I mean, it's a Bourne movie. It's a movie you go see with your dad. It's going to be PG-13. It doesn't have to be. There's some Jeremy Renner shirtless in cold water. People are brutally killed, but in a way that makes you shocked with how quickly it happened. Remember, it is not how many people die. It's how much it focuses on the people's death. Oh my gosh, I just realized. If the deaths matter and we focus on the importance of someone dying, the more likely it is more likely to be R. If death is treated casually, it'll be PG-13. I feel uncomfortable.
DIRECTOR: Tony Gilroy
Poor Jeremy Renner. Like, the guy keeps getting hints that he's going to take over these major franchises. There's Mission: Impossible, but then Tom Cruise kept making them. In The Avengers, it has been a running gag how he keeps getting relegated to background work. Then there is the Bourne franchise. I mean, he is getting groomed to take over the series with this one, right? Matt Damon isn't in the movie outside of his photo. Jeremy Renner is the star of it, but then it didn't work out? I mean, the reason that I watched The Bourne Legacy out of the blue is that Movies Anywhere gave me Jason Bourne for free for linking my accounts. (Thank you, Movies Anywhere. I like your service quite a bit and free movies are fun.) The Bourne Legacy is the one that no one I know saw. (Okay, that might be a bit of hyperbole. I asked Bourne fans if they had seen it and everyone I talked to said "no.") It's gotta be a hard sell for a studio to try to rebrand a franchise without the lead character. I heard that Henry Cavill is leaving the DC Universe. One of the rumors has Michael B. Jordan taking over, but the other rumor is that Superman is just going to be in the background of the DC Universe. Superman is fundamentally the center of this universe and it just seemed to start to get some elements of it right. But I digress. I figure that Aaron Cross isn't the same pull that Jason Bourne is, but I don't think that's the worst thing in the world.
My big takeaway from this movie is that it is the second best movie in the franchise (without having seen Jason Bourne.) I know. That's blasphemy. But I only like The Bourne Identity in the series. I think that the rest of the franchise, like The X-Files, relies too much on its own complex mythology and use of jargon to tell a story. Honestly, those movies are way too complex for their own good. The Bourne movies depend on really hardcore fans being interested in the twists and turns. I don't mind that, but if you aren't a devoted Jason Bourne fan, The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum don't do anything for me. So as a casual viewer of the Jason Bourne movies, what does The Bourne Legacy offer to me? Well, it kind of offers the thing I liked with The Bourne Identity: a fresh start. There is something so apropos about movies like The Bourne Identity and The Bourne Legacy being about fresh starts. The foundation of theses movies is that they are about tabula rasa characters. We can only glean what the characters themselves glean. While The Bourne Identity offers that in spade, The Bourne Legacy uses that dynamic to a certain extent. Aaron Cross, played by Jeremy Renner, has a very stripped down personality (pun intended if you think about shirtless Jeremy Renner coming out of Alaskan waters). He is an assassin / super soldier and that's about it. We get everything we need to know about his skills in the first five to ten minutes of the movie. He is enhanced by drugs and he can do some very Jason Bourne-y things. The movie takes time to develop his past, but these is all coloring for a very simple character. We get that his life was miserable before and now he is able to do things with the help of Big Pharma now. If he doesn't take his medication, he goes back to being Charly. Okay. Jason Bourne is slowly divulged through flashback his past and The Bourne Legacy plays with the same playbook. It worked the first time and it kind of works again. The interesting thing is that Aaron Cross is kind of unlikable and I don't think that the movie necessarily gets that. Remember, this movie is all about drug seeking behavior. He's never ashamed of the drugs nor does he apologize for the things he does in the name of not returning to his own life. He is mildly sympathetic, but that shouldn't be taken into consideration when all of these monstrosities play out.
