Sunday, August 12, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

The Bourne series is another one of those 21st century film franchises that I don't think actually has any true fans.  Its not to say that the Bourne movies do not represent a collection of decent action movies, because they do, its just saying that nobody is exactly emotionally invested in the fate of "The Bourne Legacy".  Its just like the "Mission: Impossible" films, they're all more or less solid entertainment, but will they ever become pillars of pop culture?  Nope.  Are their rabid Bourne fans out there crying "BETRAYAL!" at the replacement of Matt Damon for the star?  I really hope not.  As for me, I don't even remember most of the stuff that happens in the first three Bourne movies, I think I saw them out of order, and I can't for the life me remember if I saw "The Bourne Supremacy" or not.  I do remember though that Matt Damon kicks Clive Owen's ass in one movie, which is bullshit, Clive Owen could totally take Matt Damon.  Anyway, as it turns out I didn't have to worry about being lost in "Bourne 4", since this movie has almost nothing to do with the first three.

So "Bourne 4" from the start is a low-impact action movie that I was mostly bullied into seeing.  I say "bullied" because EVERY movie I have seen in the last six months has had a damn trailer for "The Bourne Legacy".  ALL OF THEM.  I think they even snuck a "Bourne Legacy" trailer into "Brave".  I was thinking:  "Come on, Hollywood!  I really don't think this movie is really worth my time."  Then I saw five more movies, and then I finally I gave up.  "Alright, fine, Hollywood, I'll go see your friggin' Jeremy Renner action movie.  But you owe me now.  You better find a way to make Guillermo del Toro's 'At the Mountains of Madness' movie*, or else you're sleeping on the couch tonight, film industry."  So then I went to see the movie, and it was a perfectly serviceable action movie.  Now I want my "Mountains at Madness", goddammit.

If you're really deeply into the Jason Bourne adventures, you'll probably be unhappy with "Bourne 4".  But since I don't believe that population actually exists, its otherwise a finely-tuned action film that is slightly above mediocre.  There is really only the most tangential connection to the Bourne movies, and I think the movie is stretched overly long because of wasting the first hour showing off its Jason Bourne credentials - when Matt Damon does not appear once in this entire movie.  So while the Bourne logo might help with advertising, it hurts the final production.  They should have called this "Jeremy Renner: Supersoldier" and it would have been slightly better... but still this was never going to be a classic.

The first forty minutes of the film needs to explain how Jason Bourne got his title on a movie that he really has nothing to do with.  Well, Edward Norton is this intelligence bureaucrat working to cover up the fallout of the Jason Bourne fiasco which revealed everything to the world about Top Secret Government Supersoldier Project #1, and Ed Norton doesn't want them finding about Top Secret Government Supersoldier Projects #2-#7,000,000.  Unfortunately this one guy is seen on Youtube talking to another guy, so the entire Supersoldier Project that Jeremy Renner is involved with needs to be liquidated.  And that officially is the end of the Bourne party of the "Bourne Legacy".  All it really does it give the Evil Bureaucrats a motive, and a pretty muddled one at that.  I guess it says something about how horribly corrupt these people are, since they're wiping out valuable spies who actually are fighting our country's enemies around the globe in order to keep our job, but that's a subtle bit of irony that will probably be lost audiences who just want to see Jeremy Renner ride a motorcycle in Manila.

Our two lead is Jeremy Renner as Alex Cross Aaron Cross, a supersoldier who is different from Jason Bourne because... um... he needs pills?  The movie makes a big deal about how he's totally different from that Treadstone project, but really, he's just really good at shooting and stuff.  His woman is Rachael Weisz, a scientist who helped make Jeremy Renner a supersoldier who is on the run with him after Edward Norton decides they all need to die.  Jeremy Renner has been genetically altered to be both really smart and really strong (this movie is trying for realism so the superpowers are subtle and lame), but he needs to undergo a procedure to stay super smart and get over his pill addiction.  Rachael Weisz leads him to Manila where they avoid Big Brother and fight yet another totally separate breed of Supersoldier.  Then the movie ends.

Yeah, spoilers, the heroes never actually fight Ed Norton or his spooks, they defeat a guy who is introduced five minutes ago and then go on an East Asian cruise.  I guess sequel hook?

Anyway, even though this isn't really a Jason Bourne movie, it mostly plays out as one.  The entire film is divided between the hero running from spooks, while the masterminds watch in a cool air conditioned room doing damage control.  Its all very serious, "realistic", and fast-paced.  My problem with the Bourne movies is  the villains are just blue collar technocrats really only hunting the hero in order to do their jobs.  Nobody is ever outright evil or hammy, they're all pretty straight-laced and by the book.  And at some point I find myself routing with the technocrats, since they keep losing every single battle, I start feeling bad for them.  Its much worse here when its Edward Norton!  Come on!  Edward Norton is one of my favorite actors ever, Jeremy Renner is fine, but there are no performances that ever really shine.  So I wanted Ed Norton to win here, and he doesn't.  But luckily this movie ends with an obvious sequel in mind, I guess he'll be back to chase Jeremy Renner more.

These movies are also truly bizarre in that the heroes and the villains never really interact.  Its like watching two totally different movies at once:  an action movie, and the other about some dudes in an office watching the action movie.

The Bourne movies are too caught-up in their own realism to become properly enjoyable silly action adventures like James Bond or even "Mission: Impossible".  But they still have the mentality of an action movie, constantly moving forward between one chase scene and the next, nothing is ever really character driven.  Every actor is fine in this, but are they really pushed in any way to confront anything personal?  No.  So why they the heck can't we start having real fun here!?  Why can't Jeremy Renner have like Matrix powers or have super speed or be able to predict the future five seconds ahead?  If he's a supersoldier, make him super!  Where did Jeremy Renner put his bow and arrows anyway?

In positives, there isn't actually anything directly wrong with "The Bourne Legacy", its perfectly serviceable and then forgettable.  It also has a very cool chase scene.  But even then, at two hours and fifteen minutes, its easily forty minutes too long.  I was actually surprised I enjoyed this movie as much as I did, considering how little I care about Jason Bourne.  I'll probably be around to see "Bourne 5", if just for Edward Norton.  But otherwise, this is right at the center of mediocre in movies.  Not all that much particularly great, not all that much particularly bad.  Just flat entertainment.

* I think I detailed this before somewhere, but it never hurts to tell the tale again.  Guillermo del Toro was in the works with Universal to make a big budget version of H.P. Lovecraft's novel, "At the Mountains of Madness", the one with the giant penguins.  It would have been awesome, obviously, since its Lovecraft's best story and del Toro is the perfect director for this project.  Its a dream come true.  Then Universal creates "The Wolfman" a terrible dull as crap movie that was an utterly miserable failure because it was made by people who didn't give a damn about anything.  So Universal panics about the flop, cancels "At the Mountains of Madness", and well... Moral of the story:  FUCK YOU, UNIVERSAL.

1 comment:

  1. a lot of people think this is better than the dark knight rises. i asked them what are they on.