Monday, August 20, 2012

Movie Review: The Bourne Legacy

First off, RIP Tony Scott. You're a bastard for taking your own life and leaving your wife and children and brother, but RIP anyway, I don't know the whole story. You've had a storied career and I know I'll miss seeing any new movies by you.
Damn do I hate suicides.

So, The Bourne Legacy. No need to intro much on this one - it's the fourth Bourne movie, and isn't actually connected, plot-wise, to the events of Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum. For the record, I like Identity most of all but am a big fan of Ultimatum too. Supremacy is a good movie, but gets a little confusing; the Goa chase scene is fantastic though. All inall, I love them, and I really really love Matt Damon as Jason Bourne - that's one of the most pitch-perfect matches I can think of, and redefined the "spy movie" after several decades of it being a genre dominated solely by the James Bond image. In fact, nowadays, I'd say that Bourne is a far more relevant piece of spy action than Bond.

I admit, I had my concerns when I heard about the development of a fourth Bourne movie. It's been several years since Ultimatum, and jumping back in is hard. It's even harder since Ludlum only ever wrote three Bourne novels. Further confusion can be generated by the fact that Lustbader (the fellow who picked up the mantle of writing more Bourne books, having added seven of his own by now) wrote a book called The Bourne Legacy. The trouble comes from realizing that this movie is NOT based on the book (why they didn't come up with their own title is beyond me).
Bourne is not in this movie - not at all. Damon walked when Greengrass showed no interest in directing, although this connection based on interest rather than internal drama means that they can't be ruled out of showing up in further entries. There's a whole new protagonist, and the plot builds along the lines left by Bourne's exposition of Treadstone and Blackbriar without being about that specifically.
My initial concerns were that Bourne would be in the movie played by a different actor that wasn't Damon, and I vehemently oppose that idea. My fears were proved unfounded, thankfully. Edward Norton's name inspired confidence in me as usual. I wasn't so sure about Jeremy Renner (despite his name coming a lot in high profile places lately I'm just not that enthralled by him), but the Aaron Cross character in the trailers seemed promising enough. I came to highly anticipate this film as one of my main interest points of the year (along with Avengers, Amazing Spider-Man, Dark Knight Rises, Hobbit, Hunger Games, and Prometheus).
On the plus side as well, Tony Gilroy wrote and directed this one, and he was a writer on the previous ones, so we did have someone who cared about the intergrity of the originals.
So how'd it do?

General Stuff: I can say without a doubt that the film quality itself is superior, thanks to advances in high definition cameras since the last movies. It looks simply stunning. I unfortunately have to say that I really needed a refresher on some of the politicians in the film - they do a lot of name dropping of characters we ought to remember, but never out and out say what they did. I really should have watched the series before going. For your own viewing, try to remember who Noah Vosen is as well as Dr. Albert Hersch, Ezra Kramer, and Pamela Landy are. I only remembered those last two, even though I worked it out eventually.
Directing and photography-wise it seemed decent. There were some neat shots, but nothing that stays with me constantly. The plot moved quickly, but was rather straightforward, and I was actually quite surprised at the lack of progress Cross actually made against the government agents hunting him.
The movie's end was not super artistic. It came up fast, without much build-up, then exploded into a chase by a guy who didn't matter to the rest of the movie. In the other Bourne movies, the agents who came up as Bourne-hunters (like The Professor) were constant points through the movie, whereas this guy was just activated at the end and sent. He also wasn't all that interesting - he's a super-agent with integrated enhanced physical and cognitive abilities who's had his emotions drained out of him. It makes for a fun final chase scene, which ends up blending elements of the Goa chase with the trilogy's pair of great car chases (Paris in Identity, Moscow in Supremacy) to come up with a cool scene that's not quite the sum of those lofty parts. It's very cool still though, I think as an individual scene it's superior than any of those three individual components I mentioned minus Goa.
I'm being hard on the movie, I know. It's a lot of fun, but th main reason I keep coming down on it is because it's so closely attached itself to being a part of the Bourne series while still not quite fitting in, because...

Genre: This is not a spy movie. Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum are spy movies. Legacy is a spy movie only if you count Quantum of Solace as a spy movie though - it's first and foremost an action movie with bits of intrigue and conspiracy (don't get me wrong - this movie is FAR superior to QoS, don't worry). This would be okay, but tagging itself so closely to the spy movies makes it feel like they WANTED it to be the same type of spy movie, and it ends up being a bit more generic because it makes action its main point. Do NOT come looking for a spy movie or you will wind up slightly disappointed.

Actors: I came in confident because of Norton's name, and he didn't disappoint on his aspect. His part wasn't huge, but I love that guy. Renner, on the other hand...I just don't know what makes him special. He seems pretty generic to me. His performance was good, I just keep seeing the guy, and keep hearing his performances praised, and keep failing to be stunned. Weisz as Shearing was pretty good, though I like Marie and Nicky more, but that's not Weisz's OR the writer's fault; there's nothing wrong with Shearing, the other actresses's particular arcs were just more interesting to me personally. Plus I happen to like Julia Stiles.
I liked the LARX-03 character's actor's portrayal of him. It wasn't a particularly tough character from what I can tell - lots of just looking calm, collected, and emotionless while doing action and looking badass while walking through a crowd. Still, he pulled off the look well.  I wish Pamela Landy (Joan Allen's character) would show up more, she's very important to the plot of the whole series, and I suspect even more of her in any follow-up movies.
I wish Damon would've cameo'd in for something. Instead of just using that passport photo of Bourne on news clips, just have a new vid of him escaping or something. Not absolutely vital though.

Music: A lot of generic soundtrack stuff (though generic soundtrack stuff is often good nowadays), but I liked that pretty much whenever Bourne himself came up you could hear the echoes of the Bourne trilogy theme music go off in the background. Also, very glad to have heard Extreme Ways in the credits track, even if it's a cover, and not necessarily a fantastic one, but I would have been uncomfortable without it there. That said, without the trilogy's theme music as a tie, I didn't notice any particular theme as being thematic to the movie. Maybe I just need to listen to the soundtrack on its own.

Conclusion: So, what's the verdict. I've gone on a lot of back and forth here, mostly like this: "It's not quite as good as any of the other three Bourne movies, and this is why, and this is why, and this is why, but wait I'm not trying to say it's BAD or anything."
Watch This Movie If: You liked the Bourne trilogy's plot and want to see loose ends expanded upon, you like action (especially stuff like Casino Royale with Daniel Craig as James Bond)
Don't Watch This Movie If You're Expecting: Hardcore spy suspense with only a couple action scenes, mindless action (as it ISN'T mindless, despite me saying that the action is emphasized).
Take a Second Look: If you thought this was going to ruin the Bourne trilogy, if you're worried this is too tightly tied to the originals with too many different cast members.
Score: 8/10, B. Compare to my grades of the originals: Identity 9.5/10, Supremacy 8.5/10, Ultimatum 9/10.

So that should be it! Hope you go see it.
 Oh, and music:
This is the first song off of OCRemix's ARMed and DANGerous remix album of Wild ARMs. It's a great album, this is just a pretty great first track. Go check it out.

End Recording,

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