People are doing traditional-style reviews all over the web, so we decided to try something different. In each “breakdown” we’ll take a look at what a film’s marketing led us to believe, how the movie actually played, and then what we learned from it all. Read on!
Though I can’t say it bodes well for the increasingly depressing state of modern big budget, the fourth film in the Jason Bourne series averts some fears with the casting of franchise hero Jeremy Renner and the presence of series writer (and talented director in his own right) Tony Gilroy behind the camera.
The Bourne Legacy is the starter gun for a race that’s already been run, a strange, tempo-less sidestep for a franchise that could’ve just been left alone. I love the Jason Bourne series, love Doug Liman’s cold, action-packed opener, and adore the two gritty, politico-actioneers that Paul Greengrass helmed. There’s only one reason for The Bourne Legacy – cold hard cash for all involved. The film isn’t bad, not at all, it’s a well-filmed, decently acted action flick that is leagues above most shit currently floating in the old Hollywood pool, but there’s no reason for its existence.
The Bourne of any Bourne film that has any real value seemingly disappeared in the closing moments of The Bourne Supremacy, this Bourne (Jeremy Renner’s edgy, drugged-up Aaron Cross) is simply a sticky-tacked add on to the universe, a cheap addition scotch-taped to the side of the franchise. What adds another gawking layer of redundancy though is that The Bourne Legacy is the exact same film as The Bourne Identity just with different set pieces and a new Jason Bourne. A secret agent is revealed, targeted by the government that created him, and then hunted down by another government created secret agent. There’s some chase scenes, a new underwritten female character to save from danger, and of course, the shadowy fingers of a government agency slowly closing in on our hero. Not to say that the Bourne films ever really stray from the formula, without the finesse and bravado of Paul Greengrass, the second two Bourne films could very well have been big-budget rehashes of the first, but with a talented director behind them they not only opened the world of Bourne, but did so with propulsive action and beautiful character work.
Tony Gilroy just can’t bring it this go around, the film limps along, establishing the same formula we’ve seen before, but without the flash of the first film or the hurtling energy of the second and third. Instead we’re given Jeremy Renner’s pill-popping assassin, Rachel Weisz’s cringing scientist, and a new cast of shadowy government agents pulling the strings to do right by America – all loosely sketched characters that we easily understand because they’re basically echoes of every well written character from the first three films. Maybe, Tony Gilroy is doing exactly what he’s been told – flatten out the bumps left over from the first films (while paying enormous, irritating amounts of homage to them) while laying the groundwork for another trio of hard-edged modern day spy flicks. To some degree he succeeds, the audience is given a new Bourne, and a new set of villains, and the loose ends required to move forward, ever forward, with new films, but the film is the cinematic equivalent of inertia. Everything happens that we’d expect from a Bourne film, but, seemingly, only because it’s supposed to. It feels like the late Brosnan Bond films, where the generic formula of all things Bond had been established and new directors were just changing the locations, the Bond Girls and scene-chewing villain. This wasn’t a good thing for Bond (see the exceedingly popular reboot) and it won’t be a good thing for the Bourne flicks. Bourne is beautiful because it isn’t restrained by formula, only by the strength of it’s leading man and the story backing him. Stick to the basics and these films are going to get real tired, real fast. Or maybe, as evidenced by the lackadaisical slog of The Bourne Legacy, they already have.
Instead of making new entries in to the Bourne series, lets just make new, awesome entries in to the genre of spy. I promise you, everyone will be happier.