Weekend Forecast for August 10-12, 2012

By Reagen Sulewski

August 10, 2012

I was born a snake handler and I'll die a snake handler.

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Rarer than the remake, rarer than the reboot, much rarer than the sequel, is the spin-off movie. One of the more successful action franchises of the last decade attempts to live beyond the departure of its star as it leads off a surprisingly busy August weekend.

The Bourne series has been called “The American Bond” in some circles, and while it still has a long way to go to match the legacy of the British spy series, in box office terms the comparison isn't crazy. And now it shares at least one other characteristic – changing lead actors. Admittedly, Jeremy Renner isn't playing the same character as Matt Damon in the first three films, but the series still carries that character's name, and his absence drives the action – just like Poochy, if they'd listened to Homer.

Tony Gilroy, screenwriter for the first three films, takes over in the director's chair for this entry, which is based on the somewhat ingenious tagline “There Was Never Just One”, setting up the possibility to continue it in perpetuity. We're still cleaning up the mess of the Treadstone Project, with Renner an asset left out in the field who's had some... modifications, and wants to avoid being liquidated as the CIA attempts to cover up its mistakes. It follows the same basic template as the other films, as we follow Renner from international location to international location with a love interest (Rachel Weisz) while he's being tracked by a weaselly higher-up (in this case Edward Norton) and an ambiguously allied truth-seeker (Joan Allen, again), with various other character actors holding pieces of the story (Stacy Keach, Scott Glenn).


The Bourne series reinvented filmed action to an extent in the 2000s, stripping away the Baysian excess down to brutal hand-to-hand fights and desperate, seat-of-the-pants chases both on foot and on wheels. We'll see if Gilroy is up to the task of filling Paul Greengrass' (and to an extent, Doug Liman's) shoes in that department, but at least we're not being handed off to a total naif to the series. Gilroy also has a Best Director nomination to his credit (for Michael Clayton), so there's reason to be optimistic there too.

But does Renner have the ability to be the Roger Moore to Damon's Sean Connery (just bear with me for a minute on this metaphor)? Hollywood has clearly been trying to make fetch happen, throwing Renner into a couple of giant franchises following his pair of Oscar nominations for The Hurt Locker and The Town. While he was sort of the “Professor and Mary Anne” of The Avengers (and one of the two main characters to not get his own build-up movie), his role in Mission:Impossible 4 was a little more significant and might lead to him being handed the franchise if Tom Cruise is done with it. I don't know if he wants to be known as the hand-me-down guy, but there are worse ways to make a living in Hollywood, I suppose. This makes evaluating him as a stand-alone lead actor fairly difficult, though, as it's impossible to separate his draw from that of The Avengers or Mission:Impossible. One thing for certain is that a vastly larger number of people are aware that there's such a thing as him now than there were a couple of years ago.

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