Waiting for Jason Bourne 1

I’ve got some mixed feelings about The Bourne Legacy. There was actually a lot that I liked about it. But there were certain choices that were made in the movie that I feel made it weaker, and I’m not really sure why they were done.

The non-spoiler summary:

Generally, it was a fun Bourne-style action movie. There was some suspense, interesting and wonderfully grimy settings, lots of improvised weapons. There were chase scenes where, as usual, I had absolutely no clue what the hell was going on, but I thought maybe we were winning. It was a fun way to spend my evening, though I don’t know if my opinion would be the same if I’d gone in cold.

Jeremy Renner was likeable, Rachel Weisz was actually really interesting, and Edward Norton was a standard amoral government guy in a suit. There were a lot of missed plot opportunities that could have gone for some great character development and raised Renner’s character Aaron Cross toward the level of Jason Bourne. I think instead, those opportunities got blown on making the chase scenes just a little more incoherent and shaky.

I don’t feel like I wasted my time at the movie, and if there’s a sequel (and I’m sure there will be) I’ll definitely go see it. But I hope next time they give us more. The original Bourne movies really raised the bar on spy-fi in a lot of ways – internal drama to go with all the action, for one – and I’d like to see that legacy continue in truth. 

THE WHOLE ENCHILADA WITH SPOILERS BELOW:

To begin with, there was the entire choice of making the events of the movie basically concurrent with The Bourne Ultimatum. I haven’t had a chance to watch that movie in a while, but I remembered enough that I at least knew who Pamela Landy was and why a bunch of older white guys in suits were saying “My god,” in deep, serious tones. I really don’t know what the experience would have been like for someone who hadn’t seen the original Bourne trilogy.

And of course, they kept bringing up Jason Bourne. The serious white guys in suits mention him constantly. Aaron sees his name carved in the bunk bed at the way house he stays at. We see a photo of him flashed during a newscast. But it feels like a plot point that never delivers because not once in the movie do we actually see Jason Bourne. Aaron doesn’t meet him, or really seem to have any kind of attachment to him as anything but  a name. This makes Bourne feel like something that got added in at the last moment as a way to keep his name in the title. He becomes the movie’s Godot, where he never shows up even as he provides the necessary fig leaf to explain why the characters are talking. Though at least he never triggers a serious discussion about suicide being better than waiting any longer.

I understand if they couldn’t get Matt Damon. But I think if they wanted to keep the connection between the original three movies and this one, they needed to find a better way to connect the character of Jason Bourne to the new guy, Aaron Cross. Maybe they met once in the back story. Maybe Bourne is a legend in the program and his defection has a real psychological effect on its last living lab rat. Maybe Aaron could have found out more about Bourne and taken some kind of direction or inspiration from the way that he went rogue and remade himself. (Actually, I think that would have been really interesting…)

Then there’s the issue of LARX-3. He has no name other than that. He also, to the best of my memory, has no dialog, and only two facial expressions – cold and grrrrr. He also feels like an afterthought to the plot – an oh shit we’re in the third act and the boss fight music just cued up, send in the plot device! Part of what made the original Bourne movies so interesting was that anyone significant Jason Bourne faced had at least some kind of internal life – which made his killing them more meaningful, both to the audience and to him as a character. The way the end battle with LARX-3 played out, it was really like Aaron versus the drone part two. It was another missed opportunity, I think. Even if the point of LARX-3 was that he’s a human with the humanity removed, that would have been great food for thought for Aaron had he known, I would think. Hey dude, that’s the new model, see where we’re going with this?

I really loathed what they did with the wolves while Aaron was up in Alaska. I’ll just say here that I am anti-shooting and blowing up wolves, even if it’s in movies. And the way the wolves were acting made absolutely no sense anyway, which just makes it a bit more annoying.

Otherwise I found the movie pretty enjoyable, though inferior to the original Bourne trilogy. Aaron Cross was a likable character, though he lacks what made Jason Bourne so interesting. Bourne’s character development was really about him figuring out who and what he was, wrestling with the sins of his past, and then deciding to remake himself. Aaron’s struggle is never really that visceral. While he mentions several times that he’s done bad things (and thus they seem to bother him) he obviously kept going with the program and doesn’t seem to struggle with it all that much.

His real motivation is to keep his enhanced mental capabilities because he doesn’t want to regress to being an idiot, and it sounds like that regression process is really horrible. That’s something that is sympathetic, but it lacks the punch of the “who was I? who will I be?” that we learned to expect from the Jason Bourne movies. There were a few tantalizing lines thrown in there – maybe predators don’t think Aaron is human any more – but that incredibly interesting question never really seems to cross his mind.

I was actually far more interested in Dr Marta Shearing, the character played by Rachel Weisz. She does go through a really good character arc, where she starts out as someone who was “just doing science” without any real thought to the ethics, and has that come home to roost. She does struggle with that, and grows. Unlike Aaron, I think she comes to accept responsibility for her involvement, realizing how pathetic her own sacrifices (I didn’t get to go to conferences! I couldn’t talk to people about my work!) really were in light of the much larger, darker picture.

You weren’t bad, Bourne Ultimatum. But I want more. Give me more. I expect better of you.

One comment on “Waiting for Jason Bourne

  1. Pingback: The Bourne _____________ ← Alex Acks: Sound and Nerdery

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