[This is a SPOILERY TRAILER!!]
What’s up, Contenders? Terry Malloy here reporting live from the Waterfront.
THE BOURNE LEGACY releases on home video today, December 11, 2012.
I missed THE BOURNE LEGACY in theaters this past Summer, but not for lack of interest. You see, I’m sure none of you can relate to this at all, but… I’m pretty much broke most of the time. THE BOURNE LEGACY was simply a film that came out at a time when I flat out couldn’t afford to go see it. As a matter of fact, over the last couple of years I’ve really had to make a lot of film going decisions based around that framework, which is tough living in Austin, TX where there are amazing, once in a lifetime screenings happening every week.
Why do I bring up my broke-ness in a Blu-ray review? Well, I guess because I’m about to get behind THE BOURNE LEGACY and what it is trying to do and recommend that folks go out there and check this movie out. I know that there are tons of people out there who either really don’t have the time or the money to see every movie that they think they might like. And my recollection is that LEGACY didn’t exactly ignite the box office upon its theatrical release. But on home video, I’ve got to say that this movie is worth your time and I had a blast with it.
It is also important to note that I was annoyed with the film’s existence when it first seemed like it was really going to happen. Is there really any more of a blatant studio cash grab than to not only do a 4th BOURNE film without Matt Damon, but to have the audacity to still have the word BOURNE in the title? I still take issue with the title and feel like it is an insult to Jeremy Renner. Ahh, and Jeremy Renner! I was also a little annoyed with him upon hearing that he accepted this role. His post-THE HURT LOCKER roles have been almost entirely supporting ones, from being the most boring AVENGER to being the buddy in THE TOWN. It just seemed to me like taking on a franchise that was totally anchored by Matt Damon would make Renner seem more like a low rent headliner versus a rising star coming off of a red hot performance in THE HURT LOCKER.
So, that is where I was coming from around the time of this film’s green light. But as further news sank into my brain (such as Tony Gilroy directing), and then the word that the film was going to take place simultaneously with THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM, and most importantly that Renner was playing an ENTIRELY different dude named Aaron Cross.
By the time the trailers released and the film hit theaters, I was sincerely interested. The theatrical reviews from critics that I follow were mixed at best, with some calling this movie the biggest disappointment of their year. I’m a little bit shocked that anyone would feel that strongly negative about this film, because after digging in to the Blu-ray last night, I’m sold on THE BOURNE LEGACY.
In order to buy what LEGACY is selling, though, you have to probably be willing to accept a few things. First and foremost, you probably REALLY need to have seen THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM. And it’d help if you see that movie, like, immediately before watching LEGACY. My wife and I are both nominal BOURNE fans and yet hadn’t seen the trilogy in several years. So some of the specific plot elements in LEGACY that really connected these two movies didn’t necessarily work for me. And I can only imagine that this also didn’t work for many even more nominal BOURNE fans who just like to see secret agents kick people’s asses and don’t remember minor plot points to thrillers from several years ago.
You also have to buy into a pretty MASSIVE conspiracy which dwarves even the conspiracy going on behind the Damon Trilogy. I’ll delve into more spoiler territory later so you’ll be pretty safe here if you still haven’t seen it. But I will say that the film’s tag line alone alludes to what I am talking about: “There was never just one”. LEGACY is one of those movies that basically wants you to believe that the government has layer upon layer upon layer of secret groups and organizations which have almost endless amounts of power and access to data, etc. LEGACY implies that the original BOURNE trilogy was just the tip of the iceberg as far as government-trained bad asses go. On one hand, you do really have to buy into this concept going in to the movie. Or, maybe you don’t. Maybe you just have to let the movie convince you of this possibility through thrilling story telling. I fall into the latter group, who isn’t convinced our broken government can really pull off anything as cool and clandestine as what is happening in LEGACY, but also feel the filmmakers went all in and sold me on their story!
We meet Aaron Cross in the Alaskan wilderness as he completes a training mission. Almost the entire first act of the film takes place in this snowy wilderness and it gave me a very HANNA/THE GREY kind of feeling, which was lots of fun.
Simultaneously to this, Edward Norton (playing the lead heavy this time out) is deciding to pull the plug on all the top secret operatives. This is partly based on what Jason Bourne is doing over in another movie. So Jason Bourne’s journey sparks a very similar situation for Aaron Cross. He is a target, and he has to use his incredible abilities to not only stay alive, but to stop the people who are trying to kill him. It all sounds just like the other BOURNE films unless I dig into spoilers, which I am going to do….now.
THE BOURNE LEGACY is pretty much a thriller/sci-fi/espionage version of CAPTAIN AMERICA! Jeremy Renner’s character is part of a totally different grouping of trained spies than Bourne was. Bourne is a Treadstone Agent, Cross is a product of a program called Outcome. He’s Outcome #5. And the outcome agents are being genetically enhanced! Renner’s character spends the whole first half of the film acting a little bit like a junkie and it is kind of unsettling. Sure, he wants to stay alive, but he spends a lot more energy trying to get his hands on more “chems”. He takes two strains of pills, one of his physical augmentation, and one for his mental.
