PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

August 13, 2012

New “Bourne” doesn’t live up to his legacy

Sean McBride
The Port Arthur News

— The three Jason Bourne movies have grossed a billion dollars at the box office, so it’s understandable that the producers would want the franchise to continue, even when star Matt Damon decided to move on to other projects. The solution was to cast a different actor, get the original writer to direct the new film and then hope for as much continuity between the projects as possible.

The problem is that the new actor and director take a very distinct approach to the character. The new movie, “The Bourne Legacy” is still a serviceable action film, but it’s different enough that it feels like the start of a new franchise rather than a continuation of the previous storyline.

That storyline is also part of the problem—it’s quite complex and requires a lot of talking to explain what’s going on. In a nutshell, the idea is that when Jason Bourne exposed his Treadstone program in the climax of the last film, he also threatened to expose a similar program run by the Department of Defense. They’ve been creating super-soldiers using chemicals, but Bourne’s actions triggered a decision to dismantle the program, which in government/military cliché speech means killing off all the agents and associated medical personnel.

One particularly resourceful agent, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) survives and goes on the run from shadowy assassins and insulated bureaucrats all while pursuing a medical way to keep his super-soldier abilities intact. If he doesn’t get his super-soldier pills, he’ll revert back to being just an average guy. He teams up with a doctor (Rachel Weisz) who just might be able to help him with his medical problem—if she doesn’t get them both killed first.

That’s not a bad concept for a re-launch, but it’s so complex that we end up with a lot of scenes where characters sit around and talk about what’s going on. That would be okay if we got some simultaneous insight into the characters or their backgrounds, but it’s mostly exposition and character debates which don’t add enough dramatic fireworks to make the film pop.

When we do finally get to the action scenes, they are strangely uninvolving. A climactic motorcycle chase sequence through the streets of Manila features plenty of stunt work, but nothing that’s particularly new or notable.

To top things off, the film abruptly ends with a lot of loose threads that need to be resolved. I’m sure that these loose ends will be tied up in the next film. The problem is that “The Bourne Legacy” isn’t really good enough to merit a sequel. Renner doesn’t have Damon’s charisma, and while he is a solid actor, the new film still suffers in comparison. The same holds true to director Tony Gilroy who takes what should be a lean and cerebral action movie and bloats it up to what feels like 2 ¼ hours of mostly uninvolving dialogue.

If this is the last big summer action blockbuster, then summer 2012 officially goes out with a disappointing whimper.

Movie reviews by Sean, “The Movie Guy,” are published bi-weekly in “The Port Arthur News” and seen weekly on KFDM-TV and KBOI 2-TV. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@kboi2.com.