Matt Damon may have called it quits as superspy Jason Bourne, but the execs at Universal, knowing a cash cow when they see it (nearly $1 billion worldwide and counting), naturally decided to milk the franchise into the ground. And so was born The Bourne Legacy, a rather weak fourth entry that trades Damon for action-franchise pinch-hitter Jeremy Renner.
It takes its title from the fourth Bourne book (written by Eric Van Lustbader, who took over the series after Robert Ludlum’s 2001 death), but franchise adaptor Tony Gilroy devises a whole new scenario, positing Renner as a member of a separate, chemically-enhanced group of operatives the government starts eliminating after Bourne’s exposing of its other black ops programs.
Some of the action here apparently occurs concurrently with The Bourne Ultimatum, with photos of Damon on the news and cameos by original trilogy players David Strathairn and Joan Allen acting as connective tissue. And the basic overall structure remains familiar: Renner tries to stay ahead of assassins sent out by a bunch of harried Defense Department honchos in nice suits.
Beyond that, Gilroy the screenwriter (along with brother Dan) concocts a bunch of nonsense about Renner needing superpills to remain his mentally and physically super self and requiring the aid of Rachel Weisz’s government geneticist to acquire more of them before he turns back into the less-smart soldier (of whom we see snippets) he was before all this began.
There’s a lot more talking in this one, too, which wouldn’t be a problem had most of it not consisted of whiny Weisz spouting scientific jargon or the government guys (including Edward Norton and Stacy Keach) blaming each other via colorful-sounding analogies while standing around in plush offices or staring at computer screens and generally looking stressed out.
As director, Gilroy proves less skilled than previous franchise helmers Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass. He gives the film a slower pace akin to a Cold War spy drama, punctuating the quiet with action every so often. But he lets too many scenes play out too long, draining them of tension, and there aren’t enough set pieces to balance out all the yakking.
Granted, the sequences themselves are actually well done, the highlight being the final-act motorcycle chase through crowded Manila streets (which ends rather anti-climactically). And Gilroy shows us some breathtaking scenery in the opening act as Renner bathes in freezing rivers and makes his superhuman way across mountains. And, Renner does make a suitable Damon substitute, even if the franchise does feel like it’s just killing time until Damon’s inevitable return. – [DVD] [Blu-Ray]
DVD Release Date: 12/11/12