Tuesday, 28 August 2012

So I saw The Bourne Legacy, now with less suck

When I wrote the original Bourne Legacy review I was in a rush and my brain had been mushified by a cold and the fact I've been getting steadily dumber over the summer. This should account for its massive suck quotient, which has hopefully now been removed. Also, spoiler alert, cause I may talk about What Happens. Cheers Emad.

Before I start, may I just commend my fellow audience members during the 2.30pm showing of the film on being Splendid, despite some of the elderly women behind me thinking it was a comedy, and the person whose phone kept going off, and the guy in front whose head was the size of Jupiter. I also apologize for accidentally wiping my nose on a teabag and then announcing it to all of you, and for my mother's subsequent fit of laughter, and my occasional bouts of audible indignation.

So, like, what's The Bourne Legacy all about? Well, it's not about Jason Bourne for a start, but it is about the legacy (read: shit creek) he's left behind for the CIA to deal with following the events of Ultimatum when he and Landy totally blew the whistle on the CIA's secret shenanigans which included, among other horrid and completely illegal things, rendition. Parallel illicit programmes within the CIA are therefore being covertly shut down. The easiest way to accomplish this is to cull the operating agents of these programmes by either blowing them to smithereens in the Alaskan wilderness or by ingesting a little blue pill concealed as one of those the agents are all pumped up on anyway (this part totally reminded me of the Alice in Wonderland connotations of Neo's choice in The Matrix). Our man, Aaron Cross, manages to not-die through various plot contrivances including a CGI wolf (yes, you read that right, continue) and leaping out of women's cupboards, apparently. He teams up with the bio-scientist who is part of a team which designs the Superman pills, and demands to be taken to Manila because he's totally jonesing for his next fix. Basically, this is the story of a junkie travelling half way across the world and occasionally kicking some butt.

Is it better than the original trilogy? In the words of the Vicar of Dibley: Would you like the long or the short answer? Both please. Okay, well, the short answer is no, and the long answer is NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. However, it is much better than it had any right to be and I didn't feel insulted by it, as I expected to be. The mercenary agenda driving this movie is nicely hidden by something which appears to be a decent tribute to what went before it.

Is Aaron Cross/Jeremy Renner better than Jason Bourne/Matt Damon? I would direct you to the above answer. Of course not! Are you a lunatic? Jeremy Renner turns in a great performance, but he talks too much and he's more 'Blockbuster' than 'Bourne'. He almost had too much conscience left to be a believable trained sociopathic killer. And his plight is a little less compelling than Bourne's so the film ends up lacking suspence and a truly sympathetic protagonist. However, the brief flashback sequences in which he is shown to be extremely emotionally vulnerable were affecting. All of the main performances are wonderful, espesh Ed Norton (nasty little boy) and Rachel Weisz (shouts a lot), but the characterization is a lot less subtle than the original trilogy. The protagonists are Good and the antagonists are Bad and that's kind of it. There's no internal fragmentation and mindfuckery like with Conklin, Abbott, Landy, Vosen. And the single LARX agent they introduce at the end to assassinate our heroes? By the end he looks more like a zombie than a human, and I always feel uneasy with things which enter the picture only in the third act. Oh, also, a fellow agent who is blown to smithereens and also talks way too much apparently is in the CIA's Bad Books because *gasp* he fell in love. I'm not the only one who rolled my eyes, am I?

Were the fight scenes edge-of-your-arse or edge-of-Bond? Erh, the second one. I think there was a total of ONE hand-to-hand combat scene, and of course it had nothing on Bourne because Paul Greengrass wasn't there to direct it. There were big planes, motorbikes, a chase through a house which was pretty thrilling, and a fantastic scene involving a basement laboratory, a lone gunman, and his Crazy. That felt relevant. But no, there was no killing anyone with towels, ball point pens, toasters, rolled up newspapers, or any of the above. The violence was simultaneously unengaging and borderline nonsensical killing spree a la Big Bry Mills in Taken. It is a sad day when that sentence exists in relation to a Bourne film.

Did it pack a punch? Somewhere in the solar plexus? Or the heart? Or the head? Nah, not really. Essentially the crux of the film is Jeremy Renner and Rachel Weisz running away from really unthreatening Villains. And before you say anything, I KNOW Jason did a fair amount of running away, but I always got the sense he was also running towards his antagonists because he wanted answers and they had them. Even in Identity with all its naive idealism, Jason makes a huge effort to confront his assailants in order to draw a line under his past. Also, you know in the original movies how the scenes in the CIA hubs were just as exciting as the chase scenes because there was an equal amount of cerebral intensity being pitted against kinetic intensity? That does not exist here, possibly because the first third is clunky due to them having to tie up a lot of loose threads before The Plot can actually get going, but also cause you know... Paul Greengrass et al... Sigh. They do try to introduce an ethical point with the whole behavioural modification thing, but it's more of a plot device than an issue, unlike the ethics in the originals.

