I would love to sit here and tell you all that The Bourne Legacy was just as good as any film in the original Damon trilogy, but, unfortunately, I can’t. While I did enjoy it, this is one of those films in which the bad or not-so-great outweighs the good.
*mild spoilers ahead*
The plot was weak and confusing; the entire first half of the film had me wondering what was happening, who was who, and why certain decisions were being made. While this wouldn’t have been a problem if all of my questions had been answered later in the film, most of them weren’t. I think that the film suffered from being set within the timeline of the original trilogy; references would have been fine, but this film takes place during and immediately after the third film, making things feel forced and a bit rushed. It would have been better to see the main character as a member of a completely separate, unrelated-to-Bourne project so that the film could be viewed less as a sequel and more as a continuation with a new focus.
I also wasn’t a huge fan of the whole “chemically-altered super-human” part of the story…it worked for Captain America because he is a superhero set in a different universe with different rules than ours. While this type of chemical altering may eventually become reality in our own universe, it just feels silly in the context of the film; a super-human doesn’t have the same appeal as a highly-gifted and intensely-trained person in a non-superhero world.
I enjoyed Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, but I felt that the character’s “motivation” was not adequate enough to justify the full movie. It is not the attempt on his life that motivates him (at least, it doesn’t feel like it is), but, rather, his dependency on some pills distributed by the organization he works for that seems to push him into action; the entire middle portion of the film is watching Cross find a way to get his hands on some of these pills. I also had a problem with Rachel Weisz’s character, Dr. Marta Shearling, a woman who seems to take no issue with the fact that Cross is capable of fighting and killing with apparent ease…there’s not even a moment’s flicker of doubt as she continues on her journey with this violent man. In The Bourne Identity, Marie tried to run away from Jason Bourne when she found out who he was and what he was capable of, only staying because Bourne convinces her that she needs him to survive…for at least a little while. There’s a moment that is sort of like this in The Bourne Legacy, but it is subdued and less effective. She asks no questions and makes no attempts to flee.
Though the character wasn’t as fleshed out as he could have been in the script, Renner as Aaron Cross worked wonderfully as the follow-up to Damon’s Bourne. Renner plays the character with a resolve that almost makes you forgive the rocky motivations that Cross acts on. Edward Norton was excellent in this film. His character, Eric Byer, is in charge of cleaning up after the CIA’s “Treadstone” and “Blackbriar” programs (the programs that created/tried to kill Bourne, respectfully). He’s got a sharp tongue, a firm authority, and a sense of urgency that you can’t help but admire. Another bright part of the movie was the action; Jeremy Renner did a great job with the physical aspect of the character as well, giving us fight scenes that, while not as inspired as the first fights in The Bourne Identity, entertain without becoming too much of a good thing…with one exception. The last twenty minutes or so of the film consists of one overly gratuitous chase sequence…it just takes way too long.
Let’s face it: The Bourne Legacy had quite a – well – legacy to live up to. The original trilogy starring Matt Damon in the title role was excellent in terms of plot, character development, emotion, and action. Unfortunately, Legacy fell short in just about every regard, but just because it isn’t as good as the original trilogy doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable – because it is. The Bourne Legacy delivers plenty in the way of action and humor, and, after his brief screen time in The Avengers earlier this year and his supporting role in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, it was nice to see Jeremy Renner as the main protagonist. Boosted along by a fantastic score by James Newton Howard, The Bourne Legacy may disappoint die-hard fans of the original trilogy, but it is still a fairly entertaining summer action film that will please the average moviegoer.
Rating: 2 (out of 5)
MPAA: PG-13 – for violence and action sequences
P.S. – Read my review of this film’s score, composed by James Newton Howard, here!