Why ‘The Bourne Legacy’ Won’t Disappoint Fans

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.

Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne will not appear directly in the fourth film

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.

Tony Gilroy, who helped write the first three films, will direct the fourth

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:

Why the ‘Hobbit’ Films Should Win Some Real Oscars

The Case For A “Slow Food Movement” For Movies

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!)


  1. Very interesting article. I was initially disappointed and skeptical when I learned that the Bourne Legacy will not feature the original character of Jason Bourne nor it will feature Matt Damon in the lead role. I have read all the Bourne books by Robert Ludlum and have read some of those written by Eric Van Lustbader and while Eric did a creditable job re-creating and following on the legend of Bourne, I tend to agree that the story had veered away from the original story created by Ludlum. I am a Filipino and the film is currently being shot in Manila as I write this comment. If only for this, I am eagerly awaiting for the release of this movie but after reading your article, I got more excited to watch this movie. I agree with your premises, Jason Bourne may no longer be in the 4th installment, with Aaron Cross basically taking over. If we go by the title “Bourne Legacy” it would be exciting to see how Bourne’s legacy will lead into another exciting storyline with the fourth installment. Matt Damon has done a wonderful and excellent job in the first installment and I am hoping he would be back for more in the fifth installment.

    I will definitely be excited to write more once the movie is release. The Bourne series had been one of the best movies so far and I hope that the Bourne Legacy will not disappoint.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful reply! It’s great to know my articles are being enjoyed in the Philippines. I’m glad my argument resonated with you – it annoys me to see people on the Internet bash this fourth movie without taking a proper look at the evidence. I’m curious to see how they use the Manila location in the film. The books and the movies always made great use of their locations. Moving the series to Manila, at least for part of the movie, makes sense, seeing as how the Bourne character was an expert on Southeast Asia in the books. I hope you check out some of my other posts and let me know what you think!

  2. I had been a Robert Ludlum guy since my school days and my admiration of this writer naturally attracted me to the movie versions of his books. I had seen the original Bourne Identity movie, which was made if I’m not mistaken in 1988, starring Richard Chamberlain (it did not have the same excitement generated by the Matt Damon starrer). I was also initially skeptical when the Bourne Identity remake was done starring Matt Damon, particularly when I read that the storyline was different from the original book version but after seeing the movie, I felt like a winner having read and watched two different great creations under one created character.

    I spent a lot of time browsing the internet the other day when I came across your article and I should say you presented the best argument, particularly since my wife was also initially disappointed and skeptical. I let her read your article and although she is still holds her loyalty to Matt Damon (she being a Matt Damon follower after watching all the Bourne series movies), her skepticism is now moderated with curiosity on how the Tony Gilroy movie would fare, that is, after reading your piece. I would continue to look forward to reading more of your incisive writings in other various topics and I hope you will not mind my dipping into your thoughts every now and then. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and for the enlightenment.

    By the way, I do not know if it would be of interest to you. As I have mentioned, I am a Robert Ludlum believer and I had naturally been monitoring any other movies that would be made from his other great novels. I am eagerly looking forward to the “The Matarese Circle” movie starring Denzel Washington and tom Cruise (hope you can share your thoughts on this also). I also read somewhere that “The Sigma Protocol” (probably one of the last if not the last novel written in full by Mr. Ludlum before his passing away) is now being made into a moviee too.

    • Glad my article helped ease your wife’s concerns, as well! I haven’t heard of the Cruise/Washington film you mentioned, but it sounds like it will be an intense action flick if it stars those two actors. I’ll also have to check on the status of the film version of “The Sigma Protocol” – it would be fun to get more of Ludlum’s work on the screen.

  3. Hey there Robert! Awesome feature on The Bourne Legacy. I think you’d be real interested in taking a look at a post I wrote about an afternoon I spent at the film’s set in Manila just a few hours ago. I’m a 22-year old Chinese-Filipino-Canadian producer at a creatives agency here in Manila. I’m also moving to Vancouver this April so it’s awesome to meet a fellow Canadian online! Here’s the link to my blog! Please don’t wonder why the other posts are like a year old, I haven’t really touched my blog for a while now until today!


    • Thanks for the feedback! You’re the second person based in the Philippines to comment on the article – it’s great to hear from that part of the world. I’ll definitely check out your blog, and let you know what I think. If you decide to get back into blogging, it would be cool to do a cross-promotion between our two sites sometime. I hope you enjoy Vancouver – I’ve never visited the West coast of the country myself, but I have a few friends from there.

  4. Thanks for reading! And yeah, cross-promotion would be awesome! Let’s keep in touch. Let me know if ever you plan to visit the West coast. I haven’t been to Ontario or anywhere near there either but I do have family and friends in the Toronto area.

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