As a huge fan of Paul Greengrass’ Bourne trilogy, I was immediately skeptical when the first teaser for The Bourne Legacy was released, unsure of how the franchise would continue. Greengrass would not be directing, and Matt Damon would not appear as Jason Bourne, so the movie was required to find a new story within the world established by the preceding three films. While Legacy does continue the general Bourne story by indicating reactions to the actions of Jason, it ultimately fails to deliver the same drama, intensity, and personality seen in Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum.
Although Legacy was written (and directed) by Tony Gilroy, the screenwriter for the first three films, the new movie has a very different feel. Aaron Cross, the main character and an agent of Operation Outcome, has a much more easy-going personality than Jason Bourne…probably due to the fact that he doesn’t have amnesia. He also feels more physical and reactive than Jason, who is careful and calculating. Jeremy Renner is great in the role, but I found it difficult to relate to his character. During the first three films, Bourne is extremely driven by his desire to regain his memory, but seldom displays passionate emotional reactions. The powerful combination of a calm and determined attitude with deadly skill makes Bourne a simultaneously intimidating and intriguing character. Additionally, the audience knows his goal from the first five minutes of Identity, and that goal remains the same throughout the series and propels the plot forwards. The audience learns different secrets of the past as Jason remembers them, drawing us into the film and connecting us to the character.
In comparison, Cross’ goal in Legacy is never fully explained. The movie gets off to a slow start and raises more questions than it answers – it isn’t until halfway through the film that explanations are given for elements that have been teased since the first thirty seconds. After the action does pick up and Cross finds himself hunted and on the run, both he and the audience know exactly what is happening and why; The element of mystery that propelled the first three films and provides the connection to Jason is never present. In contrast, the biggest questions are trying to understand the various plot elements. In order to differentiate itself from the more classically trained special operations teams of Blackbriar and Treadstone, the newly introduced Operation Outcome relies on genetic enhancement and science in order to physically and mentally enhance its agents. However, this is not fully explained until midway through the movie, and is initially detailed in complicated statements, making the new plot more confusing than exciting. It feels like a side-step from the original series, something that would fit better in an X-Men film than a movie about rouge special ops agents. And when it finally is explained, the audience is the only group being enlightened because all of the characters are aware of the situation. The mystery and discovery elements that made Jason Bourne’s story so intriguing are absent, and at the end of the movie there is no clear indication as to what might happen next.
I have watched Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum with my parents enough to understand that they can be confusing, but by the end of each film all of the pieces fit together into a cohesive whole, and even though the overall plot line is not resolved until the final film, each movie can stand on its own. The same cannot be said for Legacy, which does not feel like a self-contained work but merely the first part of a larger tale, and has an extremely unsatisfying ending. After watching the endings to Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum for the first time, I distinctly remember thinking, “That was awesome!,” a thought quickly followed by the exhilarating beat of Moby’s Extreme Ways as the credits rolled. I was therefore extremely disappointed when the tradition of powerful resolutions was not continued in Legacy. The primary chase and action sequence in the movie concludes, and one or two minutes later Extreme Ways is playing to end the film. For the first time, I was shocked and disappointed to hear the music track start. There was no wrap-up, no cool-down from the intensity, simply a sudden and rather lame end. The abrupt stop is obviously a setup for a fifth film, but there were so many questions left unanswered, and more raised in the last five minutes of the firm that I was expecting at least another couple scenes to better wrap up the story. The ending can not even be described as a cliffhanger…it was simply an unsatisfying, open-ended conclusion.
While The Bourne Legacy has its entertaining moments and some quality action and stunt sequences, it falls short of the standard set by its predecessors. Although the actors fit well in their designated roles, the story can clearly be recognized as half-hearted spin-off attempt to keep the franchise going. The different tone of the film, confusing plot, and lackluster conclusion all leave much to be desired. Although the movie could be admirable if it was able to stand on its own, Legacy will always be compared to the trilogy and never able to step out of Jason Bourne’s grand shadow.