What’s more important to a movie studio executive than creating a movie franchise? Keeping a successful franchise going.
That’s been the reality of Hollywood for decades, and we’ve seen the results with the utter lack of creativity with respect to new titles.
So, when Matt Damon didn’t want to continue the Bourne franchise after three monster hits, the producers had to improvise.
Enter Jeremy Renner and a new character, Aaron Cross. Renner was an ascending star at the time, so casting him in the lead role made sense. But while the film did fairly well at the box office, it suffered a significant drop off from the previous installment.
The movie isn’t bad, and it delivers the frenetic actions sequences we’ve come to expect from the Bourne films. The movie takes place concurrently with the events of “The Bourne Ultimatum” and follows Cross, a member of Operation Outcome, an offshoot of the CIA’s black ops program Treadstone which created Jason Bourne. The writers add a new wrinkle to the story, as Outcome agents are genetically enhanced through a series of pills known as “chems” that improve their physical and mental abilities.
Cross is on a training exercise in Alaska when he discovers that the Outcome program is being terminated due to the exposure of Treadstone and Blackbriar (another similar program) by Jason Bourne. He escapes of course, and then we have the standard Bourne formula of the rogue agent being hunted down by the CIA, with Edward Norton’s character leading the charge. Cross is accompanied by Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), a biochemist who worked on the Outcome program and is also targeted for elimination.
Renner, Weisz and the rest of the cast all deliver fine performances, and the film is a solid popcorn movie. Tony Gilroy replaces Paul Greengrass as director and uses fewer shaky-cam effects, but is still true to the overall style of the franchise. Scott Glenn returns as CIA Director Ezra Kramer, with Stacy Keach, Donna Murphy, Michael Chernus and Corey Stoll joining the cast.
But in trying to stretch the franchise, the writers had to stretch the story to even more ridiculous lengths. They somehow make the CIA even more cartoonishly evil, and the film also seems to screw up the clever ending of “The Bourne Ultimatum.” Not having the Pamela Landy character (Joan Allen) in this installment looks like a missed opportunity.
Ultimately, “The Bourne Legacy” failed to restart the franchise, and Renner’s Aaron Cross character wasn’t brought back for another film. It’s not a bad rewatch if you’re looking for an action movie fix, but it’s not one you need to seek out.