The Bourne Legacy has been activated on Blu-ray this past week in an edition that presents the latest addition to the spy saga in the best possible light – with solid high definition picture and sound and thorough extras. It’s just a shame that the movie itself isn’t more than an afterthought from the trilogy of Bourne movies we’ve already seen. The movie is very well produced, but even with some decent performances from the leads, there is both too much and too little going on to keep an audience’s attention. Fans of the Bourne movies will likely want to rent this, as will fans of Jeremy Renner, but this is one of those movies where there just is no there there.
Studio: Universal/Relativity Media/Kennedy Marshall/Captivate Entertainment
Length: 2 hrs 15 mins
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
BD Resolution and Codec: 1080p, (AVC @ 25 mbps)
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 (@ an average 3.5 mbps, up to 7.2 mbps in the big scenes), English DTS 5.1, Spanish DTS 5.1, French DTS 5.1, English DVS 2.0
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Content Rating: R (Violence, Intense Action Sequences, Inappropriate Behavior on Motorbike)
Release Date: December 11, 2012
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach and Oscar Isaac, with momentary appearances by Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn and Scott Glenn
Screenplay by: Tony Gilroy & Dan Gilroy
Directed by: Tony Gilroy
Film Rating: 2 ½/5
On paper, The Bourne Legacy should be a slamdunk. It’s a continuation of the trilogy of Bourne movies, helmed by one of the screenwriters of all three movies and produced by many of the same people, this time utilizing a new cast playing out a story that promises to open more doors into the mystery. In the new movie, Jeremy Renner plays Aaron Cross, a government agent similar to Bourne, who finds himself and a scientist (Rachel Weisz) on the run from sinister forces led by Edward Norton. The chase goes all the way from snowy Alaska through the heart of the U.S. to the Philippines, globe trotting in the same manner as the earlier movies. There are some solid action sequences, including a deadly shootout inside a classic house and a wild motorbike chase across Manila. The direction here is mostly an elegant affair, free of the shaky cam that gave people issues with the Greengrass movies, although I confess that there are still moments of confusion during some action sequences where it was unclear what’s going on. And of course, everyone in the movie has assumed the usual pose of a Bourne movie – meaning that almost any scene with Edward Norton is laced with meaningful looks and clipped dialogue to tell the audience that much more is going on than we will be allowed to see. So this should all work, right? Not exactly.
SPOILERS HERE: The problem here is that we’ve seen all of this before. The Bourne trilogy with Matt Damon mined the territory quite thoroughly, unveiling a bit more information with each movie as the audience came to understand more of the situation. Initially the story of a man with no memory but devastating physical abilities, the series quickly became an examination of a secret CIA kill squad created under an operation called Treadstone, and Jason Bourne’s voyage of discovery became a journey toward his own identity. By the end of the third movie, The Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne has learned his true name and nature, has renounced the program, and has taken steps to see that the people who made it are held responsible. One would think, logically, that there isn’t any more story to tell after this, and that the best course of action would be to move on. Not so, unfortunately. Clearly, someone wanted to make another Bourne movie, but the producers were stymied by the fact that neither Matt Damon nor Paul Greengrass wants to be involved. Faced with that obstacle, a decision was made to make an interim movie, one that could exist within the same universe as the trilogy but focus on different characters. In this way, the producers could keep the franchise alive in the audience’s memory for another few years, just in case Damon and Greengrass change their minds and come up with a new story.
MORE SPOILERS: So what story did the producers create? They turned to screenwriter/director Tony Gilroy to create a further level to the conspiracy shown in the earlier films. For the new movie, Gilroy and his brother concocted a script that expands the situation to a wider area of the government and even the pharmaceutical industry. We are now meant to believe that the Treadstone/Blackbriar operation is only one wing of a program also existing in the Defense Department and elsewhere, each with its own team of killer agents. Some programs have apparently been started without superiors being told about them (which is one area where the story really strains credulity). The hero of this story is Aaron Cross, an agent recruited to work within a Defense Department offshoot of these programs called Outcome. The Outcome agents have all been genetically modified for superior intelligence and physical ability, and are controlled through a regimen of colored pills that maintain their acuity. Now, this is all well and good, and an adventure under this idea could still theoretically work, even though the writers are stretching this to the point that there’s no way the program could be kept under wraps.
