The Bourne Legacy, probably this Summer’s biggest disappointment – Denise Li

I have rather mixed feelings towards movie franchises with lots of sequels. While I don’t expect all the movies to be consistently good (though that would be ideal), I can usually make peace with that so long as the weakest link – at the very least – does justice to the series as a whole, even if it fails to impress as a standalone film. (I have Rocky V and Die Hard: With a Vengeance in mind, as I write this)

A sequel is only be considered truly bad when you leave the cinema thinking, “I wish they didn’t make that.”

Sadly, that was the first thing that popped into my head when the credits rolled on The Bourne Legacy, which I watched over the weekend.

I wanted very much to like it. I’m a huge fan of the three preceding films; I own the DVDs of the Bourne trilogy and watched each one at least four times. Every Christmas, when I go to my bestie’s house for dinner, and all her guy friends are there, we inevitably end up gushing about the movies and how they make up one of the best movie franchises made in recent years.

When I heard that Hollywood was going to make a fourth one, I was wondering how they were going to do it, since they wrapped up the series so well with The Bourne Ultimatum. The Bourne Legacy was marketed as a “spin-off”. Instead of Paul Greengrass, who directed the trilogy, they got Tony Gilroy, screenwriter of the first three films, to helm it. I was heartened when I heard they got Jeremy Renner on board for the film. A worthy successor to Matt Damon, I thought. And, come on, with a supporting cast that includes Rachel Weisz and Edward Norton, how bad could it get, right?

Uh, pretty bad, actually.

Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy

An unnecessarily large portion of the film is spent recapping the trilogy, probably for the benefit of those who haven’t watched it. Edward Norton is the guy responsible for shutting down the secret uber-assassin programmes following the events of the last film. He plays Mr. Pissed-Off Bureaucrat for the most part of the movie; there are no nuances to his character. The producers could have saved themselves a ton of money had they gotten a less-well-known actor to play the part.

Aaron Cross (the lead played by Jeremy Renner) is a colourless protagonist. Without the interesting arc of the first three movies, where Matt Damon’s amnesiac Jason Bourne slowly uncovers his true identity, Renner’s character comes across as a mere pawn trying to escape Shadowy Evil Government Forces’ attempts to eliminate him, all the while trying his desperate best to replenish his diminishing supply of “chems” (pills these uber-assassins take to enhance their physical and mental abilities) and killing with reckless abandon any poor security guards that happen to cross his path. Plus, while Bourne isn’t one to shy away from one-to-one unarmed combat, Cross is more likely to rely on firepower. While you might have found yourself rooting for Jason Bourne right from the very beginning, you’d be hard-pressed to feel  sympathy for Cross at any point in the film. But I put this down to the poor script rather than as a personal failing of Renner (if you watched The Hurt Locker, you’d know what a talented actor he is).

As you may have predicted, the film ends with a protracted action sequence and, although I thought it was rather well-executed, it wasn’t enough to save the film. At 135 minutes, it’s hardly a “snack” of a movie, and by the time the chase scene happened, I was squirming in my seat, wishing for the torture to come to an end.

Unfortunately, as much as I want to “unwatch” this movie, I can’t. It’s a wholly undeserving addition to an otherwise stellar, faultless franchise. It’s not the least bit intellectually engaging, and it also flops as an action flick. If you’re in need of an action fix, wait for The Expendables 2, which will be released in a few weeks. At least you’ll know that won’t have any pretences to be more than what it really is – a good, ol’ dependable testosterone-filled flick with lots of ass-kicking and exploding things. I know I’ll be watching it to make up for the disappointment that is The Bourne Legacy.

Hey, even if you’re not a fan of geriatric action heroes, you might be enticed by the presence of the dishy Liam Hemsworth.

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