The Bourne Legacy (2012) Review (PG-13)

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Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross attempts to fill the shoes left by Matt Damon (as Jason Bourne) in the new ‘Bourne’ film. The story of ‘Legacy’ picks up during the events of The Bourne Ultimatum and several of the key players of the earlier films are often in the background of this one. Jason Bourne, himself is only mentioned, but some of his footprints are visible, also.

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The story begins with a rather fitting underwater shot of Cross suspended on the water’s surface, much like Bourne was at the beginning and end of the first three films. Cross, though is performing an exercise unsupervised at a Special Ops Training site in Alaska. While the film depicts Cross trekking through a rather harsh mountain range, the film cuts between events of the last film (and some of its fallout in Washington). Events of the last film have exposed the programs that were featured there (Blackbriar and Treadstone, I think) and now there are government types… the kind that operate clandestine black ops missions… scrambling to salvage what they can from their own programs that are linked to the ones being brought to light before a Senate hearing on the matter.

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Ed Norton plays one of those government types, who decides that  the program that Cross is part of (Outcome) has to be ‘burned to the ground’ while they still can do so without discovery in order to start fresh later with the research they’ve gathered from the program and there are other programs that have already gone operational, anyway. So the orders are given Cross is marked for death. While he returns from the Alaskan wilds, the other members of Outcome are being dispatched quietly as well as a group of researchers that oversaw the test subjects.

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One of the researchers (played by the lovely and talented Rachel Weitz) manages to survive as one of the researchers turns on the rest of them in an apparent workplace shooting style incident. So you end up with one researcher and one field operative that are both marked for death by sneaky government types. What are the chances that they’re going to end up working together at some point? Hm?

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I don’t think I need to go any further than that. Boil the premise down to its basics and its very similar to the original Bourne film. It does manage to be different enough to remain interesting. Renner’s Cross is not quite the angrily serious person that Damon’s character was. He’s a lot friendlier and the major difference is that Cross knows who he is (and was). Where Bourne’s journey was to discover who he is and was, Cross seeks to avoid going back to what he was before the program at all costs. There is a reason why he feels he HAS to avoid  that, but I won’t give it away.

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I didn’t see The Bourne Legacy in theaters because having seen the trailers for it, I got a little sniffy about the introduction of the new protagonist (played by Jeremy Renner) being an apparent product of genetic engineering. The Bourne series up to this point was about a government agent who had undergone intense physical and psychological training, and although it wasn’t ‘real’, the series did try to put forth an action hero that was a little more bound to reality than these types of films have produced in the past. Jason Bourne  often had to think his way out of dangerous situations rather than just pick up an M-60 and shoot his way out. Sure, there were many moments in the trilogy that may have stretched what was believable to the limit and Jason Bourne was a bit of a superhero in combat , but the story never veered off into the land of science fiction as this one does.

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I guess in this age of having to outdo what has come before, this new hero has to be even more impressive than Bourne, so they introduced the element of an ‘enhanced’ super soldier. Renner played Hawkeye in The Avengers; here he may be playing a Captain America of sorts. Again, if this film had nothing to do with The Bourne movies, then I probably wouldn’t have had any trepidation about it… But it IS the Bourne series, or at least the continuation of the franchise. I imagine my reaction would be the same if they continued the Die Hard series without Bruce Willis and introduced a genetically engineered cop to take his place. It would be the ‘jumping the shark’ moment (if that hasn’t already taken place).

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But… I’ve been wrong before. The worst part of the movie, for me, IS the hokum about the lead character Aaron Cross (Renner) being genetically altered, having both his intelligence and his physicality heightened beyond the norm (moreso on the physical side).  He hops across a ravine early in the film to display that, but I think the story would have survived without it, even if the plot revolves around that to some degree. There is no other display of super strength or anything by him in the film, so I think it was unnecessary. There is one other character that displays  the ability to leap from a great height and in that instance it took me out of the film because of the CGI/wire work was done somewhat poorly. It reminded me of the first  leap that Kate Beckinsale took in that original Underworld film in its quality, where the computer artist doesn’t have a firm grasp on weight, gravity, physics, etc. There is also an aspect of  the story that was similar in idea to the old Cliff Robertson film Charly. Here, though, the film sidesteps the character’s dilemna a little too easily, I think. The resolution of that part of the story seems arrived at with too little difficulty.

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But, enough complaining about that. Truth be told, I liked the movie. Tony Gilroy takes over directing duties from Paul Green grass and isn’t a bad choice considering he’s been a screenwriter for all four of the Robert Ludlum inspired films. The pacing of the film is closer to The Bourne Identity than its sequels, probably because its a story that has to establish the new lead, as well as all of the new supporting characters and villains. There are a few lulls if you’re expecting a full on action film, but overall the plot zips along unimpeded. Gone is the continuously moving camera that apparently gave some critics (if not some of its audience) motion sickness, especially in the last film. I never minded that, even in the scenes where people were sitting in an office with the camera ducking, bobbing, weaving as if it was an eavesdropper trying to stay out of sight. Gilroy shoots this much more in the traditional sense. he does allow for the hand held stuff when the action is taking place, and there is one good chase scene that does evoke the third film, both in its frenetic canter and in its exotic urban setting. It even involves lots of rooftops and a motorcycle as The Bourne Ultimatum did. I was fine with that though. Gilroy satisfactorily straddled what the series’ fans are familiar with and enough of the new. It never seemed like a rehash.

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While I don’t regret not seeing this at the movie theater, it was better than I thought it was going to be. If you were a fan of the first three films, this one will probably be a satisfactory extension. I look forward to the next one, but I wonder if they’ll continue using ‘Bourne’ in the title, since the franchise has now been handed over to Renner’s ‘Cross’ character. They could probably do a prequel and use ‘Bourne Yesterday’ or maybe announce the separation from the original character in the next one with ‘Bourne Free’ , but I would think they’d have to start trying to use ‘Cross’ in the title, which seems a little harder to come up with titles for. “Cross to Bear’?  ‘Cross Roads’? ‘Double Cross’?  That one would HAVE to be about cloning. Or maybe he’ll team up with the original franchise character and it’ll  be called ‘Bourne Cross’. Do I get a rimshot? No? Sorry. I digress. The Bourne Legacy was probably good enough to go on my ‘Best of 2012‘ list. It was solidly made  even if I didn’t care for the genetics aspect.

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MINI-SPOILER: One last thing, did he HAVE to do that to the wolf? Couldn’t he have just done something else with that receiver thingy? Just askin’…

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4 of 5

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One Response to “The Bourne Legacy (2012) Review (PG-13)”

  1. […] The Bourne Legacy (Not a reboot, but somewhat of a passing of the torch for the franchise. I’m betting Jason Bourne  somehow ends up in the sixth installment, if not in the next, but this indicated that the series will be fine without him. I didn’t care for the sci-fi aspect introduced into the ‘canon’, but I’m warming up to it. […]

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