I want to really break this down. Again, I kind of like Aaron Cross, but that's because I like Jeremy Renner and the movie sliced off the fat that I didn't like from the sequels. But Cross isn't a good person. To make him the hero of the movie, Rachel Weisz's Dr. Shearing really has to adapt her choices to fit the plot. We have to like Cross. The franchise is depending on this. But Cross can't be exactly Jason Bourne. He has his talents, but he isn't Jason Bourne. Bourne has a dark past that he's trying to escape, but Cross has a dark present. He is still an assassin who just wants to survive and that has to be made so that he is likable. To make Aaron Cross likable, Rachel Weisz has to find value in Cross. From her perspective, she should loathe Cross. At best, she should pity him. But Cross is aggressive towards her constantly. He berates her and seeks drugs from her. Yes, he's keeping her alive. We've seen this dynamic in a lot of movies, but he's not keeping her alive for altruistic reasons. He doesn't see Weisz as an innocent undeserving of the attacks on her life. Instead, she is a means to getting his drug. In this case, it is the removal of an addiction, but that just kind of sands some of the rough edges of the narrative off. The idea that she is the romantic love interest is really weird. So Dr. Shearing keeps saying things that don't really reflect reality at all. She takes some crazy risks to protect him and that doesn't really make a lot of sense. She goes from being really skeptical about trusting this guy to being all in without a lot of birthing pains. She also is completely vapid and without background. Her entire character is that she is smart at science and ignorant of the world of espionage. That's not a character. Those are skills on a D&D sheet. There's nothing to play off of. My wife commented that she lost someone, but that's never really explored outside of a photograph. I really don't like how little attention was given to the female protagonist. I actually kind of feel bad for Weisz and now, most women actors. The Bourne Legacy might be the litmus test for how women are portrayed in film poorly. There's nothing to her character. There's no depth. She's there to be a romantic love interest and a sounding board for Cross. Ick.
The weirdest thing that I noticed is that it really doesn't follow story structure. Perhaps this is an attempt to subvert expectations, but the movie kind of breaks the rules of the action film. HEAVY SPOILERS: The movie just kind of ends. Aaron Cross comes up with a plan with Dr. Shearing to steal this virus from the Philippines. Then that plan...works? Where is the turn? Where is the big revelation that the virus is something he didn't account for? There's no major confrontation. Honestly, there's an action scene, which is fine. But they stole the virus and there was no real slight of hand. The movie ends with a "which motorcycle is faster" moment. Action scenes are fun. The Bourne movies actually have better action sequences than most. But the action scene can't just be a grudge match. There has to be an intellectual moment. There has to be a moment where the protagonist figures something that the antagonist / hopefully audience hasn't thought of. That's where the catharsis happens. We are allowed to breathe out. If that doesn't happen, like in the case with The Bourne Legacy, the action sequence just kind of ends. That's how the movie plays out. Honestly. There's a moment that is teased. We find out that this secret CIA cabal has a third asset that is super evil. He is a merciless killer and that he isn't supposed to exist. Cool. We've seen this before. But he's not teased throughout the film at all. He's mentioned right before he's actually put into play. It's weak writing in the least. He's supposed to be the ultimate super soldier. But he's not that great. He's supposed to be able to wreck any asset previously, but he just loses to Aaron Cross. Actually, that's not true. He loses to Dr. Shearing, who isn't trained in any of this stuff. She kicks his bike and THE END. What? We get nothing about this character and then he just loses? It feels like a chunk of the movie was just pulled for budget and the movie just had to end. I talk about expectations and subverting expectations a lot in my film class. I don't think that this is meant to be an exercise about subverting expectations. I would love that in a Bourne movie. This feels like something really went wrong on the production end of the movie.
Also, something is getting under my skin. There was a period for a while where every dad would be reading a Bourne novel at the beach. It was a thing. There are a million Bourne books out there. Some of them were written by Robert Ludlum. A lot of them weren't. But aren't there a million Bourne-related stories out there? Why is the director making up a new story? Why aren't they pulling from this massive canon? I haven't read any of them. Do the books diverge really far from the film and it is impossible to adapt the films anymore? I find it weird.
So it's the second best movie, despite being almost completely broken. It's like getting the lik-a-stiks and it is broken inside. Part of you will be disappointed. You paid good money for that or you couldn't wait to eat it. But at the end of the day, it still tastes okay. You are still going to feel like you got what you wanted. But there will always be the question of "What happened here?" I don't think we'll ever see Jeremy Renner leading the Bourne franchise. I wouldn't be surprised if he never returned to the role whatsoever. It's a shame because I really like him as an actor. But again, there's a lot of weird things going on with this movie that just had me asking why these choices were made.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.