Sunday, August 12, 2012

Bourne Legacy

So last week I did a review for the reboot of Sony's Total Recall and in a nutshell I left disappointed. Recall had a lot of potential to be great but, in my mind, was a failure because they just didn't change it enough from the previous film. Even though it was darker and they put more into creating the world they just couldn't shake the previous one and I think in the end it's what kept audiences away. So here we are at another Reboot, although to be more accurate it's probably a Reboot/sequel. Recall and Bourne are similar in some ways as they both are about spies who have lost their memories and are desperately trying to re-invent themselves as heroic after they learned they might not have been so in their previous lives. That is what was so compelling about the Bourne Identity with Matt Damon where he can do all of these incredible things yet his greatest worry is the horrible things he must have done before he lost his memory. Also it helps that it's a pretty kick ass action movie with some incredible chase sequences. So this new Bourne is attempting to continue the series but reboot with a new character to replace Jason Bourne named Aaron Cross. Will this turn out to be another Total Recall reboot? Thankfully no, writer/director Tony Gilroy is able to, with a few bumps, take us from Jason Bourne to Aaron Cross in a very fun action thriller that presents a few new areas to explore.
After the third Bourne film we are left with a Black Ops program Treadstone/Black Briar under heavy scrutiny after Jason Bourne uncovers damning information about how these programs are being used and the puppet masters controlling them. Pam Landy (Joan Allen), an ally of Bournes within the CIA is now the catalyst of the investigation. With help from Bourne she has been able to provide proof of wrongdoing and a hearing is called.  This film takes place in between all of the drama of the third film. Bourne is on the run and missing. We find new shady heads of the program in Retired Col. Eric Byer (Ed Norton) and Retired Admiral Mark Turso (Stacy Keach) who are freaking out about the investigation as we learn there are many programs like Treadstone that are currently active. In order to protect their most fragile operations they decide to destroy the evidence linking Treadstone to the larger organization. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is one of those loose ends they want to eliminate and boy do they try. Cross is similar to Bourne in many ways without the memory loss but with other problems. He is sort of a Super Soldier as he takes Blue and Green meds that heighten his physical and mental capabilities. The problem is he's running out of meds and he can't go ask the people trying to kill him for some more. He saves one of the scientists, Dr. Marta Shering (Rachel Weisz), tasked with providing his meds with the hope that she will get him back on a regimented schedule. 
This was a fun movie and a decent start to what is obviously a new trilogy continuing the Bourne legacy, but it wasn't nearly as good as the previous three. There were some pretty substantial problems with this one so let's get to it. First of all let's start with Aaron Cross himself. I don't envy Jeremy Renner to have to come into this franchise and take over where Matt Damon left off. What made Bourne interesting from the beginning was just that, his lack of a beginning, the mystery of who he was and now who he was going to become. Because he had lost his memory there are all of these questions about how he knows what he knows, how he ended up face first in the water and what is he going to do about it. This mystery was able to sustain three films ably, amping up the action every film. Aaron Cross does not have this problem he knows who he is, who he used to be and through the course of this film he begins to understand why they are trying to kill him. More importantly we as the audience know it too and a lot of the suspense is sort of chucked. Yes they get into the meds and Aaron's weakness for them but for me that was the least interesting thing in the film. Don't get me wrong I thought Renner was great and he did the best with what he had but his character at this point isn't nearly as interesting as Jason Bourne. Thankfully though he is a different character he has the ability to be charming and conniving when he needs to be where Bourne was more cold and efficient. I'm sure there are plenty of things to learn about Cross as the series continues and I look forward to that but from what they gave us so far I'm definitely not as intrigued as I was with Bourne.
Every Bourne film peels off a layer to find another layer in this case Treadstone grows bigger and more global with more puppeteers behind the curtain. But all of this unveiling is meaningless unless there is a point to all of it. I'm not feeling it just yet, but the general plot I'm starting to take away from this series is Bourne/Cross vs. the C.I.A, and the C.I.A. is the bad guy. Are they all evil? Let's take a look back through the series: Conklin (Chris Cooper) Pretty Bad if not evil, Ward Abbott (Brian Cox) started out as a bureaucrat in the first Bourne turned into a pretty bad asshole in Bourne Supremacy, Noah Vossen (David Strathairn) turns out to be a self righteous asshole without much compunction for killing people even innocent people, Ezra Kramer (Scott Glen) the head of the friggin C.I.A seems shady at first and in Ultimatum and Legacy shows what a pretty evil scumbag he is, Pam Landy (Joan Allen) way to much of a Girl Scout to be a member of the C.I.A. but she's honorable and certainly not evil. So if I were to recap the heads of the Covert world in the Bourne series we have a whopping one person of authority who has any morals. Yeah I know these movies area about the grey area but damn some of these guys are beyond grey.
Which brings me to the problem with this film, if you strip away some new details at the end of the day, just like Bourne, Aaron Cross is just avoiding death from the same organization that trained him. It's the same damn plot and to the casual observer it might seem like a small thing but if you really enjoy this series and the trajectory they have taken then your going to be at least a little disappointed in the delivery of this last film as a rehash of what we have already seen in the three previous films. Thankfully there are enough new elements added to enhance the scope of these movies and to open up the possibility for more interesting plot lines in the future they were just woefully undeveloped in this film . But overall I did enjoy the movie and I really liked Aaron and Marta and I thought she brought something a little different to the series in that she may have a bit more knowledge about Aaron's situations then she may be letting on, it was subtle but it was there. There is more to her then meets the eye and I want to find out what that is in the next installment. The first half drags a little but once the action sets in the pace begins to pick up and it's non-stop until the unnecessarily abrupt ending. Yeah that ending was kind of terrible not in what we see but how it just sort of happens. Your just getting into the action and the story and then you start to hear that Bourne music they always use and credits role. WTF Gilroy? If you like the Bourne series I recommend you see it, if you enjoy a smart action flick then this is also up your alley. If you are hoping for an improvement in the Bourne series you are going to be disappointed for sure, but there is potential for them to fix the problems in this film and make a successful trilogy with Aaron Cross and I will be first in line when that happens.
Grade: 3 Buckets   

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