Jason Bourne is one of the more intriguing film characters of the past decade. He methodically and purposefully found out who he was, who was responsible for his condition, and attempted to bring everything back together again. Even better, he was not a superhero; Jason was just a guy who went through a lot of training. He is elite, but deep down he is still one of us. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), on the other hand, has been tweaked a little bit. He pops pills to up his physical and mental skills. Yes, he is still human too, but perhaps a bit genetically modified. This splash of sci/fi does not help an audience tuned in to the adventures of Jason Bourne connect with the new guy.
When I first heard there was another Bourne installment, this time without Matt Damon, I figured someone either wrote a good script to carry on a new story line, or the studio wanted to churn out a guaranteed cash cow under the title of a proven and successful action series. Writer/director Tony Gilroy wrote the scripts for the first three Bourne films, but this is his first time behind the camera in the series. He successfully directed “Michael Clayton” and the under-appreciated “Duplicity,” but now the magic is gone. The Bourne Legacy is stale.
Enduring a painfully slow beginning, The Bourne Legacy reveals it is set at the same point in time as “The Bourne Ultimatum.” In fact, if you have forgotten the plot points and supporting characters of the previous film, take the time to either watch it again or read about it online before heading into the new feature. Jason Bourne’s escapades have thrown multiple CIA operations out in the open and the shadowy powers are frantically trying to sweep them under the rug before either Congress or the press start asking questions. Eric Byer (Edward Norton) orders the termination of Project Outcome, the new series of super agent represented by Aaron Cross (Renner). Instead of telling the agents to pack up and go home, the CIA chooses to assassinate them instead. Oh, and they try to wipe out all of the scientists who made them so super in the first place.
Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) is one of those scientists seeking ways to alter chromosomes to make a more perfect human. After surviving annihilation himself, Aaron conveniently scoops the good doctor out of harms way which sets up an “us against them” theme quite similar to the one you remember from “The Bourne Identity.” Unfortunately, The Bourne Legacy noticeably lacks the quality script and thrilling action sequences of that first film. The chase scenes in the new film are edited so atrociously, especially during motorcycle elements, that they are almost impossible to logically follow. You know they are weaving in and out of traffic, there are near misses, and flying bullets; but there are only quick glimpses of that on the screen in the midst of the unsteady camera work and split-second jump cuts.
“The Bourne Identity” also had a mystery to unravel and wandered around the world trying to find out who was behind the curtain. There is no curtain now, Edward Norton is pulling the strings in plain sight using all of the means in the intelligence community he can lay his hands on. There are armed Predator drones, devious mop-up CIA killing squads, and even a possible super-duper agent; imagine the Schwarzenegger Terminator battling the new T-1000.
Renner and Weisz do their best to remake a film which was already pretty great. Yes, they have new names and faces, but they are running from the same agency, dodging the same bullets, but this time they have a higher chromosomal level on their side. The Bourne Legacy will be known as that film which derailed the very respectable Bourne franchise. Paul Greengrass, the director of “The Bourne Supremacy” and “The Bourne Ultimatum,” was correct when he said any further film would feel like “The Bourne Redundancy.”