Tony and Dan Gilroy were given a task that few screenwriters experience; taking a fan favorite franchise and extending it beyond its original material and cast. A couple quick examples being Sean Connery's James Bond run, the various Planet of the Apes films and Star Wars episodes IV-VI. While franchises experienced wildly different reactions from their fan-base, each fought off the fan ire to leave their beloved films alone and expanded their respective film universes.
When it was announced Matt Damon wouldn't return to the Bourne role without Paul Greengrass behind the camera many believed it absurd to continue the series. Matt Damn was Jason Bourne, no one could best Paul Greengrass' work and Robert Ludlum's 3 novel source material was spent (that argument is a discussion all by itself). Still the Bourne series was something special in that the films legitimately got better with each new release and Tony Gilroy, the man who wrote the screenplays for the first three films, was willing to keep the story alive and jump into the directors chair. There was no way a major hollywood studio could pass up a franchise with that pedigree (and the money left to be made).
In my FWOAC episode 8 review I espoused my support for the Bourne Legacy, something that has not changed. Upon a re-watch of the first three films I find myself further entrenched with my opinion that not only is The Bourne Legacy a good addition to the franchise, but a natural and rational means to build the clandestine world of Bourne-verse espionage. Similar to the Bourne Supremacy and Ultimatum, a great deal of Legacy shows the inner-workings of the intelligence agency and Jason Bourne's nemesis. The problem with Legacy is the audience isn't truly certain who Aaron Cross' nemesis is until the scene above hits the screen, somewhere beyond the halfway point of the film.
This "Sin Eater" clip explains a great deal about Aaron Cross' struggle portrayed by Jeremy Renner and Eric Byer's machine like decision making played by Ed Norton. Certainly there are problems with Legacy, espcially in the first half of the film. In opinion the tension in the first half and the idea that Jason Bourne is running amok Bourne Ultimatum-style in New York helps overcome and push that half along. Where the Jason Bourne films succeed and Legacy falters is clear understanding of who the overarching bad guy is. If Legacy had started with the above clip maybe this argument would be moot but apparently Tony Gilroy didn't feel comfortable relinquishing Scott Glenn's character and felt some bizarre need to write Stacy Keach a confusing role.
While my FWOAC review may have sounded like a full-feldged endorsement of The Bourne Legacy, the truth is much more complicated. Aaron Cross is much different than Jason Bourne, he's been skeptical all along, he has a sense of humor and he is not a nonstop killing machine out to crush the man and that's where this movie wins for me, possibly loses for some. While I enjoy this take I feel Gilroy and crew may have missed the opportunity to spin the spy film world on its head again and instead delivered a safe fan-friendly action film with a whirlwind of dizzying exposition. Maybe the next addition (The Bourne Consequence?) will show us what happens when the military industrial complex flexes its muscles.
Patrick Boberg is an avid film fan, a part time film director and co-founder of FWOAC.