Regular readers of Professionally Incoherent may know that I’m a huge fan of the Bourne series – both the novels by Robert Ludlum and the three film adaptations starring Matt Damon. I believe they’re the best action films of the past decade. Many film buffs are aware that Universal Studios is planning a fourth film in the blockbuster franchise, though the movie won’t be following the exploits of the Jason Bourne character.
Instead, the film – titled The Bourne Legacy – will star Jeremy Renner as a CIA operative who must deal with the aftermath of Jason Bourne’s war on the CIA. The more I follow the development of this project, the more I’ve noticed that a lot of fans are concerned that Legacy will torpedo the excellent franchise with a lacklustre sequel. I wouldn’t worry, though: I think Legacy will be just as good as the ones that came before.
UPDATE: Want to know what I thought about The Bourne Legacy? Click here for my review!
The first three films, of course, were all about Jason Bourne, a CIA assassin who loses his memory while on assignment. As he slowly rediscovers his past over the course of the three films, Bourne is horrified by the brainwashing he underwent at the hands of the American government, all to become the ultimate killing machine. Bourne, like Frankenstein’s vengeful monster, then commits himself to finding those who manipulated him and holding them to account.
Renner will star in The Bourne Legacy as a new character named Aaron Cross (seen above), and will be joined by Rachel Weisz as a possible love interest, and Edward Norton as the villain. Scott Glenn will reprise his role as CIA Director Ezra Kramer, and Joan Allen will be back as CIA Departmental Director Pamela Landy. Right away, you have a great mix of new and returning talent, just the thing to take the series in a new direction while retaining the feel of the original movies.
Then you have to look at the story. Rather than tack on additional adventures for Jason Bourne (which wouldn’t make sense considering the timeline established by The Bourne Ultimatum), Universal has made the smart decision to explore what has happened to the CIA now that Bourne has taken down corrupt agents and exposed many of their covert black ops programs.
Not only does this help expand the film universe of the Bourne series a great deal, it’s in line with what Ludlum did in his novels. Reading Robert Ludlum’s Bourne books, you notice that Ludlum describes a much wider circle of operatives than we saw in the first three films. We get a sense of how Bourne’s actions affect the intelligence community as a whole, and that’s precisely what Universal is aiming for with The Bourne Legacy. They may be inventing new characters and stories, but they are staying true to the scope of Ludlum’s writing.
In fact, what’s happening with the book series at the moment might be described as more detrimental to the Bourne continuity than the production of a fourth film. Writer Eric van Lustbader is currently churning out new Bourne novels every year or so. While they are likely well-written and entertaining, I have the impression they just use Jason Bourne as a subject for stories that don’t hook up with either the films or Ludlum’s books.
Considering that Universal could have simply decided to re-cast the Bourne character and squeeze the franchise for some more cash, we seem to have the best possible scenario here. We don’t even have to worry about some silly prequel story that would inevitably contradict the original material. The producers didn’t take the easy way out, and fans of the series should recognize and appreciate that effort.
I’m also encouraged by the choice of creative people working behind the camera. The lead writer on the first three films, Tony Gilroy, has been chosen as the director for Legacy. Other than the original two directors of the series, Doug Liman and Paul Greengrass, I couldn’t think of a better person to helm The Bourne Legacy. Gilroy worked on the script for Legacy himself with his brother Dan, meaning the script should have a similar tone, as well.
Part of what inspired this post was a good-hearted debate I had with a friend of mine about the legitimacy of using the name “Bourne” in the title of the fourth film. My friend argued that the film won’t have Bourne in it, and so it should be called something else. I countered that the movie will be about the effects of Bourne going rogue, which can be seen as his legacy. The point is, a film need not have a titular character to function as part of a series – the Bourne series is about what Bourne does – the fourth movie can still be about Bourne even if he doesn’t appear.
Bearing all that in mind, fans of the series shouldn’t swear off the fourth movie or go in with low expectations. Many of the pieces that made the first three movies great are still in place. If anything, this is the best possible scenario for a sequel: no re-casting, no contradictory backstory, and a chance to step back and fully appreciate what Jason Bourne accomplished.
If we liked following Bourne on his action-packed journey of rediscovery and revenge, I’d argue we’ll enjoy seeing it from a new perspective and experiencing what it does to the Aaron Cross character played by Renner. So strap in and keep an open mind – all the intelligence is pointing to a movie worthy of its predecessors.
What do you think of the upcoming fourth Bourne film? Are you worried it won’t live up to the first three? Are you optimistic that Tony Gilroy can recapture the excitement? If you’re still skeptical, where do you think the film will go wrong? Post your thoughts in the comments section, and browse through my recent film commentary:
Update: Want a second opinion on the fourth Bourne film? My position on the movie came after a good-hearted debate with friend and fellow blogger Jason Chen. I challenged Jason to write a rebuttal to my earlier piece, and he surprised me by putting one together for you! Here’s the link to the full post. I’m excited about this because it’s the first guest-written article to appear on Professionally Incoherent. Here’s to more guest articles in the future (but that doesn’t mean Jason’s right about the movie!)