Number 5 Is Still Alive

9 Aug

Hollywood likes to play by its own rules.

For example, if the star and director of a successful franchise chose not to make another film in a series, most of us might call it quits and start at the beginning with a new star, director, and character.

But in Hollywood, the solution to that “problem” is to find another actor and director, and extend the brand anyway, even if it confuses things.

And so we have The Bourne Legacy, with Jeremy Renner taking over for Matt Damon in the lead, and playing not Jason Bourne, but Aaron Cross, another field agent who is determined to take down the people responsible for tweaking his body and mind.

Taking over for director Paul Greengrass is Tony Gilroy (director of such films as Michael Clayton and Duplicity), who wrote the previous Bourne films, and co-wrote this one.

The last film in the series, The Bourne Ultimatum, ended with Bourne presumed dead after he effectively dismantled the nefarious Blackbriar black ops program. Now there’s a major clean-up effort underway, with the government trying to find and kill all agents in the program before there are any more leaks and the wrongdoing becomes any more public.

Cross (who is known by some only as Number 5) manages to avoid an execution attempt. And he’s not the only one: As it turns out, Bourne, too, is still alive, and he’s on the run from the folks who still want him dead. There are multiple references to Bourne being alive and sighted elsewhere. It’s as if there’s a separate movie going on while we’re in the theater watching Legacy.

Chances are good that that other movie is the more exciting one, because this one is more talk, very little action, and it’s just not as satisfying as the others in the series have been.

Gilroy is not a bad director — he was Oscar-nominated for Michael Clayton — but he seems to have written Legacy to suit his directorial skills rather than the franchise. Whereas Greengrass specialized in jittery, exciting chase scenes shot with handheld cameras that made you feel a part of the action, Gilroy’s film is filled more with dialogue and exposition — much of it involving a predictably intense Ed Norton (who basically takes over for Joan Allen) as the head of a new program, called Outcome.

Legacy has its quick flashes of excitement — like when Cross (conveniently) shows up to save Martha (Rachel Weisz), a research scientist, from being killed in her own home — but it doesn’t really come alive until the final half hour, when Cross and Martha are being chased across the rooftops and through the crowded streets of Manila. By then, it’s too little too late.

Renner is a great actor, and he has the chops to carry an action film — his supporting roles in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Avengers attest to that. But in Legacy, as with those other films, he’s in someone else’s shadow. The constant reminders of Matt Damon and Jason Bourne, and the fact that there’s not enough for Renner to play with here, do a real disservice because they don’t really let him dig in and make the movie his own.

Next time, maybe the powers that be will simply start from scratch and create a new franchise around Renner, rather than unnecessarily reassembling the parts and keeping a different one going.

I’m giving The Bourne Legacy a B–.

Are you looking forward to seeing The Bourne Legacy? Do you wish they had ended the series and began a brand new one? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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