16 August 2012

Film: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Thoughts: Tony Gilroy, writer of the original Bourne films, and newly christened as director of this instalment, serves up the Bourne film no one demanded, and certainly not the film the franchise deserves. Bizarrely unfocussed, yet lacking in complex plot mechanics; The Bourne Legacy falls apart with flaccid direction, a lack of interesting story points, and some seriously questionable editing.

After the rise and disappearance of Jason Bourne in the original trilogy, the clandestine organizations behind the soldier programs have come under intense public scrutiny, and to avoid the incoming scandals, they decide to eliminate any and all traces of the various programs they have in motion. Unfortunately though, they happen to mess up the planned assassination of two members: genetically-enhanced super-soldier Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) and kindly geneticist Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz). The two eventually collide, with Cross requiring pills to keep his enhanced genetics in line, and Dr. Shearing needing assistance in... not dying. Together they must... not die, basically.

The film takes a very long time to start. We see Aaron Cross staking and stalking out in the ice-covered back end of nowhere, doing something I'm not quite sure of, but certainly taking a long time doing it. We get to see Edward Norton's Col. Byer get pulled back into the spy fold to take care of all of the various messes left behind from the programs set up worldwide. We also see various other people doing various things, and this happens quite often. Tony Gilroy seems to think directing means putting everything in front of the camera, all the time. When something happens, we need to see it explicitly. For instance: during the film's climactic motorcycle chase, every time someone turns a wheel, changes a gear or pumps an accelerator, Gilroy shows an extreme close-up of it happening. Every time. It was so obvious, I started to make a mental check every time it happened. Really not necessary. Plus, I counted multiple times where you could clearly see Renner's stunt double doing the motorcycle work. Now, I usually forgive that sort of thing, and I normally wouldn't even bring it up, but seriously, multiple observations ON MY FIRST VIEWING? That's either unprofessional, or just plain lazy.

The film lacks in action, so my action side wasn't sated. The action itself is pretty decent, and Renner can fight like dream, but it's either over too quick, too few and far between, or just too little too late. The film wasn't nearly thrilling enough either, what with everything that's occurring already spelled out beforehand. We know they're trying to kill Cross and Shearing. We know WHY they're being hunted. We know what their ultimate goal is. And we see any and all machinations, from all sides, all the time. No need for speculation, or even to think, period. It's laid bare, right from the get-go. There is no ambiguity, no sense of discovery. And that, really, is what is sorely lacking from this film, in comparison with the originals. Sure, there are scenes that are yet to be explained, but with all the characters so plainly drawn, I find myself really not fussed about returning to possible future instalments to learn the answers, because the characters are really so paper-thin that it just doesn't seem to matter.

So poor action, and nothing really thrilling or exciting. So there must be scintillating dialogue, and spy-based shenanigans to fill the gaps, yeah? Wrong again. The Bourne trilogy mixed the three parts together nicely, making it a cerebral, propulsive action blockbuster. The Bourne Legacy can't even do the spy stuff right. It just meanders along, bouncing around the ever-available spy-room where the secret people basically stay 2 steps behind Cross- pretty much all the time- and snap at one another about how things "needs to be taken care of". Nothing exciting there.

Altogether, the mixture of lukewarm elements combines into a nauseating hand-held-lite mess that just shouldn't even exist. And yet here I am, 135mins later, reviewing the damn thing, and feeling remarkably empty about it all. Not the kind of reaction I was expecting for a Bourne film. Oh well. At least I'll always have the trilogy.


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