The Bourne Legacy (2012) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

The Bourne Legacy (2012)

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In printing/graphic design work, it is a common practice to put in dummy (or gibberish) text while laying out a page to get a feel for how it will look. This text is called "Lorem Ipsum,"  which is a place holder to look good and keeps the place until the real text is ready to be inserted.  When I was watching, The Bourne Legacy, I felt like the movie (and especially the character of Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner)) were the movie equal of this text.  It is holding the place and looking pretty until Matt Damon is ready to come back but doing nothing more.

The marketing for this film wants you to believe that “there was never just one,” but the movie still only cares about one-- Jason Bourne.  The first 30-40 minutes of the film sees Bourne’s name whispered tensely from dozens of shadowy CIA figures in boardrooms across the Eastern seaboard.  Heck, The Bourne Legacy takes place around the same time as The Bourne Ultimatum, with most of the people freaking out about Bourne bringing them all down.

This turn of events makes Eric Byer (Edward Norton) very nervous.  Byer has a lot of power in the movie. Why, I don’t know, but the movie tells me many times that he does so I just went with it. He tells everyone to shut down the rest of the Treadstone-like programs that have been going on as Bourne was tearing across the world.   Such programs with cool names like Outcome, Blackbriar, and Mononucleosis (okay, I might have made up that last one) need to be shut down.

"Get me, I'm flipping out!"

This results in many agents of ours being killed off by their most trusted handlers if they were bugs being squashed, but Byer states that it can be started it up again after the heat dies down.  I can see this going over well with the new recruits.  “Well, the last guy that had your job, we got a little nervous so gave him a pill that kills him and gives him a bloody nose from only the right nostril. But we have good dental! Sign here.”

During this first part of the movie we also find out that the Outcome agents were given pills to increase their strength/agility and intelligence.  Since the people working at the Outcome research facility know all about the program too, they need to be taken out, so somehow the CIA brainwashes a doctor in the lab (a wasted Zelijko Ivanek) to kill all of his fellow workers.  Again we are never given a reason why he is brainwashed, he just pulls out a gun and starts shooting.  Anyway, the only person that escapes the rampage is Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz).

A lot of stuff is going on in the beginning of this movie, but what is the hero of the story, Aaron Cross, doing while all this is happening?  He is busy living out his own version of The Grey, only with actual wolf punching this time around!  I am not making this up, the first third of the movie our hero barely speaks and is traipsing through Alaska being chased by wolves and basically killing time until he is needed in the main plot of the movie.

He does end up crossing paths with at least one other main character after Byer tries to kill him in Alaska.  Cross actually doesn’t seem that upset that his country just tried to assassinate him, and just lets that roll off his back because what he really needs is his pills. Yes, The Bourne Legacy made its main character a highly functioning junkie.  Cross is worried about losing his intelligence if he doesn’t get his blue pills so he tracks down Shearing right when she is being threatened a second time, seeing if she can be his hook up.

Rachel Weisz has seen better days.

At this point Dr. Shearing has realized the first try on her life wasn’t a insane co-worker but a cover up plot by her employers, so finally we are going to see Cross and her team up to take down the bad guys right?  Nope, Cross still really needs his fix so instead we go to Manilla (yes, Manilla) where Cross can be “viraled off” the meds and retain his intelligence without the pills.

Meanwhile, poor Edward Norton is trying to keep the main “shadowy people doing bad stuff” plot going and tracks down the pair in Manilla.  Since he knows Cross is dangerous (we learn this from a very quick flashback between the two that is never mentioned again), he has to find someone who can take Cross down.  This might be a problem because of him killing all of the other super agents earlier in the film, but since there is no consistency in this film all of the sudden we findanothersuper agent wasn’t killed and just happens to be a 2 hour flight from where Cross is.

Ok, lets back up a little bit shall we.  The movie has gone to great lengths to show us that all other agents are killed because they need to destroy all evidence but yet they left the one guy just hanging around.  No one has any questions about “the plan” at this point.  Just thinking about this my right nostril is starting to bleed.

Moving on, the other super agent (I will call him the Terminator from here on out because that is what he is) is hot on the trail of Cross and Shearing just as he is getting really sick from the injection he was given to curb his fix.  Thankfully, Cross gets better right before the Terminator finds him so he is okay to go on the longest motorcycle chase ever filmed.  Finally after a thousand or so jump cuts and shaky cam moments later, Cross kills the Terminator and can now go back to the states to take down the real bad guys.

Meanwhile, EXPLOSIONS.

By this point in the movie, I was ready for the 3rd act confrontation between Cross and Byer and hoping it will give something for poor Jeremy Renner to do other than look serious and punch wolves.  I am excited for a Renner/Norton scene longer than the flashback that goes no where.  I am anticipating all this at the point in the movie but what I was not ready for were the credits. Yes, the movie ends at this point.  The two are still on the run, the bad guys are still in power, the flashbacks that have been shown to add up to anything and the movie feels unfinished.

When this film is boiled down, it is actually about a junkie getting his fix.  Looking at the character arc of Renner’s Cross it goes like this:

  1. He needs his pills
  2. He asks the Dr. for the pills and is told she doesn’t have them
  3. He goes to Manila to get his “fix”
  4. He gets his fix
  5. The end.

He doesn’t care about the men trying to kill him, he doesn’t seem to mind them doing it, and he is happy because now he won’t be dumb and has Rachel Weisz as a traveling companion.  I saw this movie a week ago and am still trying to get this thought to compute.  Or if they are “saving the rest” for a sequel I think they should have tried to write a decent single film before worrying about a trilogy of films.

Swing, Jeremy, swing into a better film!

In the end the movie isn’t horrible like something along the lines of Battleship mainly because it had an interesting premise, leftover goodwill from the past Bourne films and great actors doing their best but the script was a MESS.

I am angry at the film for the missed opportunities, squandering of Jeremy Renner and the inability to make one good film instead of thinking of the “franchise”. While I can’t give this film anything but a bad review I will say that it is an okay film without any deep thought. But the Bourne movies are better than that and this movie should have striven to that instead of being a placeholder until Matt Damon calls them back.

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Posted by Ryan

Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. What I liked most about this flick was that it at least kept the action and thrills up and up, until that final shot just came out of nowhere and the credits started to roll. That was a huge bummer but it got me to look forward to what they could and might possibly do with this story. Good review Danny.

  2. I have to disagree; I really enjoyed it. Yes, the first third was slow; they kept Cross on the sidelines (good call on The Grey btw, I thought the same thing! but in an “AWESOME, The Grey I always WANTED” kinda way) while they caught us up with Bourne’s timeline, which I though was a mistake in a number of ways. But once they hit Marta’s house the whole thing picked up, and we saw Renner being badass and charismatic and fun to watch, and having great chemistry with Rachel Weisz.

    I still don’t understand why everyone describes Cross as a junkie though. I thought of it more as knowing you have early onset Alzheimer’s (for example), i.e. having the terror of knowing you’ll slowly lose your mind. Because he wasn’t just “kinda dumb,” he was barely functional.

    I agree that the conflict wasn’t well thought out – like you said, getting the viral cure was ridiculously easy, and there wasn’t even a big hand-to-hand finale, or bigger bad guy to go after. But I had an awesome time watching it and was ready for more, so I’d definitely call it a successful action movie.

  3. This was a funny review to write because I left the movie thinking it was OK but the more I thought about it the more the screenplay really bugged me. I think that the creators of this story should have focused on telling one complete story instead of trying to set up a new trilogy. The cast, look and fine directing were really let down by an incomplete script.

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