I suppose we were a bit naive, thinking Hollywood could tell the entire story of a government intent on murdering ALL of its secret agents in only three movies. When you look at the more than $700 million the first three Bourne movies made and add to that the fact that they’re genuinely good movies, well, why stop train now? And if Matt Damon doesn’t want to come back for Round 4 — whether the studio isn’t paying him enough money or *shudder* he’s worried the story just isn’t there — well then, they’ll recast him and make the damn thing anyway.
Enter The Bourne Legacy. The one where we find out that “Jason Bourne was just the tip of the iceberg.” OF COURSE HE WAS. Well, like I said, those movies were pretty dang good, and I’d love to see more, so I’m perfectly willing to give this one a shot. Although I do have reservations. And I made a list.
1. Jeremy Renner. He was great in The Hurt Locker and The Town, but not much else. I thought he came off as contrived in Mission Impossible 4. And while he was competent in both Thor and The Avengers, I wouldn’t label him the breakout star of either film.
2. No Matt Damon. It is Matt Damon. Would you want to see an Ocean’s movie without George Clooney (or, for that matter, Matt Damon)? Don’t underestimate the je nais se quoi a star can take out of a franchise once he leaves. I’m still trying to come to terms with the fact that I’ll eventually have to watch a new Batman movie without Christian Bale. The horror.
3. Can lightning strike four times? The Next Generation? Great. Deep Space Nine? Loved it. Voyager? Uuugghhhh… By the Enterprise rolled around, Star Trek had turned into that friend who stays another five hours after everyone else has gone home. Heaven forbid they keep churning these movies out after they’ve run out of steam.
So, a few concerns. But cautious optimism is still optimism. So I’m gonna go and do my best not to set my expectations too high. And how does the movie stack up, after the dust has settled and every perfectly choreographed punch has landed? I’m happy to report that your hard-earned shekles won’t have been wasted here. Is it as good as the first three? No, it isn’t. But it lays the groundwork for another series of films that I think can be every bit as good. A few points…
All’s clear on the Jeremy Renner front. As one of the first of a new, genetically-modified breed of super soldier, I felt like I knew his character better than I did Matt Damon’s after The Bourne Identity. This isn’t just a Jason Bourne retread. Aaron Cross is someone who’s not exactly sure why Outcome (the new Treadstone) does what it does, and has a habit of asking too many questions. His training helps him keep his composure, but you get the sense that he’s a bit of a smartass. And as much as it pains me to admit it, it brought a level of realism to the role that Matt Damon didn’t. Or maybe it’s just a level of personable-ness. Yeah, that’s it.
Rachel Weisz, playing an Outcome scientist developing the medication that gives agents like Cross their physical and mental edge, is Cross’s love interest without actually being his love interest, which I found a welcome departure from the norm. My wife found her to be a bit too frantic, but her character is fundamentally different from Franka Potente or Julia Stiles, so I bought it.
Overall, I found Legacy’s plot to be more substantive than what came before it, even if it was a little more clumsily wielded. We learn more about what the government is doing with soldiers like Cross — genetic modification — and that makes it easier to understand why they’re so eager to slash and burn everything to the ground once Jason Bourne, completely off-camera but often referred to, shows up in and starts car-chasing his way through Manhattan. I think most people don’t find it a stretch to believe that the US has CIA kill squads out there, getting into all sorts of shenanigans, but genetically modified super soldiers? A bridge too far, I say!
The movie isn’t perfect. Some of the science talk gets a bit wonky and clumsily delivered. And again, how many government manhunts can we watch? I’m willing to buy that Treadstone was just one cog in a much larger machine, but I don’t want to follow twenty different agents, all on the run from the men who trained them. Eventually these films are going to have to find something else to do, and I felt Legacy took the first steps toward that. It’s not there yet, and I fully expect Edward Norton to show up whenever the next installment rolls around, trying to get his hands on Cross. But by the time we get to The Bourne Sanction (if we’re going by the book titles), Cross could be free — or sanctioned, if you will — to go after a target of his own. You know, if the movies do follow the book titles, the next one up will be The Bourne Betrayal! And if the titles are small hints at what the movies are doing, what could that mean? Douche chill!