All my cards on the table. I love the Bourne Trilogy. I absolutely love it. It pretty much redefined the spy genre and possibly the action drama genre into what we see now. Daniel Craig’s realistic Bond is a DIRECT RESULT of Jason Bourne. The popularity of gritty realistic action films and shaky cam action scenes (Some done right. Most done WRONG) are a DIRECT RESULT of Paul Greengrass’s Bourne Supremacy & Ultimatum. The trilogy starring Matt Damon is in my top three favorite trilogies of ALL TIME. They are perfect to me. So much so, I actually didn’t want them to make any more. A rarity for me because I always want more. But for Bourne, because it was so perfect, I wanted it to end the way it did. And for a while there, I got my wish. Greengrass dropped out of a planned fourth film and Damon said he wouldn’t make another without Greengrass. My perfect trilogy was safe. But then Universal realized that other than that dumb street racing franchise…they had no other cash cow. Enter The Bourne Legacy.
The Bourne Legacy isn’t a sequel. It is a side story that takes place in the same universe as the Bourne Trilogy. To the franchise’s credit, they never make the following film a stereotypical sequel. Events in each film jump around through a linear timeline set up by story mastermind Tony Gilroy. He and most of the original cast are back with some new blood sprinkled in. I appreciated this as an effort to make Legacy stand out and be different while still using the foundation set by Damon and Greengrass. However, these things hinder Legacy’s success to either the uninitiated or the…how should I put this….simple minded populous who want their films to just have stuff that blow up real good.
Days before I saw Legacy, I still heard people saying that Jeremy Renner was the new Jason Bourne…He’s Not. I still heard people saying this was a reboot of the franchise…It’s Not. I heard people saying Matt Damon would make a cameo…He Doesn’t. This isn’t entirely the people’s fault. The way Gilroy sets up the story, the way the film was marketed, the way the title reads all aids in the confusion. The word Bourne isn’t what you should focus on in this film. The word you should focus on is Legacy. The film is entirely about how the actions of Jason Bourne and, more importantly, Pam Landy effect certain people in the government. It is a film about fallout. And though I understand that The Landy Fallout isn’t a particularly catchy title, it would be a more accurate one.
With all that baggage out of the way, how is the film? Its just fine. Gilroy, now writing and directing instead of just writing, is a fine replacement for Greengrass. Jeremy Renner’s character Aaron Cross, though a little less likable than Damon’s Jason Bourne, is fine as a lead. The story, though a tad too complex for the uninitiated, is fine. Ed Norton and Stacy Keach are fine as the baddies. But what is still LACKING from Bourne Legacy? I’ll give you two guess and the first one doesn’t count.
Matt Damon is what makes this franchise go. He is the heart, the engine, the…fill in a metaphor relating to importance…that drives this universe. Without him, without Jason Bourne, any installment in this series just feels like a really expensive fan film. The universe itself isn’t strong enough to carry a film without him as it was for, lets say, The Dark Knight Rises. You need more Jason than they give you, if only to serve as a smoother transition into caring for Aaron Cross.
And on a personal note, replacing composer John Powell with James Newton Howard is a HUGE MISTAKE. Powell’s scores for Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum are legendary. It would be like switching John Williams from Indiana Jones or Danny Elfman from Batman ’89. Howard’s score is color by numbers at best. In a film DEPENDANT on it’s audience following the Bourne universe, how do you not use the man that sets that universe’s perfect tone? John Powell is sorely missed.
Rumor has it that a film with Damon and Renner teaming up could come as a result of Legacy’s success. For that reason alone, I support it. However, I’m a fanboy of the franchise. I don’t expect anyone else to see a possible Bourne/Cross team-up as a good enough reason to watch a film that is fine but is also LACKING. If you watch it…you’ll be hard pressed to tell me I’m wrong.