STILL MORE SPOILERS: And this is where the wheels leave the wagon. In the aftermath of the revelations of The Bourne Ultimatum, the man running all these operations (Norton) decides that the best course of action to keep things under wraps is to kill every single agent and scientist involved in the program. Which is of course completely a believable approach, right? When your very expensive (and successful) spy/attack program is potentially going to be exposed, the obvious course of action is to suddenly and violently kill everyone, because that never raises anyone’s suspicions… Predictably, the mop-up fails to kill Cross, who winds up on the run with Marta (Weiz), the only surviving scientist, in the hope that she’ll be able to get him more of those colored pills before his mental and physical abilities expire. And after telling him she knows absolutely nothing, she of course turns out to know everything about how the chemicals work, including the stupefying idea that by “viraling out”, Cross can make the genetic change permanent and thus no longer need any pills. So this couple, who is on the run from every major organization in the US, and whose pictures are known to everyone, somehow buys plane tickets to Manila and manages to sneak into the pharmaceutical facility there where the viruses are kept. Along the way, we are treated to the usual brace of chases and stunt sequences, including one fairly effective shootout inside a multilevel house. But by the end of the movie, the situation has completely passed all levels of believability.
FINAL SPOILERS: It isn’t that this movie could not have worked. It’s just that the story being told here, and the manner in which it’s being told are just not going to cut it. After three movies of seeing secretive intelligence officials talked in clipped code to each other about how bad it will be “if this gets out”, it’s frankly tiresome to hear the same song and dance now for the fourth time with no real progress. Further, the conspiracy now appears to be so large that it could eclipse the wild one from “The X-Files”, where apparently every government employee had to know what was going on. And we’re asked to believe a series of increasingly outlandish ideas. We’re asked to believe that the Defense Department would sanction such a program and then just try to kill everyone a la Capricorn One at the first sign of exposure. (This idea, by the way, involves poisoning unsuspecting agents in cities around the world – where when the autopsies are done, one would assume they’ll be exposed by their very nature…) We’re asked to accept that Cross can journey all the way from the Alaskan wilderness to major US cities and change his appearance completely (including giving himself a brand new haircut) with no help we can see. We’re asked to accept that Cross has a stash of credit cards and identities as well as a car, but that nobody from the operation command will be able to figure out where he is without checking public records. And the issues go on and on. Normally, suspension of disbelief would take care of this kind of thing, but not in the present case – it’s just pushed too far.
SPOILERS NOW DONE: Now, this isn’t to say that this is necessarily a BAD movie. It’s just that it’s not a very good one. It has moments, particularly that middle-of-the-movie shootout, but for the most part this is depressingly familiar territory. One final note – the promotion for the movie might lead you to think that this movie includes significant material with characters from The Bourne Ultimatum, as the story is happening parallel to that one and we do see those people in this movie. You can rest assured that the actors from that movie only appear for fleeting moments here. Scott Glenn has an early scene and then disappears. Albert Finney, David Straitharn and Joan Allen are all glimpsed very briefly before they too disappear. Were it not for the obvious intent to tie the movies together, there would be no reason for those actors to appear here at all.
The Bourne Legacy was released on Blu-ray and standard definition this week. The DVD and the Blu-ray share some of the special features. Both the DVD and Blu-ray have a commentary track, three deleted scenes and a pair of featurettes on the movie. The Blu-ray adds four additional featurettes. Of course, the Blu-ray package includes both discs. Instructions for downloading a digital copy and getting an Ultraviolet copy are also included in the package.
VIDEO QUALITY 4 ½/5
The Bourne Legacy is presented in a 1080p AVC 2.40:1 transfer that shows off the wide array of locations, textures and flesh tones with a satisfying level of depth and detail. The movie takes the viewer everywhere from a snowy landscape to the blazing hot streets of Manila, and the picture goes a long way to making each place a convincing environment. The considerable amount of CGI used to enhance multiple locations, stunts and effects, is seamless here, as it should be.
AUDIO QUALITY 4 ½/5
The Bourne Legacy is presented in a full-throated English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix, as well as standard 5.1 DTS mixes in English, Spanish and French. An English DVS track is also available. The 7.1 track is easily the way to go, providing a lot of directionality and surround effects throughout the movie. The amount of heavy impacts and explosions keeps the subwoofer occupied, and all of the speakers usually have something to do at any given time.
SPECIAL FEATURES 3 ½/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of The Bourne Legacy comes with several special features, including a commentary track, some deleted scenes, and a group of featurettes about the movie’s production.
My Scenes – The usual Blu-ray bookmarking feature is available here, allowing the viewer to set their own bookmarks throughout the film.
BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online.
pocket BLU – This Blu-ray includes the usual pocket BLU functionality, enabling viewers with appropriate laptop, iPad or smart phone integration to remotely control their Blu-ray player and access some of the bonus content from the separate device. Also, a digital copy is available for download via the pocket BLU application.
D-Box – D-Box functionality is included with this Blu-ray for those viewers who have that ability in their home theaters.
Feature Commentary with Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, John Gilroy, DP Robert Elswit, 2nd Unit Director Dan Bradley and Production Designer Kevin Thompson (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) (THEATRICAL VERSION ONLY) – This scene-specific commentary is quite thorough, as the three Gilroy brothers discuss each scene with the other participants. Tony Gilroy dominates the proceedings and provides detailed information about every actor and every situation, usually prodding the others to chime in. Gilroy dissects the big shootout scene in terms of how many actual locations were involved, and details how much greenscreen and CGI work was entailed. John Gilroy discusses which shots were actually lifted from The Bourne Ultimatum for use here.
