It’s funny what a little praise can do to the curious. I never held any great regard for the Philippine movie industry, but I know we have talented people who stay out of the limelight the mainstream media so efficiently uses to keep the masses in their place (did that sound too communist or was it just me?). So when a news article hyping up the upcoming Bourne Legacy film cropped up on Yahoo or someplace else, saying how the actors and staff of the Hollywood film were impressed with the Filipino actors involved, somewhere inside me a light went on. Hey, it looks like they got the right guys and none of the mainstream puke, I said to myself. So the curious had enough reason to watch it on the big screen. And when given the right opportunity – about two nights ago when my wife was off from work – the curious satisfied his curiosity.
It’s funny what a title can make you expect. Three pretty awesome Bourne films have been released before Legacy, and I pretty much liked all of them, with Supremacy having a special place in my heart because it showed Jason Bourne at his finest on the offensive. You might think I’m prepping you up here for a movie-title-made-me-expect-more setup, but I’ve already psychologically removed this flawed logic from my system as soon as The Dark Knight Rises premiered. Anyway. As a reboot, the Bourne Legacy introduced a new main character, a new program (two, actually), a new big intelligence agency boss to put down, and a new chase to watch.
On its own, I’d say Legacy was a neat little action movie. Unfortunately, it wasn’t much of a psychological film, even in the gritty, rather thin way that the very first Bourne film was. It’s true that the new guy Aaron was more human and humane than Jason, but this didn’t lead to any deeply involved connections between audience and plot. The moral turmoil in the Bourne Identity that more or less carried over to Supremacy and Ultimatum was overshadowed to a sublime crisis by Bourne’s more pressing loss of memory, and his struggle to come to terms to what he is. And that wasn’t a bad thing at all. It was Robert Ludlum at his finest. In a way, Legacy tried the same tack – since Aaron wasn’t permanently programmed from the start (he had to take red and green “chems” to become superagent material), his moral compass remained pointing in the right direction. This was made evident in a flashback with Edward Norton’s cute delivery of the line “We are morally indefensible and absolutely necessary.” This time, however, moral crisis is overshadowed by Aaron’s chase for his “chems,” which he needs to remain physically and mentally stable. Now, there can be a lot of drama or intense emotions you can put into the tragedy of the conflict of the drug dependent. Almost none of this was portrayed with any strength in Legacy. In fact, what stood out to me was the hypothetical science of the chems. Pretty neat sci-fi stuff there.
So no, moral, psychological, or philosophical angles weren’t as sharp in this reboot. But how about the action? Here’s another bit of bad news: Aaron never goes up against any other special agent or asset with a pen. Or a book. Or a magazine. Or a towel. Or his bare ****in’ hands. He kept beating on poor ordinary folks – security guards, police (Philippine Police, I might add, which makes it all the more underwhelming, lol), regular CIA assassins – that when the super-superagent LARX-3 was introduced and was said to be “Treadstone without the inconsistencies…Outcome (Aaron’s program) without the emotional noise,” I was hyped up for some awesome hand-to-hand action. But even this was denied me.
In its place is a lengthy (might have been too lengthy), speedy (considering it was in EDSA, yeah it was speedy), and lengthy (because I got to admit, it was too long, though it was the finale) chase sequence with Aaron and Dr. Marta on a motorbike, racing through Manila. LARX-3 put up a good chase – even scored a couple of gunshot wounds on Aaron, and was near indestructible, but he got pawned by Marta. His crash into a stone pillar was quite something to watch, but still. Come on. You hype him up that much and he gets kicked into an oncoming pillar by a girl?
Yet another bit of bad news is Edward Norton. Legacy did to Edward Norton what The Dark Knight Rises did to Tom Hardy. Anyone, and I mean anyone else could have played their roles. Why waste such talent and acting range on such characters?
In the spirit of the sandwich-style of reviewing, I’ve saved the stuff I liked for last.
1. Manila. Amazingly, I didn’t notice a gawking “tambay” or “miron” that was out of place in any scene. I was expecting this, because even in a real life shootout, Filipinos tend to loiter. They just don’t have the fear of guns that Americans have. I remember when I was working in Sucat, a shootout between police officers and several armed gunmen happened in a busy intersection. Traffic cleared, but the sidewalks were jammed with people who wanted to see the gunfight. Seriously. We dope.
2. The jeeps. Ever want to see an innocent jeepney get caught up in a chase sequence? Watch this film.
3. The curses. God, I LOL’d at that single police officer on his motorbike when LARX-3 took him down. It was so natural and realistic. Even the pedicab driver who (again) LARX-3 came into contact with cursed oh-so-naturally, Filipino style (pukingina!).
4. Okay, so I’ve been spewing out nominal things to like. Let’s see… LARX-3. He didn’t have any lines and he did not get to fight Aaron hand-to-hand, but he was portrayed to be really tough and the stunts he did (plus taking two or three gunshots and then getting thrown off his bike onto a cart of fruits) made him a realistically super, superagent asset.
5. The lab shootout. I only came to appreciate this scene probably because it seemed realistic to me. I recalled the crazy gunman that shot 14 people dead on a The Dark Knight Rises premiere in the US.
6. The sci-fi. So the psychological aspect has been dumbed down, but the sci-fi facet was turned up. Better yet, it was realistic sci-fi, something that could probably be happening right now.
I’m trying to think of more (and more significant) things I liked, but I’ll leave it at that. So what did I think of the entire film? It was lukewarm. A nice little way to kill time, but it was too obvious that it was made to be the first of another trilogy. They could have put in a bit more, but I guess starting lukewarm and hitting it big next time around is better than starting big and then cooling down. I just hope they do hit it big next time, ‘coz this Bourne film was rather low on the goods.
PS – We missed the first 10 – 15 minutes of the film. Perhaps that stretch had all the good stuff, then, eh?