On Movies: We've seen 'The Bourne Legacy' many times
The original Jason Bourne trilogy -- "The Bourne Identity" (2002) "The Bourne Supremacy" (2004) and "The Bourne Ultimatum" (2007) -- established a theme: an American agent is on the run from killers in his own shadowy agency. And filmmakers Doug Limon (the first movie) and Paul Greengrass (the second and third) laid down a strong visual style -- fast but coherent action scenes that depend more on old-fashioned stunt work, skillful camera movement and crisp editing than on 21st century computer foolery.
The movies, starring Matt Damon as maverick spy-assassin Jason Bourne, were big successes, critically and commercially. Tony Gilroy (who wrote and directed "Michael Clayton") wrote the first three Bourne movies, and he takes over as director for the fourth, "The Bourne Legacy." The result is a moderately entertaining summer movie that is, on the surface, very much like the previous "Bourne" movies, but not as compelling.
One problem is that we have seen it all before: the superior mental and physical powers of the principal protagonist, the bitter betrayal of trust by those on high, the rapid jumps from continent to continent, the bonding with a woman who becomes an ally, the savvy use of incredibly sophisticated surveillance systems, an exciting climactic chase scene in an urban setting.
There is little original in the story or its telling. Perhaps more damaging, Jason Bourne is barely a rumor in a movie that bears his name. The central character is another agent-on-the-run, Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner).
Matt Damon is not in the movie at all, except at one point as a headshot on a computer screen. The story, in a sense, exists in a parallel universe to the time frame of the original Bourne films. "The Bourne Legacy" is neither a sequel nor a prequel, it is a spinoff.
Matt Damon is missed. Damon has a charismatic openness in his acting. His Everyman -- or Everyboy -- charm helped make the Jason Bourne character hard to resist as he sped around Europe and the United States, taking on all comers and searching for the truth about himself.
Jeremy Renner, while a fine actor in the right role, seems to hide part of his soul behind a tough exterior. He's a hard nut to crack. If they were athletes, Matt Damon would be the charming and talented star quarterback, Renner the tough and resilient Ultimate Fighter.
The story is a familiar one. Renner's Aaron Cross, like Damon's Jason Bourne, is an experimental super agent, genetically modified for superior strength and shrewdness. He is one member of a group of super-warriors being developed by a mysterious clandestine agency that seems to include CIA people, but has even fewer restrictions on its activity. These guys do the real dirty work.
When it begins to appear that some of the agency's darkest secrets are going to be made public, the men at the top -- played by Stacy Keach, Edward Norton and Albert Finney, among other notables -- decide to close down several clearly illegal programs, including the breeding of super-warriors like Cross. Part of the plan is to kill the genetically modified agents.
Cross escapes a trap in Alaska and goes on the run in the lower 48 with a genetic time bomb ticking away in his cells. He hooks up with a geneticist (Rachel Weisz) who may know how to save his life. Cross and the geneticist end up in Manila, but the agency men find them, and dispatch another super-warrior, one perhaps even more awesomely talented than Cross, to track them down. He does. Cross and the geneticist hop on a motorcycle, and the chase is on.
Opens Friday Aug. 10