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The Bourne Legacy (2012)

Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 12/11/2012

All Ratings out of





Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/9/2012

Regular visitors to this website know that I typically open each review with an anecdote or a thought-provoking question. But, not this time. Today, I'm opening the review with a warning. If you are going to watch The Bourne Legacy, then watch The Bourne Ultimatum again just before you do. This isn't a suggestion. This isn't a random thought. You must have The Bourne Ultimatum committed to memory before jumping into The Bourne Legacy. Why? Because The Bourne Legacy assumes that you've done just that and it doesn't care if you haven't seen or don't remember The Bourne Ultimatum. And that's just one of the problems with this movie.

As The Bourne Legacy opens, the activities of Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, who is seen only in photographs) has brought the United States' government secret spy projects to their knees. Mark Turso (Stacy Keach) and Eric Byer (Edward Norton), two high-ranking intelligence officials are attempting to sort out the mess. It's decided that the best course of action is to neutralize the various agents in both the Treadstone and the Outcome groups. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is one of those said agents. He's been training in the sub-arctic wilds and is making is way back to civilization. When his meeting with another agent goes awry, Cross decides that something bad is going on. He travels to see Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a research scientist who conducted Cross' routine examinations. Cross assumes that she will know how to get the medications which keep him going. However, Dr. Shearing is in some hot water herself and the two soon find themselves on the run.

When it comes to sequels, they typically fall into one of tow categories. Most continue a story or a plotline from the previous film and contain the same core group of characters and an established universe. We also have what are known as "sequels in name only". This occurs when a movie has the same title as another movie, except that it has a number behind it, but it offers a completely new set of characters and a story which is most likely only tenuously connected to another film. (We get a lot of this with direct-to-video horror titles.)

Oddly, The Bourne Legacy falls somewhere in between these two choices. The story is actually taking place at the same time as the one seen in The Bourne Ultimatum and the two stories overlap at times. However, The Bourne Legacy focuses for the most part on a completely new set of characters. As with the first three Bourne films, this movie deals with the idea of specially trained and enhanced government agents going rogue, but instead of spotlighting Jason Bourne, we now get Aaron Cross. As noted above, the movie makes no apologies about jumping right into the action and assuming that you know what it happening. There is no recap or refresher here. I've seen the original Bourne trilogy, so some of this looked and sounded familiar, but not enough for me to know exactly what is going on. The Bourne Legacy was co-written and directed by Tony Gilroy, who did the screenplay adaptations for the first three films. Perhaps because he's so close to the material, he can't understand the idea that the audience may not grasp everything that is happening. I can't imagine what this movie was like for those who saw it not having seen the first three films.

Yes, The Bourne Legacy is confusing, but in a very special way. I completely understood what was happening -- an important agent had gone rogue and his handlers wanted him under control -- but it was the little details which I either wasn't remembering or wasn't grasping. That's trouble enough for any movie. But, here's where The Bourne Legacy really messes up -- I didn't care. The Bourne Identity -- and to an extent, its sequels -- was an action film which was really about the main character. Jason Bourne awakens with no memory of who he is and we go on the journey of discovery with him. We get involved with him and those who become close to him. The characters in The Bourne Legacy are merely cardboard cutouts with laughable motivations. Cross is in search of...medication. Really? We're supposed to get behind him for that? Marta witnessed a tragedy and fears that the government is out to get her, but would that really make her travel across the world with Cross? The way in which the two meet is ludicrous and other than his fighting abilities, some of Cross' skills are questionable. (He can make fake IDs in an airplane bathroom? Is that really going to stand out on a resume?) The third act contains some action scenes which are unremarkable (especially the one involving the assassin) and the abrupt ending redefines unsatisfying. The best thing that I can say about Gilroy's stay in the director's chair is that he's abandoned the nauseating visual style of previous director Paul Greengrass.

The Bourne Legacy squanders all of the goodwill built up by the original trilogy and I can't help but wonder why Universal greenlit this specific films. It's completely understandable that they would want to continue the Bourne series and without Matt Damon, a new character had to be brought in. But, that character should have populated their own free-standing movie which would have contained a much better story. Jeremy Renner is certainly good as the killing machine who retains humanity in his hangdog eyes, but even knowing that he can beat up a pack of wolves didn't make his character any more interesting. If Bourne is going to return, Universal should see what they can do to get Matt Damon back on the payroll.

The Bourne Legacy makes pharmaceutical manufacturing seem just as mundane as it is in real life on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no distracting grain and no defects from the source material. (Gilroy has avoided the intentionally grainy look.) The film's palette leans towards dark colors, but the occasional brighter tones look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The image shows a nice amount of detail and we can see textures on objects. The depth is good as well, as the actors are nicely separated from the backgrounds. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good and show good separation. The offscreen sounds are very evident in the front channels. The surround sound effects are fantastic in the action sequences and during the shootout in the house, we can easily pick out individual sounds and the mix alerts us to where things are happening. The subwoofer effects are nicely done as well, offering wall-rattling bass which doesn't overwhelm.

The Bourne Legacy Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Co-Writer/Director Tony Gilroy, Co-Writer Dan Gilroy, Editor John Gilroy, Director of Photography Robert Elswit, Second Unit Director Dan Bradley and Production Designer Kevin Thompson. The Disc contains three DELETED SCENES which run about seven minutes and can be viewed with COMMENTARY from the three Gilroys and Elswit. This includes a scene in which Aaron is pulled over by a state trooper. For this film, it's a good scene, but it's difficult to tell where it would have fallen in the narrative. There's also a scene which shows how far the government was willing to go to cover its tracks. "Re-Bourne" (6 minutes) has the filmmakers discussing the challenges of continuing the franchise while taking it in a new direction. (And we see that the film was shot under the name "Marcher".) "Enter Aaron Cross" (7 minutes) profiles the new character and we hear how Renner approached the role. We get an idea of the various international locations used in the movie with "Crossing Continents: Legacy on Location" (8 minutes). "Man vs. Wolf" (5 minutes) takes us on-set to see how the real wolves were used in one of the film's key scenes and how much planning went into the scene, while "Wolf Sequence Test" (2 minutes) shows us the full animatic for the scene, as well as some rehearsal footage with a stuffed wolf. "Moving Targets: Aaron and Marta" (6 minutes) has interviews with Renner and Weisz who discuss their characters and their experiences on the film. "Capturing Chaos: The Motorbike Chase" (8 minutes) shows us the stuntwork and planning which went into the finale.

Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2012.