The following materials are presented in high definition on the Blu-ray. If they are also available on the DVD, they would obviously be presented in standard definition there:
Deleted Scenes (6:48 Total, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – Three deleted scenes are presented here, with an option to see them individually or via a “Play All” option, and with or without commentary by the above-mentioned group. (It sounds very much like the group watched the movie together and then sat for another few minutes to discuss these three scenes.) There’s nothing really consequential here, although one of the scenes gives Albert Finney a good scene to play.
Re-Bourne (6:11, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This featurette covers the obvious ground of where the filmmakers took the story in order to keep the Bourne universe alive. Almost all the principals are involved, including Tony Gilroy, Jeremy Renner and producer Pat Crowley. The guys sound pleased that they’ve been able to expand the Bourne universe, but it doesn’t sound like they understand how much bigger they’ve just made their conspiracy.
Capturing Chaos: The Motorbike Chase (7:49, 1080p) (AVAILABLE BOTH ON BLU-RAY AND DVD) – This featurette covers the extensive motorbike chase across Manila that serves as the movie’s climax. While this isn’t overly long, it’s quite thorough in the discussion with Dan Bradley, the cast and the stunt team about how the chase was accomplished. One gag involving sliding a motorbike down a stairwell railing is noted as an unscripted bit left open to Bradley to do something outrageous.
Enter Aaron Cross (7:11, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette covers the creation of the new character of Aaron Cross, including interview footage with Tony Gilroy, Jeremy Renner and Pat Crowley. There’s some discussion about Renner’s athleticism and acting ability. One of the major achievements here was Renner’s playing of a scene in 43 degree water in the snow in Canada for one shot.
Crossing Continents: Legacy on Location (8:22, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette covers the location shooting done in Canada for the Alaskan scenes and in Manila for the sequences set there. A local line producer from Manila contributes to the discussion here, expressing his pride that Manila is finally being shot as itself for this movie, rather than being used to stand in for other Asian cities. Rachel Weisz does make note of the fact that many of the people who were watching at the edge of the crew during the Manila shoot were clearly destitute.
Man vs. Wolf (4:36, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette covers a scene in the snow where Cross traps and wrestles a wolf. To accomplish this, hybrid wolfdogs were used for some shots and an animatronic wolf was used for other shots. A few seconds of the pre-viz for this scene is included.
Wolf Sequence Test (1:39, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This is just the pre-viz for the Wolf fight, which combines animatics with video footage of stuntmen practicing for the scene.
Moving Targets: Aaron & Marta (6:11, 1080p) (EXCLUSIVE TO BLU-RAY) – This featurette examines the chemistry between the lead characters and actors, pun intended. Both actors and Tony Gilroy discuss that they all prefer to spend more time working on takes of their scenes than discussing them.
DVD Copy – A second disc is included in the package, holding the standard DVD of the theatrical cut of the movie. It contains the movie presented in standard definition in an anamorphic 2.40:1 picture with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound in English, Spanish and French (448 kbps). The English DVS track is also included. The commentary, deleted scenes and the “Re-Bourne” and “Capturing Chaos” featurettes are included on the DVD.
Digital and Ultraviolet Copies – Instructions are included in the packaging for downloading a digital copy of the movie to your laptop or portable device, as well as for obtaining an Ultraviolet streaming copy to be placed up in the cloud. No deadline for activation is indicated on the insert. I note again that the pocket BLU online menu also includes an option for downloading the digital copy.
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features, in English, Spanish and French. A full chapter menu is available for the film.
IN THE END...
The Bourne Legacy isn’t a bad movie, but it isn’t a particularly good one either. If anything, it’s really a placeholder movie, to keep the audience interested in case Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass come up with a new sequel idea in another few years. The Blu-ray is a solid presentation of the movie, with good picture and sound, and a thorough brace of special features. It’s unfortunate that the underlying movie just doesn’t have enough to recommend it, even with this strong of a cast. Fans of the franchise may wish to rent this, just to see where the story ends up.
December 16, 2012.
Equipment now in use in this Home Theater:
Panasonic 65” VT30 Plasma 3D HDTV – set at ISF picture mode
-Set professionally calibrated by AVICAL in June 2012
Denon AVR-3311Cl Receiver
Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray Player
PS3 Player (used for calculation of bitrates for picture and sound)
5 Mirage Speakers (Front Left/Center/Right, Surround Back Left/Right)
2 Sony Speakers (Surround Left/Right – middle of room)
Martin Logan Dynamo 700 Subwoofer