Friday, August 10, 2012

The Bourne Legacy

by Reymundo Salao

The Bourne Legacy is the continuation of the Jason Bourne series, set in the Bourne universe and continuity, and having all the similar characters. But this time, the character spotlight is not on Bourne but on several new characters. Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz) is a scientist who works with genetic enhancements for secret government assassins, Eric Byer (Edward Norton) is the head of an agency that is bent on cleaning up all the information mess that has leaked through the media and various other information leaks that have been caused by the aftermath of the Jason Bourne fiasco. And our main protagonist Aaron Cross/Kenneth Gibson (Jeremy Renner) is an agent/assassin who must find out why someone is trying to kill him and other operatives like him.

Obviously, the movie is a must-watch to many of us Filipinos because the movie is partially set (and shot) in our country, specifically Manila and Palawan. And it is indeed such a delightful treat to watch a big Hollywood movie action set piece in places that are familiar to many of us Filipinos. It was worth it to see a big thrilling chase scene in urban villages and atop squatter rooftops, and an action-packed motorcycle chase scene in EDSA. But, Filipino setting appeal aside, judging the movie on face value is a different story altogether.

The Bourne Legacy is a movie that initially shows promise with its espionage appeal and thrilling intrigue. But its relatively good build-up is immediately diminished when the story closes with an abrupt ending and is never given any sense of satisfying closure. This plays out similar to many other movies that have come out lately that seem to be designed to be series franchises. I hate that it feels like a mere fragment of a bigger story which is only better if we are told the story in its complete form. The initial build-up and the initial introduction of the plot seemed very intriguing; conspiracies, assassins, spies, exposes; all great material for a story-driven espionage tale. Sadly, the end seems to never go anywhere with all those factors. At least, there was progression and movement, I give it that. But then you go along with the story's movement, but when that end point of the movie comes, you want to stand up, scratching your head, and say out loud "hey, wait, it's over?!"

As far as character development goes, the film cannot even make up its own mind on which name to refer to our main character (Aaron Cross or Kenneth Gibson?). The story initially convinces you that Cross (let's just call him Cross, okay? coz I get confused and start calling him Bourne) is an interesting character. Unlike Bourne, he is a man who seems to be constantly curious. Unlike your standard assassin, he seems to love asking questions. But then when moment came when it starts to tell his backstory, what we see is a vague cliche and surprisingly empty. There is a flashback scene with Cross and Byer (E.Norton) that we don't even fully understand because they were discussing something vague, they were in a time and place which is vague; the movie tells you they know each other, but we don't know how: Were they friends? Was Cross a subordinate of Byer? Are they relatives? Were they soldiers? Encyclopedia salesmen? the movie never answers those questions--- all you know is that they knew each other, and they're talking about something vague.

The film works more as just an espionage movie than an espionage-action movie like the previous Bourne movies. And whenever there's an action scene, its not very satisfying. Only the chase scenes in Manila stood out as impressive. [Some heavy spoilers coming, skip to the final paragraph to avoid them] "He is treadstone without the inconsistency" ...that actually referred to the LARKX agent, which were supposed to be far more bad-ass assassins, but then again, we didn't really see anything impressive with that one LARKX agent. We would have wanted to end the long thrilling chase scene with at least an epic hand-to-hand fight scene. But we were deprived of that because mister "treadstone without the inconsistency" merely just died because he was a lousy bike driver.

There is no closure as to the agency running after him as well. The fight scene could have been substituted by an ending that could have given the movie a well-made storyline-driven and dialogue-driven dramatic close. Instead, what we get is a scene that seems to end without permission and expectation from the audience. 

Ultimately, THE BOURNE LEGACY was depressing because we desperately wanted this movie to be great because it was shot here in the Philippines, and hey, I was ready to welcome Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz with open arms to take over the Bourne series. Yet, there it is; actually a very very bland, very very pale comparison to the previous Bourne movies; I hate to sum it up in a single word: Disappointing. But hey, at least you'll get to see Manila in action, so for that: the movie is still worth seeing.

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