'The Bourne Legacy' disappoints with same old thrills
Arguments are often made regarding the existence of a perfect trilogy; a trilogy of consistent quality in which each installment is better than the previous entry. Although big name franchises such as "Star Wars" or "The Lord of the Rings" tend to get tossed around in such discussions, the only franchise that I felt to have truly earned such a title is undoubtedly the "Bourne." Despite the existence of many solid three part storylines, Jason Bourne's journey to recover the information of who he was when he was a government operative and making amends for his actions after a change of heart brought on by his amnesiac state is one of the best story arcs brought full circle and personally, one of my favorite additions to the spy genre. So imagine my disappointment to discover that position as a perfect trilogy has been tarnished by "The Bourne Legacy," a fourth installment that didn't even have the courtesy to fail by taking a chance.
Set in the immediate fallout of the exposure of black-ops organization Treadstone by Jason Bourne in the previous film, "The Bourne Legacy" follows Treadstone operative Aaron Cross -played by Jeremy Renner- as he attempts to survive the dissolution of the Treadstone program, the process of which involves killing its remaining staff members and operatives. While outrunning the agents on his tail, coordinated by Eric Byer -Edward Norton- and his own team of specialists, Cross must also find a way to abate his physiological addiction to the performance enhancing drugs of the Treadstone program.
Running that synopsis through your head, you would think that this franchise was going in an interesting direction by expanding upon the world created in the previous trilogy and focusing on the repercussions of Bourne's newfound conscience. In thinking that however, you'll find yourself face to face with the largest and only primary flaw of "The Bourne Legacy" upon an actual viewing.
"The Bourne Legacy" is more or less the exact same film as "The Bourne Identity." This film is essentially a beat for beat remake of its ten year old first entry. Just swap out the terms Jason Bourne with Aaron Cross and "amnesiac in Europe" with "drug addicted in America" and the film is virtually the same.
The laziness of this screenplay astounds me, especially when there was so much potential to be had in every inch of the premise alone. Even the film offers glimpses of what could have been. Cross' lack of a social handicap allows Renner to use far more charisma in the protagonist role than Matt Damon was able to as Bourne. He has great screen presence and a star quality about him that elevates what little memorable material he has to work with, easily making his performance the most worthwhile thing about the entire film. Rachel Weiss' chemistry with him as his sole ally is solid even if her status as a love interest feels rather forced and Norton brings a more human quality to the antagonists of the series that is a marked difference from the stereotypical sniveling bureaucrats that offers a refreshing change of pace. Even the action is far more coordinated around Cross' talent of using his environment against his opposition.
Unfortunately for every moment that "The Bourne Legacy" teases actual expansion, it doubly falls back on the established conventions of the series in ways that never cease to feel forced. The action is still incredibly well choreographed and the performances of its leads greatly carry the film into being a fun and even smart action romp in a season typically characterized by films lacking any form of actual intelligence. However I am truly baffled by how a film with such potential for greatness actively skirts every chance it gets to attain its own identity or even be individually interesting.
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