Standing out while standing in someone else’s shadow can be a heavy burden to bear. When it becomes clear that the motivation to succeed is based on the drive to one-up someone else, perceptions begin shifting. You’re no longer the underdog — you’re the upstart. The original Bourne trilogy featured a hero with an immense power. Jason Bourne was a superhero in search of his true identity. As the mystery of his past unfolded, he had to come to terms with the man he used to be, the man he’d become, and the man he wanted to be while dealing with the terrible fact he was the catalyst — his own origin. If gamma rays give superpowers, Jason Bourne jumped in headfirst. As the first movie in the series not directly based on any of Robert Ludlum’s books, The Bourne Legacy attempts to reveal what went on behind the scenes while Bourne took on the CIA and what happened in the aftermath. The future begins with the idea that Jason wasn’t the end-all-be-all. He was a prototype.
Running parallel to the events from the Jason Bourne movies, The Bourne Legacy follows a large cast of characters involved with the CIA’s attempts to build the perfect soldier. Jeremy Renner plays protagonist Aaron Cross whose government-given abilities are on display as he treks a frost covered mountain, battles wolves, and dives into icy cold waters, stopping once in a while to take colored pills that keep him functioning at his highest potential. As the CIA performs damage control in the wake of Jason Bourne’s actions against their illicit programs, Cross becomes expendable to his superiors who bury the project by murder and careful planning. Hiding from his superiors who want to erase him and running low on medication, Cross finds Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) whose team infected Cross with a virus engineered as a delivery system that permanently alters people on a cellular level. Though physically superior to the normal human, Cross remains dependent on a drug that boosts his mental capacities — a drug he’s been without for days.
Tony Gilroy wrote the first three Bourne movies and shares writing credits on The Bourne Legacy with his brother Dan Gilroy. Tony also directed this movie, and while there are stylistic similiarities to the original three, somehow this entry into the Bourne canon feels very inferior. The shaky cam still exists, but to a much smaller degree — a distinct departure that negatively impacts this movie. Though Paul Greengrass, director of The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum, received much criticism for using the handheld perspective, it was a technique that made Supremacy and Ultimatum feel more real. Imagine what mockumentaries like The Office would look like with standard camera setups — they would feel staged and traditional. In addition to feeling more produced, The Bourne Legacy does away with much of what made the other Bourne movies so magical — epic action sequences, a sense of control and strength emanating from the protagonist, and well developed characters. Cross takes on wolves, hapless rent-a-cops, and a pair of police officers doing their jobs, but he never really goes toe to toe with other assassins. He’s also not much of a character — Jason seems far more compelling even though he couldn’t remember who he was. It’s not Renner’s fault, Cross doesn’t have much to say or do in this film. Flashbacks give Cross more depth, but the movie’s pacing robs the movie of tension and suspense. Feeling like a three-hour movie, the plot moves at a snail’s pace, and while it tries to drum up a compelling story through the different characters at work, its lack of urgency makes it frustrating to watch. One hopes Bourne’s legacy grows, but after this plodding and unimportant entry, it looks like Bourne’s shoes won’t be filled anytime soon.