Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Bourne Legacy - Theatrical Review

Release Date: August 10,2012

The Bourne Legacy is a solid new chapter in the series that lays enough groundwork for more adventures in the future.

Review Vital Stats:
Theater: AMC 30 at the Block in Orange
Time: 12:01 pm August 10, 2012
Projector Type: Digital 2D
Film Rating: PG-13
Film Runtime: 2 hrs 15 min
Studio: Universal

Loves: The Bourne Identity
Likes: The Bourne Supremacy, Jeremy Renner, Edward Norton, Rachel Weisz
Neutral: Sequels that do little to distinguish themselves
Hates: The Bourne Ultimatum
Fact: Matt Damon is not in this

After being exposed by Jason Bourne's (Matt Damon) exploits, Treadstone, a secret agency dealing with black ops and assassinations, comes under attack by the United States government for its questionable history. In order to protect themselves, the last remnants of Treadstone, led by Eric Byer (Edward Norton) begin to dissolve the organization from within which includes retiring their newly recruited operative Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) and lab technician Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) who find themselves in a deadly cat and mouse game as they must work together to survive.

There is so much going on in the background of "The Bourne Legacy", the newest entry into the extremely popular spy franchise, that it can easily make anyone unfamiliar with the series feel hopelessly lost at times. This isn't anything new though, starting as far back as "The Bourne Supremacy" the time lines and multiple events that crisscross each other has become progressively more convoluted and hard to follow with each new installment. It's not that the main story being told is hard to track, its that the reasons for everything happening remains a complete mystery unless you have an iron clad memory of how events unfolded in the previous films, which is a serious problem.

The legacy continues under another name.

Writer/Director Tony Gilroy attempts to compensate for that potential (and very likely) problem by using the opening twenty to thirty minutes inter-cutting between our new hero Aaron Cross, who is in the midst of some unique training exercises, and a series of scenes with some familiar and unfamiliar faces talking about happenings that seemingly have no connection to Cross at all, which as it turns out they do. This inherent lack of explanation is almost inexcusable and is something that could have, and should have, easily been alleviated by giving a more concise and informative rundown of previous events.

It is somewhat disconcerting coming down on the film for such a seemingly insignificant oversight because truth be told, this is without a doubt one of the best examples of transitioning a series from one lead actor to another that has ever been done. If you are fortunate enough to know the back story going into this, the way the character of Aaron Cross is introduced is not only fitting but also extremely well executed and full of insights into the Bourne mythology. Through his introduction we are witness to a whole new facet of Treadstone that had only been alluded to before.

These old guys really need to find a hobby.

We are privy to some rather enlightening behind the scenes looks at how Treadstone operates when not hunting down Bourne such as their training exercises and what kind of treatment their operatives receive to maintain their extraordinary abilities. All these little moments go a long way in refreshing a franchise that was starting to feel a little stale with very little new ground left to cover. The other side of the coin are the casting changes, with Matt Damon out, it was a big mystery as to whether or not we had seen the end of Jason Bourne and this series in general. In a strange way we have, but this film marks the beginning for a whole new protagonist with the promise of whole new adventures.

Jeremy Renner, being the new kid on the block and taking the reigns from series poster child Matt Damon, was always going to be a hard sell. Damon surprised many people back in the summer of 2002 when he proved he could kick some serious ass and as a result created one of the most popular spy/espionage characters since James Bond. While many doubted that Damon could be replaced successfully, Renner, who has already proven his ass kicking skills, proves the skeptics wrong by turning in a performance that is every bit as compelling as Jason Bourne ever was and even comes off slightly more relatable due to the actor's natural charm and charisma..

Marta isn't afraid to protect herself.

He isn't the solitary ingredient that makes this new direction for the franchise work though. While the relationship here isn't nearly as well developed as that in the first film, Weisz's idealistic but slightly naive Dr. Marta Shearing is a perfect compliment to Renner's determined and affable trained assassin. Although she starts off cold and slightly off putting, after she survives one of the most unsettling sequences in the film, she gains the sympathy of the audience rather quickly. By the end of the film it was more than easy and refreshing to actually care for the well being of the main characters which is something of a rarity these days.

Other than leaving newcomers out in the cold, about the only real negative that can be leveled against this newest Bourne-less adventure is that it follows the formula of the past three films a little too closely at times. Once the ball gets rolling after the lengthy, but entertaining, opening "man vs. wild" training scenes, things start to fall into a very familiar pattern. You have the prerequisite scenes with people conspiring inside enclosed rooms, our heroes dodging one attempt after another on their lives and plenty of political intrigue that feels increasingly worn out at this point.

Aaron Cross is just as lethal as Jason Bourne ever was.

At least there are some inventive action scenes with bad guys getting dispatched in all sorts of interesting ways to distract from those more mundane aspects of the film . A great example of this is an elaborate tracking shot that follows Renner up the side of a house, through a window and ends in him taking out a target in an extremely cold and efficient manner. While taut trademark action sequences like that still impress, the tried and true Bourne formula is starting to show its age. Especially with a rather weak 11th hour introduction of a new threat that just felt tacked on and completely devoid of any relevance to anything that came before it.

Whether or not this series will continue with its new cast is anyone's guess, but this fresh start is a step in the right direction. It delivers on every aspect a fan of the series could want with two genuinely appealing new lead actors, intense and unrelenting action scenes and the potential to take the series in a new direction. If you can look past the rusty framework and are familiar enough with the series mythos to understand the reasons behind everything that is happening, you will find "The Bourne Legacy" to be a worthy successor to the franchise and one of the better action/thrillers released this year.





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