It feels a bit unfair to judge The Bourne Legacy against the three earlier, superior Bourne movies, but if the filmmakers didn’t want us to do that, they shouldn’t have put Bourne in the title and opened the film with The Bourne Identity‘s opening shot of a body floating in the water. The Bourne Legacy is entertaining enough, but it feels like an unnecessary re-hash. It doesn’t tell us anything new about nefarious government agencies, covert black-ops, and the disconcerting ease with which those in charge are willing to eliminate their own people.
The moments that pop the most in Legacy are the ones which intersect with Jason Bourne’s storyline – glimpses of David Strathairn and Joan Allen; the culmination of the hit against a journalist at Waterloo Station, so audaciously staged in The Bourne Ultimatum. None of the agency bigwigs in Legacy feels as memorable as Pam Landy, and nothing in the film comes close to the fine-tuned cat-and-mouse thrills of the Waterloo Station hit. One improvement on the original series is the hero’s requisite female companion. Played by Rachel Weisz, bio-chemist Marta serves a more specific purpose in this film than Franka Potente’s bohemian free spirit in The Bourne Identity.
One of the chief pleasures of The Bourne Identity is how well Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne’s surprise at his own lethal skills and abilities; he discovers them right along with us. There’s no sense of discovery in the new film, since we pretty much already know what Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross is capable of. What we have instead is the threat of the loss of his abilities, an awareness of what Aaron might revert to if he’s deprived of the chemical enhancements that make him a super soldier. It’s a bit of backstory that distinguishes Aaron Cross from Jason Bourne and works well with Renner’s less subtle, brawnier persona. Even after three films, Jason Bourne feels like a rather appealing enigma, whereas Legacy’s blunter approach tells me most of what I want to know about Aaron Cross, so that the inevitable sequels will likely feel even more unnecessary than this film.