Year Released: 2012
Directed by: Tony Gilroy
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton
(PG-13, 135 min.)
"What a fine persecution--to be kept intrigued without ever quite being enlightened." Tom Stoppard
The thrill is gone. Despite the great chase sequences, in particular a motorcycle caper that puts extreme sports shenanigans to shame, this new addition to the Bourne franchise falls flat.
Part of that is the timing of the release. The Bourne Legacy comes on top of a summer binge on comic book capers taken all too seriously (The Dark Knight Rises) and a sci fi reboot lacking the tongue-in-cheek humor that sustained it in the first place (Total Recall). Note to Hollywood: There is a limit to the amount of carnival cotton candy and roller coaster rides a person can stomach. Taken in conjunction with each other, in the heat of the summer, it leads to unease, queasiness, and ultimately, a complete Goonies style matinee balcony PUKEARAMA.
Another problem is trying to coax four films out of the same storyline. Pretty much everything was said in the first Bourne Identity; we discovered who Matt Damon's Bourne was right along with him. Each new disclosure riveted the audience as well as Bourne himself. We were no less amazed than he when his arms turned into lethal weapons that scattered one and all who crossed him. The multiple passports lining his hidden stash reawakened an almost Oedipal awareness of his past exploits and hidden sins.
The only new things left to explore in the following films were elements of the chase. And admittedly, no one has done this better than the Bourne franchise, but as one little old lady blandly remarked a decade or so ago, "Where's the meat?"
Yes, credit must go to Jeremy Renner, who takes on the mantle of Matt Damon's Bourne, bringing a kind of wide-eyed innocence to his Aaron Cross, another government created professional assassin. Especially intriguing are the overtones of Robert Montgomery's 1968 title role as Charlie, the retarded man given a drug that elevates his IQ to the near genius levels -- for a time. As other critics have pointed out, Cross's quest lacks the larger political repercussions of the amnesiac Bourne, who slowly rediscovers who he is and is repulsed by that awareness. Of course, ironically, just as he becomes more and more alarmed at what his enhanced powers had been used for, Bourne must employ them all the more to evade the CIA's second string of assassins out to terminate him.
Bourne's ultimate revenge on the system that created him and is just as ruthlessly cavalier in wanting to eliminate him takes on the higher trappings of moral outrage, a simmering rage that elevates the extended chase of the next two installments. In The Bourne Legacy, however,, Aaron Cross is on a quest of much lesser proportions. He is perfectly aware of who he is and what he does. It is not any compunctions over his role as an all too imperfect "perfect soldier" that motivate him; it is the simple desire to keep the little blue 9 (or is it yellow?) pills coming so he doesn't revert to the semi literate army recruit we see in flashbacks.
Not only is this IQ matter a gratutious slap at the army recruiting standards and an expected Hollywood slur against the men and women who enlist, but it paints our protagonist as a sort of junkie with the black opts program as his dealer. Unlike Jason Bourne, Cross doesn't want to expose the government corruption any more than an addict wishes to put his dealer put behind bars. When we think of his quest in those terms, no amount of acrobatic parkour feats or derring do on a motorcycle can elevate his ultimately self-serving exploits.
We cannot exist on eye candy alone. This franchise is past its expiration date.
Like his predecessor, The Bourne Legacy's Aaron Cross hopscotches across the globe just one step ahead of his pursuers. But he is not so much running away from as running toward something; in this case, the source of his superhuman prowess, particularly his enhanced mental capacities. The lab that creates this super drug is located the heart of Manila, so we are treated to assorted chases that rival if not outperform Jason Bourne's antics in the squalid streets of Morocco.
Manila, as you probably know, is very hot and humid, and all this running around has gotten me quite thirsty, even in the velvet luxury of my air conditioned theater. Oh, the perils in the life of the movie critic. There's nothing else for it, then, but this delicious Manila cocktail. It's sure to cool me off, even if its name suggests the opposite. As to enhancing my IQ -- well, one can't have everything.
The Manila Flame