If there was one thing that the first three Bourne movies weren’t, it was boring. The hyper-energized, conspiracy action thrillers easily kept your attention, and in the leading role, Matt Damon was a lot of fun to watch. While the rapid cutting and shaky-cam during the action scenes was something that some didn’t like, it gave the films a style and sense of urgency. The audience was engaged, and they were all a good time, at least as far as I’m concerned.
Here we have The Bourne Legacy, which goes far in the opposite direction from all of these tendencies. Matt Damon isn’t to be seen, save for in a couple of photographs, the shaky-cam and quick cutting is all but gone, and the central conspiracy and evil government plotting has been relegated to the background in favor of a much more simple task: Getting the lead character his drugs. No, really. That’s what the first 75% of The Bourne Legacy is about. By the time new protagonist Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is nearly hyperventilating while asking Rachel Weisz for his meds, I was in a laughing fit. I don’t think that was the intention.
I had to laugh. There was nothing else to do. The plot isn’t engaging, there’s so little action that calling The Bourne Legacy an “action film” would be misleading, and the film is definitely missing Matt Damon in the leading role. In fact, if The Bourne Legacy didn’t have to live up to the Bourne name, it might not have such high expectations placed upon it. And since it clearly wants to kickstart a new series of films, maybe that would have been the better way to go (although money talks, I suppose).
As we already learned in previous films, there are more super soldiers than just Jason Bourne. After some convoluted reasoning that I’m not sure made even a lick of sense, all of them are to be terminated. Most of them are, save for Aaron Cross, who manages to escape. But in order to retain both his physical and mental enhancements, he needs pills. And he’s almost out. So, he needs to find a way to get more. This is what happens for the vast majority of the movie.
This could be a potentially interesting premise. We learn that the mental enhancement far outweighs the physical, meaning that if Cross doesn’t get his drugs, he’ll start mentally regressing. But all this does is add a time limit to something that was already a rushed job — for the characters, if not for the film — and it ultimately matters very little why the pills are needed or what they accomplish. Cross never feels ill effects from not taking them.
He tracks down Weisz’s character, a scientist who worked on the agents, in an attempt to get the drugs. She functions as a plot device and nothing more. Edward Norton is also in the film, playing the man who shut down the program, and also the one tasked with attempting to locate Cross. It would be a fruitless task to attempt to figure out who has a relation to whom, and what all the different programs and agencies have to do with each other. Someone smarter than me can draw up a mind map some time.
The problem, I think, is that all of the convolution to the plot that aided the earlier films doesn’t do the same here. Instead, it draws out the running time, adds further confusion to a series that didn’t need it, and doesn’t really bring anything new to the table. As long as you’ve grasped that everyone who has an office probably has ulterior motives and those motives are not going to benefit whichever protagonist we’re following at the time, you’ll be just fine. You’ll just dislike all of the chit-chat that ultimately serves as filler.
The Bourne Legacy is actually kind of boring. It plays for over 2 hours, and it feels a lot longer than that. Not a lot of important things happen, redundancies are abound, and it ends right as it feels like it’s finally going to ramp up. The film has few ideas of its own, and when it finally seems to be going somewhere, the credits begin to roll. And with no sequel guaranteed, that could prove to make The Bourne Legacy an almost completely worthless movie. It doesn’t have enough content within its own movie to be worth seeing.
If the filmmakers’ goal was to help establish Jeremy Renner as a leading man, it succeeds. He has charm, charisma, a touch of snark, and can carry himself in the couple of action scenes the film contains. I would watch Generic Action Movie #6712 if he was the lead, as long as it moved at a good clip and actually had decent action. He could be a box office draw. Rachel Weisz gets nothing to do, Edward Norton hangs around and accomplishes very little (perhaps he represents the film as a whole), and there are cameos from Joan Allen and Scott Glenn and a couple of others from earlier movies that might excite die-hard fans.
The Bourne Legacy is by far the worst installment in the Bourne franchise, and is the only one I don’t necessarily recommend watching. It’s a boring, overlong, convoluted film, filled with a simple plot that the film does little with, and very few action scenes. Jeremy Renner makes for a capable lead, and there are some big names in the supporting cast, but without giving them anything to do, their talent is wasted. I can’t think of many reasons to see this movie.