Did 'Extreme Ways' appear on the end credits? Yes. Yes it did. A new version, which sounded like they had Moby strapped to the bottom of the boat. A few strains of John Powell's original score was also discernible at the beginning, but I actually kind of liked that as an acknowledgement of the place this film owed its roots to.

So what's the final verdict? Well, The Bourne Legacy was never going to be anywhere near as good as the original trilogy, and honestly, I didn't want it to be. Neither did I want it to be a bad film, because I do actually have a heart and respect the fact that even though this exists PURELY FOR THE MONEY, people did put a lot of work into it. As I mentioned above, it was a better film than it had any right to be and a very competent action/thriller, though it lacks the intelligence and emotional complexity of the first three. It also doesn't feel like a Bourne film, kind of the way the first two Harry Potters don't really feel like the later Harry Potter films. I did enjoy it and would happily watch it again if it came my way, but yes, it did perform oral sex on the Bond movies. Just a little bit.

Monday, 20 August 2012

So I'm going to see The Bourne Legacy

Tomorrow, with the mother, Maz. Come on, don't tell me you weren't expecting this.

Before I go, however, I am posting some predictions because I want to see how my prehatred preconception matches up with the real thing:

1. This film should have been called The Bourne Superfluous/Redundancy because, you know, it is totally redundant and mercenary, which is just really depressing and undermines what went before it.

2. Although the absence of Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass will be sorely felt, I am much happier that they had the integrity to stay true to the story and walk away at the right time. You know like, when the STORY WAS FINISHED. Ahem.

3. Aaron Cross is a really shit name for a protagonist, though not quite as bad as Big Bad Bry Mills. There will possibly be some symbolism about air instead of water (the Bond-esque helicopter scene glimpsed in the trailer?) and/or being caught in the crosshairs. Deep.

4. Jeremy Renner will give a really great performance but his character will talk too much and I will spend the whole movie internally admonishing 'Oh Bourne wouldn't have done that...'

5. Rachel Weisz, while wonderful, is too recognizable a movie star to blend in and will demolish my suspension of disbelief. I will also find it weird that she is married to Daniel Craig and is therefore fraternizing/franchising (fraterchising?) with the enemy.

6. At 135 mins (!!!) the movie is too long. None of the original trilogy were over two hours. KEEP IT LEAN PEOPLE. I know, I can talk, right?

7. No one will ever be as awesome as Joan Allen/Pam Landy, not even the clips of her from previous movies they shoehorn in, and the missing rivalry between her and Vosen will be like a big black hole at the centre of the movie. Also: special mentions to Nicky Parsons and Marie Kreutz who are/were also awesome.

8. I will be extremely vexed and indignant when if they so much as suggest this new guy is a bigger threat than Jason Bourne, because not only is that BULLSHIT, it's also shitting on the franchise that gave this movie the means to exist in the first place. I may even be so angry I will shout vociferously at the screen and shake my fist.

9. This movie will essentially give the Bond movies a blowjob and hand over the baton of Most Influential Action Movies of the 21st Century, instead of the other way around. This may also open up a wormhole in the space-time continuum, I'm not quite sure yet.

10. Aaron Cross will be a superhuman pumped up on steroids and consequently won't be as involving or sympathetic as Bourne who was a perfect conflict of highly trained assassin/sociopath and very emotionally vulnerable human.

11. If they use John Powell's score or Moby's Extreme Ways I will have a hissy fit right there in my seat.

12. I will be mildly entertained but not moved to produce fervent outpourings and/or rants of epic proportion ("yayyy!"). This will please me because although I don't want this movie to be awful (contrary to popular belief, I do actually have a heart), I also don't want it to be elevated to massive resounding success by standing on the shoulders of one of the most well-realized trilogies in movie history...in my humble opinion.

13. Since it wasn't part of Robert Ludlum's original trilogy of books which I believe provided the integral spine and heart of the films, The Bourne Legacy will have none of the political/international depth, intelligence or resonance. This will also make me happy because in my mind the original trilogy will remain untouched by the new spin-off and I can say 'Ahhhh :)' which is always nice.

Hopefully I'll have time to post my actual thoughts tomorrow before life gets busy again at night.

Peace n jam and an open mind, x