His initial encounter with Rachel Weisz’ character comes because she is the scientist who has been administering these drugs to him. But soon she becomes his only means for survival, and he becomes hers. Weisz’ character is integral to LEGACY and I’d imagine if this series of films continue, she would be an important partner to Renner’s Cross.
So yeah, LEGACY is way more sci-fi than the Damon trilogy. It has conspiracy that reaches into the pharmaceutical industry and implies that there is a small group of high-access bureaucrats who can meet in a diner with Army generals and order them to kill off all their secret agents and start from scratch. It takes the original BOURNE trilogy and expands the world, augments it’s hero, and deepens the conspiracy. And I kind of loved it.
There were some major departures from the original trilogy, though, which I could see being a problem for fans. Renner’s Cross is supremely slick, but he gets into a lot less fights than Bourne does. The filmmakers imply that Outcome agents have been trained in this manner, so Renner’s training prepares him for different things than Bourne. And I like that a lot. Cross feels more MacGyver or Ethan Hunt than full on kung fu master. But on an objective level, I think there are less actual “action” sequences than the previous films, and I could see that being a problem for a lot of people.
I can also see the heavy ties to ULTIMATUM causing a bigger problem for many viewers than it did for me. I think it was a gamble to tie the movie so closely to a densely-plotted thriller from 2007. Some would say that gamble paid off, others will say it is a detriment to the new movie. I see both arguments, but I have to say that my thorough enjoyment of LEGACY overrides many of my initial concerns or issues with the film’s reliance on the original trilogy.
It isn’t my place to say whether this film will kick start a new franchise starring Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross. But I know I’d like to see more stories told from this perspective. I guess I care a lot more about the mythology of BOURNE than I thought I did, and against all odds I think Renner did an amazing job of making me care about his character. A sequel to LEGACY could have a lot of similarities to UNBREAKABLE in that you have a very grounded, real-world take on a person who is essentially a super human. Count me in.
In the end, I think THE BOURNE LEGACY is a really good time at the movies. I was thrilled and intrigued.
The filmmakers appear to have brought their A-game, even if they were somewhat saddled with the fact that they had to make a BOURNE movie without Bourne in it. And by deepening the conspiracy one more level and adding in some sci-fi/super-human elements to the tale, they really tickled my interests. That said, I can also see why many would call this lesser-BOURNE, or the 4th best of the series. But having not seen the original trilogy myself for several years, I was totally won over by this movie on its own. I still feel that a second film in this series of stories would need to shed the word BOURNE entirely from its title and invest in the character of Aaron Cross or this series will always be under the shadow of BOURNE. Although, I could kind of see a comic-book-y team up happening down the road somewhere too, but that is for another time.
First off, this film looks absolutely fantastic. The movie shot in Canada for its Alaska sequences, which are all gorgeous and snow-covered. They also shot in Manila in the Philippines, and to glorious effect. The location-shooting offers incredible production value, but that is to be expected at this point from any major studio spy thriller with half a budget. Beyond that, though, the environments feel very crucial to the story and Cross interacts with Manila in very specific ways to survive. These locations just look gorgeous on this Blu-ray.
The action doesn’t have that Paul Greengrass patented shakiness, and while I think Greengrass does that best, I’m glad this film’s style is more smooth and grand, versus in-your-face and documentary.
So with the film itself, you get a gorgeous looking movie with some location work that shows off high definition filmmaking in glorious ways.
I also really enjoyed the extras. There is a lively commentary with Tony Gilroy and about 6 other filmmakers present to discuss all the aspects of the movie. It sounds like this film was HIGHLY collaborative and the team approach is reflected in the commentary as well. I always like commentaries more when there are at least 2 people who can bounce off of one another. Here you get director Tony Gilroy, co-writer Dan Gilroy, John Gilroy the editor, DP Robert Elswit, 2nd unit director Dan Bradley AND Production Designer Kevin Thompson. This thing is no joke and further convinces me that THE BOURNE LEGACY may have been “born” out of a studios desire to milk a franchise, but was crafted with care, brains, and heart by filmmakers who gave a crap.
You also get some pretty cool featurettes, which I won’t list out. But a few highlights include a couple of glimpses into how the filmmakers pulled off a particularly cool encounter between Aaron Cross and a wolf out in the snowy wilds of Alaska. And there is a featurette about the locations of the film, which I really appreciated. Locations are a crucial and often overlooked element to making all kinds of films work.
The Blu-ray is top notch and I couldn’t be happier with the spin that Tony Gilroy and team put on this new take on the super soldier. I’m sure many will disagree with me but I would genuinely enjoy a full trilogy featuring Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross!
And I’m Out.
Terry Malloy AKA Ed Travis
*Images and some research from Blu-ray.com