On Second Thought: “The Bourne Legacy”

Some film series outlive their welcome. Sequel after sequel things just get more and more tiresome, even when they’re still mildly entertaining and fun. However, most don’t end up becoming a film series in name only. When that happens, what are you supposed to think? One thought is certainly that the film series should’ve ended with the third film. Maybe you’ll be surprised this time around.

The Universal Pictures film “The Bourne Legacy”, still manages to bring out intense action sequences, but gets hung up on the need to expand and reintroduce a world we already know.

This action thriller stars Jeremy Renner (upcoming “Arrival”, “Captain America: Civil War”), Rachel Weisz (upcoming films “Complete Unknown”, “The Light Between Oceans”), Edward Norton (upcoming films “Sausage Party”, “Collateral Beauty”), Stacy Keach (upcoming “Gold”, “Cell”), DEnnius Boutsikaris (upcoming episode “Rectify”, “Money Monster”), Oscar Isaac (“Lightningface (Short 2016)”, “X-Men: Apocalypse”), Joan Allen (“Luck”, “Good Sharma”), Albert Finney (“Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”, “The Bourne Ultimatum”), David Strathairn (“Z: The Beginning of Everything”, “Axe Cop”), and Scott Glenn (“Into the Grizzly Maze”, “The Barber”).

The film was directed by Tony Gilroy (“Duplicity”, “Michael Clayton”) and written by Gilroy (“The Bourne Ultimatum”, “Proof of Life”) and Dan Gilroy (“Nightcrawler”, “The Fall”).

The film originally opened on Aug. 10, 2012.

Try as they may, try as they might, this franchise doesn’t have as much bite. Don’t judge me, just go with it. As much as I do enjoy this film, largely because of the cast chosen, this film is a bit unnecessary and doesn’t truly feel worthy of being in this franchise. It may give enough for a fun story, and is able to explain it all, but it’s through this storytelling that all of its problems surface. It’s amazing, but I never noticed this before, but, then again, I hadn’t spent the last three days reevaluating this franchise up until this one. It becomes a lot easier to notice some of the weaker moments, while at the same time, showing you what it is that you love about this film.

Where this film still excels at is with the action sequences that pop up! I don’t think anyone will deny this. It’s incredibly easy to get into these and enjoy them. The added benefit is that this film was shot in various countries, so you got to see some incredible locations. However, that doesn’t mean much, especially with this film. I’m saddened to say, but this film lacked the momentum and energy that made the previous, and final film in the original “Bourne” trilogy, so good. No matter how much I love, and will always love, the big Manila action sequence, which comes complete with a long rooftop chase, hand to hand combat moment, and a chase on motorcycles and in cars, it didn’t come until the end of the film and only made me wish there was more to the story. Mind you, at the same time, I’m glad there wasn’t more story.

This film’s story, is a decent one overall. It makes sense in so many ways. There’s another secretive program, plus another in some stage of development, and due to the events of the previous two films, is now being threatened. Norton, ever the brilliant actor, is this film’s villain. While he’s more a villain in the vein of Allen’s Landy, circa “Bourne Supremacy”, he’s got a bit of Strathairn’s character too. Sad part is, Norton isn’t as fascinating a villain as Strathairn, and there already is a negative side.

Anyway. How this affects the story is that Norton’s going to shut down the program, “Outcome”, and work with what’s left later on. I like this story, as it’s believable. In this day and age, even in 2012, I don’t find it difficult to believe that a program like this could, or may, exist. If we can have elite teams, that we know about, of Navy Seals and many other similar teams, going in and rescuing people or killing terrorists, why can’t we have the types of programs seen in the “Bourne” films? And with Gilroy directing and writing, there’s some continuity. He knows this world. However, due to this new aspect in this familiar world, Gilroy decided it should be explored. And therein lies the problem. Too much time was spent on trying to explain everything about “Outcome” to us. He spent time showing it in action, at the start of the film, and showing the casualties of shutting it down. While this gave way to complexities and various character insights, which yielded good performances, it ultimately slowed the film down. I mean, the film didn’t have it’s first big amp up until about 30 minutes into the film. That’s a problem. The film never picked up any kind of speed, and then when the action was thrown at you, it was suddenly taken away. It was a bit jarring. I felt that this film was back at the beginning of the series, but even then, it never took as much time as this film did, and certainly made a better effort at balancing all these elements.

However, I did find that a few things ultimately made it really bearable and fun. Again, the action was a BIG help! While there seemed to be less, and it came around in smaller bursts, save for the Manila sequence, it was well executed. The people in charge of stunt work did a phenomenal job, and did make it feel like a “Bourne” film. The cinematography also helped. You got so much scope, and were there just enough to feel something.

The actors. I hadn’t fully discovered this until now. While I’ve always loved the actors, in general, and love that they’re in this film, it is because of them that this film remains interesting. Basically, if you’d had someone else in these roles, I don’t think I’d be responding the same way. It’s just how they all bring these characters to life. Weisz and Renner are capable and do a decent job of replacing the original lead actor. It’s also how we were able to get some good emotional drama in the slower bits of the film, even it helped to drag the film.

Sequels are difficult to make. You can’t please everyone, and at some point there’s not enough story left to make even a decent film. Add to that, people may just be tired out from all of the film’s in the series. But when studios start making spin-off sequels, then you’ve got a whole different type of monster to contend with. Everything I mentioned, plus showing that this franchise indeed needed this new film. Here, I’m more in the middle. I’m glad this film was made as it shows the creativity and complex nature of this film’s world, and if done well, there are loads of stories to tell. However, that’s not the question fans, audiences, and critics care to have answered. I doubt that question will ever be answered to anyone’s satisfaction, especially as a film franchise seems to get a sequel at some point in time.

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