I probably got my hopes up too much going into "The Bourne Legacy" tonight. I went in hoping for a movie matching the caliber of 2002's "The Bourne Identity", which is my favorite of the original films. I went in hoping that Jeremy Renner could carry off the action-hero physical-weapon-super-spy character that Matt Damon made so believable and sympathetic. I went in with high hopes that the new director, who did not direct any of the first three films, but was a writer on them, would resist the urge to use shaky-cam close-up shots. I was also hopeful that the story would be compelling, as Bourne's original story was. I was disappointed on all counts, except the camera work, which, while here and there it was shaky, it wasn't nearly as motion-sickness-inducing as the second and third Bourne films were.
The movie begins okay, with Renner surviving in a cold, northern wilderness. He's alone, being stalked by a pack of wolves, and his survival is mildly interesting. Meanwhile, we are shown scenes that make it quite clear that Jason Bourne's story timeline is sort of parallel to Renner's character, Aaron Cross' story. These scenes pepper the movie, which is kind of distracting from the Cross storyline, which begins mild and never really picks up steam.
The whole premise of the story (besides the government trying to kill him-- as required by a Bourne story, right?) is that Cross has run out of his meds, which keep his body and mind in super-human shape, whereas before he was inducted into the program, he was just a mediocre mind... nowhere near as intriguing as Bourne's story of not remembering the program, not remembering what he's done, or anything about himself, drawing us into the unraveling of the secrets of his government program and the lengths they are willing to go to cover it all up. Bourne's character is sympathetic, strong and believable. Cross is less sympathetic, less strong (not physically, but the way Renner delivers his dialogue isn't quite up to the standard set by Damon- maybe this is all in the writing) and a bit less believable.
There are rooftop chases reminiscent of Damon's turn, and a lengthy car-motorcycle chase, and the film ends somewhat abruptly, before Cross and Rachel Weisz's Dr Marta Shearing even begin to develop their relationship. Which would have made the movie better... she was quite good.
There were some good things, and Renner is decent-- he has a good physical presence and the fight scenes were okay, but I wanted more mystery, more cloak-and-dagger action, more near misses and I wanted to feel the sympathy for Cross that I felt for Bourne, but I just didn't.
By far the biggest problem with this movie is that the writers/director felt like audiences would need everything explained to us through conversations, instead of just showing us. Right from the beginning, when one character told another, "You're the director of the Central Intelligence Agency of the United States of America!" I thought, "oh boy... here we go. If they had to have someone tell him that, they must think we're all idiots." Maybe this exposition was necessary, but I found it confusing and, frankly boring. The movie should have started with the scientist shooting things up (you'll know it when you see it). Unfortunately, the action in the movie begins rather late into it. I wanted less talking and more action!
Is it unfair to compare this movie to the original? Renner to Damon? Maybe. But reincarnating a franchise simply begs audiences to do that. Think Bond. Who doesn't compare James Bond actors and films? You can't help it... or Batman movies... or Spiderman.
I do like Jeremy Renner, and I look forward to seeing more of him. I just hope he is better used in the future. Oh and speaking of being underused, Edward Norton in this movie? Wasted. And he seemed to know it.
Almost redeeming factor: although there are some s-words, the movie is otherwise very clean. No sex, no nudity, and no f-bombs.
A weird thing-- IMDB says the movie is 135 minutes, but our show started at 4:00 (after 4:00, with trailers and ads) and we were out of the theater at 5:30. Explain that! I wonder if more of the film happens after the credits? Weird. Really weird. Especially since it ended oddly.
For a better review than mine, read this one.