Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Critic's Notebook: Why 'Bourne Legacy' Isn't As Mature As It Thinks -- And What You Should See Instead

By Todd Gilchrist | Indiewire August 10, 2012 at 9:11AM

There's a big difference between complex and confusing, but "The Bourne Legacy" confuses the latter for the former.
6
Jeremy Renner in 'The Bourne Legacy.'
Jeremy Renner in 'The Bourne Legacy.'

There's a big difference between complex and confusing, but "The Bourne Legacy" confuses the latter for the former. Writer-director Tony Gilroy turns the original trilogy's intricate labyrinth of agencies, conspiracies and identity crises into a miasma of mythology-betraying mysteries built around an increasingly meaningless series of buzzword-fortified revelations. Nevertheless a well-intentioned if wholly desperate attempt to extend the life of Universal's successful series of "Bourne" films, "The Bourne Legacy" mostly succeeds at making so-called "adult" entertainment seem as dumb, pointless and needlessly complicated as the teen-oriented fare it purports to look down upon.
 
The plot of "Legacy" unfolds concurrent with the events of the first three "Bourne" films, whose own plot intricacies are too complicated to be described here -- although at least they make sense, and they aren’t repetitive. Here, Outcome operative Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) discovers that he has been targeted for assassination after his superiors decide to scrap the program, including not just field agents but anyone who contributed or worked on it. When Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) survives a seemingly inexplicable killing rampage at the medical facility where she once administered treatment to Outcome operatives, Cross tracks her down in order to obtain more of the medication he takes to maintain his heightened abilities.
 
Unfortunately, Shearing doesn’t have what he needs, and without it, his abilities will precipitously degenerate. But when she informs him that she can administer a virus that may permanently rid him of the need to take medication, the duo makes a dangerous journey to the Philippines, even as Cross’ superior Eric Byer (Edward Norton) dispatches a team to eliminate both of them at any cost.
 

For audiences to accept this copy/imitation/knock-off of the thing they already poured their money into a few years prior, the filmmakers must maintain a delicate balance between novelty and homage.

So it's a familiar scenario. Lest audiences and especially critics forget, moviemaking is a business at least as much as it’s an art, and the studios have an understandable interest in keeping their coffers filled no matter how much acclaim their films receive come Oscar season. For example, although Universal competitor Warner Bros. has maintained some of the most consistent and fruitful director-studio relationships in film history, including longstanding partnerships with the likes of Stanley Kubrick and Clint Eastwood, it’s also the same distribution house scrambling to cement "Man of Steel" as its next great superhero series, and expanding "The Hobbit" from two films to three.
 
To relaunch a new iteration of "Bourne" isn’t just an idea ripe with artistic potential, especially with series writer Tony Gilroy at the helm; it’s literally good business. It’s also the sort of model that smaller production houses are using to build empires. Universal, Warner Bros. and Sony have all launched premiere direct-to-DVD labels which exist to produce the same kind of grindhouse fare that folks like Roger Corman and American International Pictures churned out in the 1960s and ‘70s. New Line’s "Undisputed III," the third installment in a series whose original is all but completely forgotten, received raves after it played at Actionfest in 2011. And Jean-Claude Van Damme and Dolph Lundgren continue to breathe life into the "Universal Soldier" series, which flourishes on home video and quite frankly offers fans a great opportunity to see how much the two action stars have grown as actors.
 
But for audiences to accept this copy/imitation/knock-off of the thing they already poured their money into a few years prior, the filmmakers must maintain a delicate balance between novelty and homage. For example, although I like "The Matrix Reloaded" precisely because it offers a lot of philosophical mumbo-jumbo neatly wrapped in some totally freaking awesome action set pieces, there are others who think it’s too similar to the original "Matrix." And while I’m not a huge fan of the two sequels to "Infernal Affairs," it’s easy to admire the dexterity with which the filmmakers figure out a way to revisit a story with a clear beginning, middle and end and offer engaging adventure for characters and events whose outcomes we’ve already seen.
 
Unfortunately, the script for "The Bourne Legacy" feels less like a methodical relaunch or re-direction of the mythology of this hugely successful franchise than a series of ham-fisted excuses for why the main character is nothing like his predecessor.
 

This article is related to: Critic's Notebook, Reviews, The Bourne Legacy, Jeremy Renner, Matt Damon, Tony Gilroy, Sleepless Night, The Raid: Redemption






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More