve come to expect with the Bourne series, I think fans would be happy. Unfortunately, The Bourne Legacy doesn’t quite live up to its predecessors, though still making for a decent time at the theater, but it does lack one of the key elements in a Bourne movie, rousing action.
The first half of The Bourne Legacy lacks a hook into the story and I felt I was always waiting to see why I was jumping on board the Aaron Cross train. With The Bourne Identity, we are instantly hooked into the film through the mystery of who Jason Bourne is and why this seemingly nice guy randomly knows how to put down armed guards with his bare hands? The mystery of the new film isn’t so much who Aaron Cross is, but how does he fit into the world of Bourne? This is a lot less interesting because you don’t really focus too much on Aaron Cross as a character. He seems to be thinly written and is more a cog of the film’s plot than a living, breathing character. That’s not to say I didn’t like Aaron Cross, I did, and I hope that if they continue on with his character we see more of who he is and give us better reasons to invest in him besides just being the main character in the film. Plus, I think Jeremy Renner is a fantastic actor and somehow he keeps getting these thinly written characters. I understand that Renner as Hawkeye in The Avengers wasn’t ever going to be fully developed as he was playing third tier to everyone else in the movie but in The Bourne Legacy, a movie in which he stars as the lead character (one that could potentially extend the franchise and be the basis for another two films), I would have expected him to be more developed; allowing Renner to really dig his teeth into the character and show off is acting prowess.
Another thing the first half of the film lacks is the propulsive energy the previous Bourne films had. We start out with Cross in Alaska trekking across a mountaintop, which is an impressive feat, but it does not make for a terribly exciting viewing experience. His run-in with some wolves does provide a little badass moment but there just doesn’t seem to be all that much of any interest going on. Even with the various government agencies talking about what is happening and how they need to shut down the program, it just feels like the characters are spouting buzzwords that are meant to give us a sense that important things are being said but I’m not sure that there was anything of any importance actually being discussed, which is a bummer because this is where the excellent Edward Norton has a lot of his scenes.
The new addition of “chems” to the storyline didn’t seem to be handled in the best possible way. There is great focus on this new chemical delivery of physical and mental enhancement to the operatives of the program, including Aaron Cross, but it again feels like buzzwords being said for most of the movie with an explanation towards the end of the second act. Perhaps the intention was that we were supposed to be invested in the film trying to figure out what the chems were but it kind of just makes for some silly scenes in which Renner is yelling, “I need chems! Where are the chems? WHERE ARE THE CHEMS?” If it had been better written, I think I would have been intrigued by the chemical enhancement through-line of the story.
The action is definitely lacking in The Bourne Legacy. There are a few action scenes sprinkled throughout the film but they are mostly small and not overly impressive. You do get a sense that if they showed more of Cross’ fighting ability, it would have made for a kick-ass time. It’s not until Cross leaves the country with Dr. Shearing (Weisz) that the film kicked into gear for me and started feeling like something worthy of a Bourne film. The final action/chase scene is pretty impressive and was truly exciting. It got the blood pumping and made for a great finale to the film. I just wish the lead up was more exciting.
The Bourne Legacy isn’t a failure but it could have been better. It contains a lot of really great actors, a potentially interesting storyline and a great finale but falls a little flat when compared to the previous three films in the franchise. It spent quite a bit of time trying to connect itself to the previous films, which wouldn’t be so bad if the connective tissue was really interesting. I honestly would be fine with another film with Aaron Cross as the main character but I just hope that they learn from their mistakes in Legacy and improve upon them. I’d like to see Aaron Cross become more identifiable and fleshed out and I want more adrenaline-inducing action. We loved Jason Bourne because we connected to the character through his identity crisis but was in awe of him because of his badassness. And that’s what the next Bourne franchise film needs, more badassery.
by Ben McBride