“The Bourne Legacy” looks like a reboot, but it’s more of a sequel.
Either way, it’s a mostly unnecessary addition to the smart, exciting “Bourne” trilogy based on characters created by novelist Robert Ludlum.
The new movie’s story takes place about the same time as events of 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum.”
Matt Damon is not here, but his Jason Bourne is on the sidelines, appearing as a phantom in documents and news reports, and spoken about in hushed tones.
The focus is Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner), another super-secret agent of the same ilk who takes special green and blue pills that give him a genetic edge. When he loses the pills in the field, he has to get more before his brain and body shut down.
Meanwhile, his covert operation is being terminated; all of its agents are being killed. He makes his way to the home of scientist Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz), who likewise survived an attack on her lab.
Together, hunted all the way, they escape to Manila, to another lab where they can make Aaron a permanent super-spy.
The screenplay, co-written by Dan Gilroy and Tony Gilroy, is of the highest showmanship. Intelligent and dramatic, it smooths over some hokey plot twists.
But direction by Tony Gilroy — who wrote or co-wrote the previous “Bourne” movies, and directed the excellent “Michael Clayton” — leaves something to be desired next to Doug Liman’s “The Bourne Identity” (2002) and Paul Greengrass’ “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004) and “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007).
“Legacy” is much longer than the earlier films, and its pacing feels off-kilter. It takes a while to get going, and the most exciting set piece, a motorcycle chase, goes on too long, and comes too close to the end. The movie ends too abruptly.
Gilroy’s action sequences jump all over the place. He’s clearly more comfortable with tense dialogue, characters in rooms barking at one another or studying computer screens.
For his part, Renner, though a bit cooler than Damon — and at his best in “The Hurt Locker,” “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol” and “The Avengers” — is a more-than- capable action hero.
Overall, like the recent “The Amazing Spider-Man,” this new “Bourne” is mostly fine. Still, it feels more like the product of a business strategy than any genuinely artistic urge to tell a great story.