How do you make a Jason Bourne film without Matt Damon? There are a couple of options: you can remake the first film, or you can spin-off in a new direction. What’s most frustrating about The Bourne Legacy is that it takes a third option, which is to pretend that Damon is actually a character in this world, but he’s just not on screen. Perhaps Universal was stuck between a rock and a hard place. They couldn’t kill Damon off-camera, and they probably hope he’ll come back for more, so instead they brought in Jeremy Renner for a story that runs in parallel to the end of The Bourne Ultimatum, but doesn’t do anything to move the franchise forward. It is also pretty bad. Our review of the Blu-ray of The Bourne Legacy follows after the jump.
The film begins with a parallel narrative. In one part Edward Norton is dealing with the aftermath of Bourne and Treadstone/Blackbriar/Outcome, etc. and in the other Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross is out hiking survivalist style. Eventually Norton decides that Cross’s program should be terminated, which means killing everyone associated with it. But first Cross has an awkward scene with Oscar Isaac, who is also in the program.
The big reveal of the film is that everyone who’s a super-soldier like Bourne are on drugs that make them smarter and stronger. Cross comes in to talk with Isaac’s character because he needs more pills (nicknamed chems), and these chems become the driving force of the narrative. This was probably the smartest decision director Tony Gilroy had as the drug side of things was briefly hinted at in the first film, but never came up again. Unfortunately, it isn’t done well. The chems lead Cross to Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) whose co-workers are murdered by one of their own when he goes on a killing spree. Marta is targeted for death for what she knows so – in the lamest of coincidences – Cross shows up to save her in the hopes that she can give him more chems. The two head to Manila to get him “viraled off,” which is to give him an OD of the pills which will then make his powers permanent.
Right from the get-go, the film doesn’t work because there’s no driving engine. Renner in the woods may reveal a great location, but when it comes to action movies, showing him in combat proves his skills more than mountaineering, and his skills in the woods never prove useful later. On top of which you have no idea who this guy is, but you do know he’s the lead of your movie. Great. Meanwhile, the stuff in Washington goes absolutely nowhere because it’s too busy dealing with Bourne related things that – because Matt Damon isn’t in the film – are a lot of padding to get to the point (the end of these programs, programs that have been scrapped in the Bourne movies before). The film sort of picks up around the hour mark (and that’s all the evidence you need this is a bad movie) when Cross and Marta cross paths and the film seems to find focus, but his whole goal (getting viraled off) is such a weak thing to hang the narrative on, and when the film concludes, it feels like that moment should be the launching point.
It’s hard not to watch the film and wonder who is it for, and it seems the answer is Matt Damon. Universal knew they had a franchise, and didn’t want to mess with it too much, while also getting another movie out, regardless if their star came back or not. The actors do the work they’re required to do, but the film’s existence seems predicated on having a brand. And what this film says is “Come back, Matt Damon, we’ll pay you $$$.”
Universal’s Blu-ray version comes with a DVD and digital copy. The film is presented in widescreen (2.35:1) and in 5.1 DTS-HD master audio. The transfer is impeccable. The film comes with a commentary by co-writer/director Tony Gilroy, and co-writer/brother Dan Gilroy, and editor/brother John Gilroy, along with non-relatives cinematographer Robert Elswit, second unit director Dan Bradley and production designer Kevin Thompson. The Gilroys and Elswit also provide optional commentary for three deleted scenes (7 min.), none of which are missed. “Re-Bourne” (6 min.) addresses the challenged in making the sequel, “Enter Aaron Cross’ (7 min.) talks up the new lead, “Crossing Continents: Legacy on Location” (8 min.) discusses the film’s globe-hopping shoot, “Man Vs. Wolf” (5 min.) discusses one of the film’s set pieces, while “Wolf Sequence Test” (2 min.) shows the pre-vis and prepped stunt work for that scene. “Moving Targets: Aaron and Marta” (6 min.) speaks to the main character’s relationship, and how the actors worked together, while “Capturing Chaos: The Motorbike Chase” (8 min.) analyzes the film’s big stunt sequence. These are bland featurettes that have actors and the people behind the scenes offering platitudes. But what else would you expect?