The Bourne Legacy Review

by Mark R. Leeper (mleeper AT optonline DOT net)
August 16th, 2012

    (a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

    CAPSULE: This is an ill-conceived attempt to re-boot the Bourne series. The character Jason Bourne appears in some of the dialog and in the title but is never
    physically present. We instead are given another
    character like Bourne except that he takes super-pills Bourne never seemed to. And the film goes downhill from there. It is really just another action chase story with a science-fictional MacGuffin concept that could have been an afterthought. Rating: low 0 (-4 to +4) or 4/10
The tagline of this film is "There Never Was Just One", which is an attempt to turn into a selling point the taking of a completed story and turning it into an unlimited franchise.

Jeremy Renner's character Aaron Cross is the latest of what I call "six-million-dollar assassins." They are trained by some authority to be a perfect killing-machine assassin. The concept goes back at least to 1985 and REMO WILLIAMS: THE ADVENTURE BEGINS. Geena Davis played one in THE LONG KISS GOOD NIGHT. There was the UNIVERSAL SOLDIER. More recently there was HANNA and of course there was the Bourne trilogy. We probably did not need another one, but here he is anyway. Jeremy Renner plays me-too super-assassin Aaron Cross who comes from the same Treadstone Project that created Jason Bourne. Apparently this film runs parallel to the action of THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM. Cross and Jason Bourne are each on the warpath against conflicting government agencies and the project that created both in assassin form. We never heard Aaron Cross mentioned once in the Bourne films, but THE BOURNE LEGACY mentions Jason Bourne several times. I think they do this just so the viewer will know this film may not look or thrill like one of that series, but it really is that series. The filmmakers go overtime to express that point. You have Bourne have his name in the title and people popping their heads into this film saying things like "Jason Bourne's in New York." They have even brought some of the major actors and characters from those films to show up--frequently only briefly--in this film in an attempt to make the graft take. It would help if you can think of this film as BOURNE 4 or even as BOURNE 3.25. I cannot claim that I was a big fan of the Bourne films, but I have to admit that Matt Damon is a hard act for Jeremy Renner to follow.

Curiously this film is both too hard to follow and at the same time too simple to be interesting. That is because it has two plotlines. Aaron Cross has to get more of the medications that make him superhuman and at the same time fight off the government nasties sent to eradicate him. Meanwhile the government people who created the two out-of-control super-killers, Cross and Bourne, cannot say they have closed down the program yet. Eliminating these two is their last cross to be borne. Their covert efforts are depicted complete with dialog full of obfuscating jargon. Following these chaotic plot machinations is as difficult as it is pointless. Knowing the previous films helps you like a sweatband helps you win the Boston Marathon.

Suffice it to say that at the intelligence agency there are people who want to cover up what has been going on and people who want to be honest whistle-blowers. And there are agencies competing with other agencies. It is a mess. Also complicating the home-base explanations is some genuinely good science explaining how they are using viruses (the biological kind) to create the super assassins. This part is reputedly scientifically accurate but also incomprehensibly explained. In any case the viewer's main attention is on Cross who goes from one mindless action scene to the next until the film explodes into one giant overly long grand finale action scene. Together the two strands of plot pad the film to 135 minutes. That is much more than this story needs, but long length is becoming necessary to convince the ticket-buyer that a film is substantial.

What this film adds to the Bourne series is a science fiction MacGuffin of how to create super-assassins and the self-serving revelation that Jason Bourne is not the only super assassin created. Now if the producers run true to form I suppose they will try to make Bourne into a franchise and cookie cutter out more Bourne action films without Bourne. There is not much point to the film other than to give director Tony Gilroy (MICHAEL CLAYTON) experience doing those all-important overextended action sequences. He has to learn to keep the pace up so the viewer does not have time to ask questions like, "Why is there an empty motorcycle with engine left running just waiting for Cross to just take it?" Super-assassins have a lot of luck.

Of super-assassins the series never needed more than one and of Bourne films it certainly never needed more than three. I rate THE BOURNE LEGACY a low 0 on the -4 to +4 scale or 4/10.

Why do action film action heroes always have Western European names? It is never a name like Kimura or Cohen or Gonzales.
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Mark R. Leeper
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Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper

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