It’s hard to comprehend a movie called The Bourne Legacy that doesn’t actually feature the character Jason Bourne. Not a sequel, it’s an attempt to expand the Bourne universe and continue to make piles of Bourne money without actually having to pay Matt Damon most of it. It sorta works.
You need a few things for a Bourne movie. The name Bourne needs to be in the title, even if the character of Bourne doesn’t actually appear, like, say, in The Bourne Legacy. You need a specially trained agent who is no longer following the rules and needs to be killed by a government agency. In Legacy, you get Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), taking over for Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne. You also need a sleek hunter in a tech heavy war room barking out lines like, “Come on people, we need to find this guy, where is he?” In this case, it’s Byer (Edward Norton), taking over for Chris Cooper, Joan Allen, and David Strathairn. You need a fat guy who is egging on the sleek guy to kill Bourne or the Bourne equivalent. In this case it’s Turso (Stacy Keach), taking over for Brian Cox and Albert Finney. You need a secret government killing-type of program and if you’ve used the names Treadstone and Blackbriar, then try Outcome. Sounds kinda ominous, right? Also, you need Tony Gilroy to write the script like he has for all the Bourne movies, as well as exotic locales, awesome fights and chases, and a convoluted plot that no one really understands.
The Bourne Legacy has all the parts but doesn’t quite pull them together in a unique or interesting way. It’s a decent action/thriller but doesn’t have the energy, intelligence, or intensity of the earlier films. It’s B-rated Bourne, setting things up for a future franchise that might improve. It’s not so much on Renner, who does a good job as the medically enhanced (not in that way) asset who needs to be killed. The problem is the exposition as the writers set up a world running parallel to the events in The Bourne Ultimatum. People talk and talk and talk about Outcome, medical enhancements, relationships between characters from the other Bourne movies and this movie, and on and on. It’s the curse of the first movie in a series, it has to set everything up and that’s just not all that interesting to watch.
We’ve also seen a lot of this before. Norton’s Byer, unbelievably, chases Cross and a doctor who is also targeted to be killed (Rachel Weisz) by setting up a room with computer screens and monitors. It exactly mirrors scenes in the other movies. It’s like Gilroy, who is also the director on this film in addition to co-writer, can’t fathom an antagonist unless he’s in a war room. How about getting Norton out in the field after Cross? How about not writing yet another secret operation group run by people who seem to be carbon copies of the people in the first movies? How about making a movie about a secret agent and calling it Secret Agent Man, rather than trying to cash in on the Bourne name, since this really feels like that. The stunts are good, Renner is good, Norton is as good as Cooper or Strathairn, so the movie does have some pulse pounding fun, but it doesn’t knock your socks off. Pull out Identity or Ultimatum if you want that.
The Bourne Legacy is a nice set. While the movie doesn’t dazzle, Universal does toss in a good selection of extras to go along with stellar picture and sound quality, plus a DVD and electronic copy. The disc also contains the required three elements to a good home entertainment release: a commentary, making-of extras, and deleted scenes.
Everyone and their brother, literally, are invited to participate in the commentary. Director/writer Tony Gilroy, writer Dan Gilroy, and editor John Gilroy all take part, in addition to the Gilroy family’s 12 nieces and nephews. Not really, instead cinematographer Robert Elswit, production designer Kevin Thompson, and second unit director Dan Bradley also take part. If that sounds like too many people, it is. There’s lots of good info here, but it’s sometimes lost when you don’t know who is talking.
What would be considered the making-of featurette is broken into bite-sized chunks of five to eight minutes each, totaling about 40 minutes. It includes the decisions that went into moving the series away from Jason Bourne but still using the previous films as a jumping off point, like the character of Aaron Cross, the location shooting, and most interestingly, the climactic motorcycle chase. This is the type of behind-the-scenes stuff that a fan of the movie wants to see. The “how did they do it” of the big action piece. The other extras are also pretty good, but sections like “Re-Bourne” and “Enter Aaron Cross,” which focus on character and story rather than action, don’t offer much insight. These are for people who haven’t actually seen the movie, rather than for those who have and want inside info. There is a two minute test footage on the fight between Cross and the wolf that is pretty (unintentionally) hilarious. Make sure to check it out.
The deleted scenes only last seven minutes but do add some information that is interesting. A scene between Aaron and a highway patrolman is pretty tense. Another quick scene explains why Aaron was trying to extra meds when he got to the cabin at the beginning of the movie. Nothing critical, but the scenes are nice to see.
The Bourne Legacy is an OK movie with a nice Blu-ray release. You wouldn’t go wrong just letting The Bourne Ultimatum wrap up your Bourne movie experience and skipping Legacy altogether, but as a generic thriller, it gets the job done.