Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bourne To Be Alive?

"Para, mama!"

The Bourne Legacy is the fourth film of what I’ll call the Bourne franchise, even though Jason Bourne was barely in this latest. Yes, Matt Damon’s face appeared on television, but that’s all. But his name is mentioned so often in this film that his moniker deserves a spot in the end credits. Oh okay, it’s already in the title. So, yeah, fine.

If it weren’t for the fact that the last third (or is it half?) of the film is set and shot in Manila, this film wouldn’t have interested me at all.  What kept me interested and intrigued with the first three films was Matt Damon’s portrayal and the fact that his character was on a mission of uncovering his identity. That, and the slow discovery of just what Bourne is up against is what gave the first three films their added kick.

This fourth installment feels like one long set-up for an extension of a franchise. It’s like the creators thinking, “Okay, what happens to Bourne if Damon decides to leave?” Unlike James Bond, Jason Bourne can’t easily be replaced by another actor. So instead of replacing Bourne, they made  Bourne-alike. Or rather, Bourne-alikes, since as their promotions state, “There was never just one.” Great set-up for the studio, really. If ever Jeremy Renner gets tired of playing Aaron Cross, they can always find a new super-agent to follow.

Replacing an actor to play a familiar character is tricky, and will depend largely on the basis of a character’s popularity. But replacing a character to continue a franchise may even be trickier; in a sense, it’s a spin-off. Sadly, the new characters here are not that compelling or engaging at all.

Norton: "They made me go all the way to Manila just to shoot this scene?!"

As much as I like Renner’s performance, Aaron Cross comes across as someone so equipped to take down the Program single-handedly. So it was difficult to empathize with him when you know that he’ll out-Swarzenegger his opponents. Hello, 80s action films! Rachel Weisz huffs and puffs mightily in the acting and running department, but it’s a bit bothersome when the only reason why I like her is because I didn’t want any harm to befall the woman who kicked The Mummy’s girlfriend’s ass. Her shining moment in the movie was when she blurts out, “It’s in Manila, the Philippines!” I bet in all screenings of the film, that line alone will get a rise from the local audiences. My favorite character was Edward Norton, who attacked all of his lines like they were from an Aaron Sorkin script. His Eric Byer looked like someone who’s way in over his head but bought his own bullshit so that he doesn’t realize he’s way in over his head. Which makes his blustering hilarious to watch.

The chase scenes are well-shot and staged, and I have never seen the squalor of Metro Manila look so colorful onscreen. Only Hollywood production designers and cinematographers could turn “grit” into “picturesque.” Please elect them for local government, stat!

Squalor-chic for a Hollywood chick.

The downside of a Manileño watching this film? It’s seeing the chase jump from Pasay to EDSA to Marikina to El Nido, Palawan in a span of a cut! Yeah, those unfamiliar with the locations will see one seamless chase scene. But while my viewer’s mind can accept the location leaps, my driver’s mind wasn’t so keen on the film’s creative license. Oh, and no traffic cop can be that skilled (and so fit!) on a motorcycle.

Does the movie succeed in keeping the franchise alive? After all, there was never just one. So does it make me want to watch further installments? Oh, I don’t know.

1 comment:

rudeboy said...

I watched this movie the day it hit the theaters. And it's a good thing they kept the Manila scenes for last, because you could pretty much tell that everyone in the theater was just waiting, waiting, waiting to see Manila figure in a bona fide Hollywood blockbuster franchise.

I wanted this film to succeed, not only because Manila is in it, but also because like you, I too enjoyed the previous Bourne movies, and I like both Renner and Weisz as actors.

Sadly, I'd have to agree with the majority of reviews. The Bourne Legacy suffers under the weight of Bourne's legacy.