May 20, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 16 August 2012 10:26
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie — new or classic — to help parents choose what to watch. This week’s pick is the new film in the Bourne movie franchise, The Bourne Legacy.
The image of Matt Damon overshadows every frame of The Bourne Legacy, a continuation of the film franchise based on the books by Robert Ludlum. While his character, Jason Bourne, is not a part of the new film — even in flashback — each time we see Damon’s still photograph on screen reminds us what doesn’t work about this fourth installment. With too many characters, an over-complicated plot and less-than-exciting action sequences, The Bourne Legacy is an August letdown at the movies.
Rather than opening the film with a tone-setting visual set piece, writer/director Tony Gilroy chooses to burden the first minutes with a detailed explanation of what we are soon to see. Jason Bourne, the central figure in the earlier episodes, is nowhere to be found, and the CIA program he participated in, called Treadstone, is history. Now that could be a problem for a moviemaker hoping to re-energize a franchise, so we immediately meet a new character, Aaron Cross, who participates in a similar government program. But Cross conveys little of Bourne’s mysterious history and behavior. Instead, this operative is grounded, fully aware of his past and present actions, and less dependent on his exaggerated physical abilities.
Because Cross is in such control, as a character, we have little reason to care what danger he may face. As the plot reaches around the world and Cross and the government begin the expected game of cat and mouse, Gilroy brings little suspense to the proceedings. We never doubt that Cross will prevail; the only question is how long it will take to move on to the next challenge. Because we never fear the outcome, or begin to care for the character, the few action sequences become exercises in special effects with little real excitement. And Gilroy fills the screen with too many no-name characters who spend too much time talking.
Jeremy Renner’s performance as Aaron Cross doesn’t help. This interesting actor — so strong in The Hurt Locker and The Town — appears as uncertain how to play this character as he did opposite Tom Cruise in the last Mission Impossible. Because the part is underwritten, Renner tries to fill the gaps with his own engaging personality. But the key to the Bourne films is that we never get to know the lead character and, when Renner makes Cross too easy to understand, he dilutes the fun. Rachel Weisz, however, is credible and moving as the scientist who joins his journey.
The problems with the film, actually, begin with the script and continue with Gilroy’s approach as a director. As a co-writer, Gilroy gets too caught up in the background details; as a director, he fails to deliver the creative visual sequences that highlighted the earlier films. Even the over-extended climactic chase through the streets of Manila looks like a dozen other sequences from other films. Nothing in this movie feels fresh.
Ultimately, the movie fate of Aaron Cross will be determined by the film’s success. If another episode is produced, we can only hope the creators will return to what works in this series and avoid the detours that trap this installment.
The Bourne Legacy
* Content: Low. While the first three films in the Bourne series told their stories in efficient and visual ways, the fourth film gets bogged down in the words.
* Entertainment: Medium. All that dialogue leaves little screen time for the creative visual sequences that highlighted the earlier films.
* Message: Low. We don’t expect a moral from an action film but we do look for visual innovation.
* Relevance: Low. The Bourne Legacy is one of the films that prompts the question, “why did this need to be made?”
* Opportunity for Dialogue: Low. You may find yourself still trying to clarify the plot details well after the film ends.
The Bourne Legacy, Rated PG-13 for violence and action sequences, 135 minutes.
2-1/2 Popcorn Buckets
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