I was disappointed when the expected news of Matt Damon not returning to the Jason Bourne film franchise was confirmed. I know that it had to happen sooner or later, but it was still crappy news once it came down. Since then, I've come to terms with my disappointment and I've accepted the fact that Damon wasn't returning to do The Bourne Legacy. Now I'm ready to move on from the team of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass and I'm ready to accept the new team of Jeremy Renner and Tony Gilroy. Those two guys have talent and I'm sure that they can make a Bourne movie just as well as those other guys right?
Even though Jason Bourne is missing in action, the legacy of Jason Bourne continues to carry on. That doesn't sit well with former Col. Eric Byer (Edward Norton). He wants to get rid of any and everything associated with Bourne and Treadstone. Byer decides that his best option is to wipe out what he calls "the disease" before it spreads into other areas of the government. In order to complete his objective, he believes that he's going to have to knock off anyone associated with the program and that includes assassinating field agents like Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner).
Cross catches on to this and goes on the run to escape the danger that awaits him. Along the way, he meets up with Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a scientist in the program who also has a price on her head. Agent Cross and Dr. Shearing are now on the run and must travel the globe to save their lives and get some answers. But they have to move with extreme caution, because If they fail, they'll meet the same ending of the many who have crossed path with the unseen forces that are hunting them down.
The Bourne Legacy is a continuation of the story that we saw in The Bourne Ultimatum. While it does continue parts of the actual story from that film to an extent, it branches out into the other parts that coincide with the time span from that previous film. This movie opens up with Aaron Cross training in the freezing cold weather of Alaska's wilderness. This is also the place where the likes of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) had also trained over the years for this same program.
Once Cross' existence in the world is established, the movie goes on and attempts to reconnect the dots while adding some new ones during the process. The audience learns about what's going on now with the likes of Pamela Landy (Joan Allen), Noah Vosen (David Strathaim) and a few others who were left behind to clean up the mess in The Bourne Ultimatum, but we're also introduced to some other government agents who want this mess cleaned up in their own way. This group of agents are led by Eric Byer and they don't agree with finishing the job in the courts and unlike some of their predecessors who took this on, they have a much more detailed understanding of what's actually taking place.
The creators of this film wanted to make the main antagonist feel superior to the one's that were in previous Bourne films. They wanted to do it, but that's not what happens. I had a difficult time taking Edward Norton seriously in this role. He looks like a nice guy and he doesn't have any sort of base in his voice. When Ted Conklin (Chris Cooper), Pamela Landy and Noah Vosen were chasing Bourne in the three previous Bourne films, I could fully believe their characters. They were stern, strong, in control and forceful when need be. Norton tried to do that, but he just didn't fit the role and I don't think anyone could convince me otherwise.
He's not the only problem when I'm talking about the acting. Norton is an accomplished actor and I would never question his ability. I'd say the same about Renner and Weisz. That's why it's weird for me to criticize them in a sense, but I have to be honest and admit that they didn't bring any powerhouse performances to the table and they are clearly lacking in chemistry. Renner and Weisz had decent acting performances, but I expected more than just decent. The love story (if you want to call it that) came off as inauthentic, because of this and these two having no chemistry between them.
I don't think that Renner or Weisz were made for their roles anyway. While being a good actor with range, Renner didn't have the style or charisma that I feel is important for roles like this. He certainly couldn't match Damon's portrayal as Bourne in any of those categories and that's certainly noticeable. He should be portraying characters like the one's we've seen in movies like The Town and maybe 28 Weeks Later. He's not built for roles that ask him to be a violent and deadly super spy.
As far as Weisz is concerned, I view her as not being properly cast as well. Unlike Renner, who I believe has a role that might have been too expansive for him, I think Weisz has a role that was too restricting for her. While Renner's role should have gone to an established actor, the role that Weisz has should have went to a lesser known and slightly younger actress who could have brought some kind of freshness to a film. I actually believe that The Bourne Legacy holds her back somewhat and she's not able to show off what she can do when it comes to acting.
Being is miscast is basically the same issue that Renner, Weisz and Norton face. That's one of the differences between this Bourne film and the others that came before it. Those films had actors that fit and with the exception of Damon, none of those other guys were well known names when compared to these guys. For example, Franka Potente had a role that fit some of the things that she's done before and she was a slightly new face that American audiences hadn't really seen much of yet. Similar things can be said of actors like Brian Cox and David Straithaim when they were cast.
The average to decent acting from the miscast actors hurts the movie in a multitude of ways. The largest and most obvious way it hurts it is because there's not that much action to speak of in The Bourne Legacy. You heard me right, there isn't much action to speak of. There's very little fighting and shooting and whether it's on vehicles or on foot, there's very little chasing. I couldn't believe the lack of activity being displayed right in front of my eyes.
Apparently, someone decided that it was best to primarily rely on talking, a few flashbacks and attempts at drama instead of intelligently done high octane action for some reason. I don't mind those things coming into play, but people come to Bourne movies to see bad guys getting beat up and the lead protagonist using intelligence and intuition to find his way out of dire circumstances when there are a countless number of agents and cops who are hot on his trail. We do get a small amount of that, but it's just nowhere near enough and it's only ever decent at best. How can you even think about putting out a movie in the Bourne franchise with action done in this style?
You might think that you'd be in for a smart movie with more substance due to the fact that there's more talking and drama to go with less action, but The Bourne Legacy is less brainy and less dramatic than you might think it should be. The previous versions of Bourne are intelligent in the way they handle everything. Directors Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass were able to tell an attention grabbing story with a lead character that didn't do much talking and really didn't show any emotion or personality. It shows off the attention to detail that's important in film and this latest movie missed a bunch of that.
If I don't compare The Bourne Legacy to the other films in the Bourne franchise and I allow it to stand on its own, I'd say that this movie is an average film at best with some solid acting and a few action scenes that are decent at certain points. On the other hand, if I compare to the three films that preceded it, I would say that it looks much worse and that it's not comparable at all. That's tough for me to say, because I love all of the Bourne stuff and I honestly wanted this to succeed with or without Matt Damon. Instead, we get a watered down action movie that needed more action and a much better script.
I was originally hoping that the creators of this movie wouldn't copy Bourne trilogy completely. I came out of it wishing they would have stole from it more than they did. Trying to link Matt Damon's Jason Bourne to the film by showing a picture of his face every now and then or showing his name in certain places isn't going to build the continuity that the creators are looking for. A smart action movie with style and substance would have built that continuity and I would have been amped to sit through the two plus hours again just to see it on more than one occasion.
The Bourne Legacy reminds of the time when someone thought it was smart to make a Halloween movie without Michael Myers in it. It was a terrible idea and the universal boos are still being heard to this day. The Bourne Legacy might not be as bad as Halloween 3 was, but it certainly doesn't live up to the three previous Bourne movies with Jason Bourne as the lead protagonist. The Bourne Legacy never even felt like a Bourne movie and it never really looked like one either. They only shared the names and that's about it.
Bourne's legacy is not helped by The Bourne Legacy. There's a lot to live up to with this franchises' first three films being so well received and that should be enough pressure for people to want to succeed. There was simply no reason to fail this bad unless they didn't know what they were doing and I find that to be unlikely. Hopefully the next one sees the return of Jason Bourne as we dive further into the stories that are ahead of him. If that doesn't happen, I'll pray and hope that they put forth a better movie from top to bottom than this one.
Director: Tony Gilroy
Louis Ozawa Changchien
Film Length: 125 minutes
Release Date: August 10, 2012
Distributor: Universal Pictures