It was strange watching the last year's new Bourne flick when all we saw of Matt Damon was his picture on a computer screen. Of course, most people know that the Bourne series could go on to be as big of a franchise as Bond if they wished, since their have been seven sequels as of last year written in continuation of Robert Ludlum's original Bourne trilogy. However, this new film did not even follow The Bourne Legacy novel, which continued to have Jason Bourne as the protagonist. Instead we meet this guy named Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), and we learn that as the story progresses that the events are happening at the same time as The Bourne Ultimatum. To me, it seems more than likely that Universal Pictures were just trying to crank out another addition to a successful franchise because Matt Damon turned them down and sought to do this by capitalizing on the Bourne name.
The basic premise of The Bourne Legacy (2012, PG-13) is that evil Treadstone organization has finally been publicly exposed by the FBI. And on the internet there was found an incriminating video which put Treadstone in cahoots with U.S. Defense black ops program called Outcome. So that the FBI doesn't discover their association with Treadstone, Outcome decides to shut down their entire program and eliminate all of their agents in the field, including this Aaron Cross guy. So we get the now-cliche "run from the government" story that the Bourne franchise is known for. In spite of all the changes and inconsistencies from the first films, Legacy isn't a terrible movie, since it is riddled with action and suspense that I personally found more intriguing than what we saw in the first three films. We get a scene with Renner being chased down in Alaska or somewhere up north by a drone, which he takes out with a sniper rifle. Also, I find it interesting that in light of the school and theater shootings of last year, this film contains a sequence in a laboratory where one of the scientists kills all of his coworkers...except the lead actress, of course.
On top of this, we get to see a chilling scene of agents being taken out by snipers left and right, and Renner has to find more of the performance-boosting drugs that he was forced to take daily as an agent, and there's a great chase scene, a house blows up, more chasing...you get the picture.
I always seem to bring this up when I talk to people about the Bourne films, and it's that I believe the James Bond franchise has much more to offer, in terms of quantity and quality. And it's because that looking at Bourne now and the franchise's future, we are looking at a series that is built entirely off a premise that becomes more and more unbelievable every time a sequel is made: a spy runs from and fights government agents because he doesn't want to be a spy anymore. Ludlum and Universal were able to get by with this for three films and make it work, but if the rumors are true and Damon will be back as Bourne for the fifth film, which is currently being planned with the possibility of former director Paul Greengrass returning, it will probably get very old. This spy must not be a that good if the government keeps finding him. It's either that the government finds him or kills him or he changes his identity and lives in hiding for the rest of his life. James Bond does not suffer from this error since Bond wants to be a secret agent, he is working for the government (that always helps), and he is an international icon, among other things.
Aside from these few offsets, I did enjoy The Bourne Legacy. Jeremy Renner is one of the many up and coming actors who have been discovered or rediscovered in the past few years, along with names like Jennifer Lawrence and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I know some will disagree with me, but he gave a more life to his character than Matt Damon, who played a rather emotionless Jason Bourne. I also like the idea that the main character is not the only person being hunted down in this film, and that literally all of the agents are being tracked down and killed. It would have been even more interesting if more of these agents teamed up with Cross and worked together to kill their executives in revenge for killing their fellow agents. Talk about legacy! Aside from that daydream, I felt as if Renner was much more compassionate than Damon was, since he offered to protect Rachel Weisz's character with little personal gain for him. Cross is also an underdog character, although the film focuses very briefly on it. Before he came to Outcome, he was a private first class for the Army in Iraq, and his recruiter had lied about his sub-par IQ results to allow him to continue with the military. If the screenwriters focused on this more heavily instead of just referring to it in a quick flashback, the movie could have been much better. This is Aaron Cross' story, not Jason Bourne's or Treadstone's. However there were enough thrills and suspense to get the audience through the film anyways, even if the film ended very abruptly.
The Bourne series was always the series that my friends wanted to see when we were younger, and when I finally got around to watching them, I was a little disappointed. The actions of all the films were cold, calculated, and with next to no show of human emotions...and I don't mean that the story does not have emotion, I mean that the actors all act as if they are robots with no care of their own. Perhaps that's part of the story; after all, they are brainwashed assassins. Even so, I had expected more, but franchises like Bond and Mission: Impossible already being well-established, it is hard for a young series like Bourne to crawl out from under their massive shadows. We shall see what the future has in store for them. Violence is no different from the other Bourne movies, some mild language, no sex, but mainly the lower rating is for the tired plot rehash.
Review by Goldenmouth