The Bourne Legacy
August 10, 2012
On the Big Board
||Renner is perfectly cast for this. I liked that it runs concurrently with The Bourne Ultimatum
In the summer of 2002, Boston’s most famous BFFs, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, each tried their hands at becoming action heroes. Affleck was chosen as the replacement for screen legend Harrison Ford in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan franchise. The movie in question, The Sum of All Fears, earned $118.5 million and while well regarded, its performance did not justify a sequel. Affleck never portrayed Jack Ryan again.
Matt Damon’s new espionage franchise was also a literary adaptation. Robert Ludlum’s 1980 thriller was the basis for The Bourne Identity, yet the film shared little similarity with the novel. Fledgling director Doug Liman had never handled a big budget release before. He wanted his own vision to shine through the storyline. A key aspect of this was a modern take on Jason Bourne that would re-invigorate the spy genre. Liman felt that the James Bond themes had grown stale; he wanted to create something fresh and original.
The Bourne Identity was mission accomplished in this regard. While the movie earned roughly the same box office revenue as The Sum of All Fears, $121.5 million, its legend quickly grew. During the explosive growth of DVD in the home video market, The Bourne Identity became the number one title of the year. People were transfixed by the premise of a perfectly trained soldier overcoming amnesia to reclaim a trace of humanity. A franchise was born.
Alas, Mr. Liman ran a bad set according to many. He was perceived as lacking the forceful personality required to maintain control of a big budget film. Liman did not have final cut of The Bourne Identity and he was not invited back to helm the sequel. Instead, noted documentary style director Paul Greengrass leveraged his triumph in Bloody Sunday, perhaps the most critically praised indie movie of 2002, into a pair of gigs with the Bourne franchise.
The Bourne Supremacy and The Bourne Ultimatum earned over $400 million domestically between them. Their combined global take was $730 million, giving the three films in the franchise thus far almost a billion dollars of box office revenue. While some critics disliked Greengrass’ style of shaky camerawork, all three Bourne movies are considered masterpieces. Their quality forced the handlers of the Bond series to update and adapt to this new style of espionage thriller.
Universal Pictures views the Bourne franchise as a crown jewel. There are, however, a couple of problems. Whether The Bourne Identity and its successors made Matt Damon or Matt Damon made them is up for debate. What is undeniable is that he has a much larger asking price for his movies these days. He also has grown more demanding of the filmmaking environment for his acting gigs. He is now a power player in the industry. A cheaper, less powerful talent would be better.
Also, the story of Jason Bourne is largely told. Not only have the mysteries of his origins been detailed but even his name has been revealed. The details of the Treadstone project are similarly well established by now. There is virtually no story to chronicle in this regard, either.
How does a studio create another sequel if the star has become too expensive and the story has been told? The magic word is reboot. Matt Damon is out and The Hurt Locker’s Jeremy Renner is in, just as was done when Affleck replaced Harrison Ford as Jack Ryan. Ordinarily, cheaper means younger as was the case with Affleck but Renner is actually several months older than Damon. The difference is that his star is on the rise due to his presence in blockbusters such as Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol and the upcoming juggernaut, The Avengers. He could be what Matt Damon was in 2002, albeit 10 years older at the time of his ascension.
In order to introduce Renner as a new character in the Bourne universe, the premise of The Bourne Legacy could aggravate fans of the franchise. Despite the fact that Jason Bourne has systematically eliminated all other members of Treadstone, the slogan is that there was never just one. Renner’s character, Aaron Cross, is part of another shadowy governmental training program that has turned him into a super-soldier.
In order to tie him to the known Bourne players, the story of The Bourne Ultimatum is reinvented. Returning players such as Joan Allen and David Strathairn are used to demonstrate what they were doing in the background while the movie focused on Jason Bourne. The looming specter of Matt Damon will border on being a full-fledged ghost in The Bourne Legacy. While this idea may seem sketchy, the presence of Tony Gilroy, the writer of the first three Bourne films, as the writer/director on this title provides some comfort. No one has more knowledge of Jason Bourne, Treadstone and the tertiary characters than him.
Whether audiences go for this or not remains to be seen. The concept of a franchise reboot with a new lead actor is a relatively new concept. BOP suspects that the opening weekend of the film will be far lower than The Bourne Ultimatum’s $69.3 million, but it should still do well enough to justify the financial outlay. The Bourne franchise has proven very popular abroad and international revenue now drives the marketplace. (David Mumpower/BOP)