‘Bourne Legacy’ could be short lived
Published: Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 6:24 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, August 9, 2012 at 6:24 p.m.
If the summer movie season of 2012 is going to be remembered for anything other than the release of two comic book blockbusters, it will be known as the summer of the hypersonic reboots. With “The Amazing Spider-Man” and now “The Bourne Legacy,” we’ve seen the release of new additions to two franchises that concluded only five years ago — or so we thought.
‘The Bourne Legacy’
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Joan Allen and Albert Finney
Given the relatively lackluster critical reception and box office performance of the web-slinger’s most recent outing, does the continuation of the Bourne saga offer a little more? The results are mixed; “The Bourne Legacy” is not without its charms, but a limp script and clumsy direction diminish what could’ve been a fascinating expansion of the Bourne story.
The events of “The Bourne Legacy” run somewhat in tandem with those of “The Bourne Ultimatum.” The story opens with the leaders of the Treadstone and Blackbriar programs — the clandestine intelligence operations responsible for Jason Bourne’s creation — trying to shield themselves from public disclosure as Bourne himself threatens to blow up the programs. Along with a few familiar faces, the movie introduces us to Eric Byer (Edward Norton), head of the sinister-sounding National Research Assay Group. Norton’s job is to “burn the program to the ground” if need be to make sure the public remains unaware of the government’s extralegal activities.
To that end, Byer orders the death of many of the projects’ personnel, including key scientists and field agents. This does not go over well with agent Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), who manages to avoid being killed and then, like Bourne, turns on his former handlers. Thus the familiar franchise parameters are laid out: Agent is betrayed, agent goes rogue, agent is chased through various exotic locales, and so on.
As the new guy attempting to pick up in the footsteps of a colossal star, Renner has a rather difficult task. A Bourne movie without Jason Bourne is like a James Bond movie without James Bond. To his immense credit, however, Renner sells it. Though Cross is leaner, meaner and less instantly likeable than Damon made Bourne, Renner imbues him with the same intense focus and inner turmoil, making Cross a captivating hero. While Cross’ demons are of a different nature than Bourne’s, the two men are kindred spirits in the dark world of international intrigue.
The whole movie, though, is full of quality performances. Norton is appropriately reptilian as the Machiavellian intelligence boss chosen to clean up an ugly mess, with a steely gaze to match his cold, calculating demeanor. Rachel Weisz also does very well as Marta Shearing, a lab researcher working on chemical stimulants for the agents who end up helping Cross. While Shearing lacks Cross’ combat prowess, she proves capable in other areas, and Weisz isn’t overwhelmed by the pyrotechnics happening around her.
Despite the strong cast, however, the movie is diluted by a flawed script and some technical shortcomings. It takes about an hour for the primary narrative threads to come together, leading to a lot of dead time on screen as we wait for the momentum to pick up.
It doesn’t help that the action sequences don’t pack the same explosive punch as those found in the first three movies. While director Tony Gilroy (who wrote the first three Bourne movies) proves more than capable of handling the smaller, character moments, he seems out of his depth when it comes to shooting a big action scene. While quick cuts and shaky cameras are the norm in action movies these days (a result, for better or worse, of the success of the previous Bourne movies), it’s hard to get excited about what’s happening on screen when you’re too busy trying to make sense of it all.
The flaw that nearly ruins the whole enterprise, however, is the ending. The movie simply stops at the end of the second act without wrapping up anything. Instead of building hype for a likely inevitable sequel, this is more likely to inspire backlash from many patrons.
Given its substantial deficiencies, it’s hard to fully endorse this movie.There’s some great material buried beneath the mound of exposition, and many of the performances are better than the script deserves. But when a movie feels so incomplete, it’s hard not to think its legacy will ultimately prove short-lived.
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