"Well, that was probably as good as a Matt Damon-less BOURNE movie could be." That's what I thought walking out of THE BOURNE LEGACY and it still holds true. For a film that was made for monetary reasons and not creative ones, it definitely could be worse. At best, LEGACY feels just like the other Bourne movies, so if that's all you're looking for then you should be happy with the results, Damon or no Damon. If you're expecting it to take the franchise in a new, different direction or expand the mythology… not so much.
Jeremy Renner had big shoes to fill here but Hawkeye does pretty well taking over the franchise. He's definitely got the cunning physicality and tough badassery needed, and though the role doesn't require much in the way of acting (emotionless super soldiers are like that), he's given one or two scenes to make the character his own. At least enough so you don't think he's playing a literal Damon clone. Rachel Weisz is convincing and appealing as the damsel in distress, albeit an intelligent one, and her and Renner's story and chemistry together is fairly strong and surprisingly equal in screentime. Same can't be said for the wasted Edward Norton, Scott Glenn, Stacy Keach, etc. as the movie's generic bad guys.
But most importantly the action scenes and techno-thriller aspect work on the same level you're accustomed to with the Bourne movies. Renner's Aaron Cross is hard hitting and violent when he needs to be, whether he's taking out nameless federal agents or, in one of the film's most memorable sequence, a live wolf. The series' longtime writer Dan Gilroy steps up to the plate as director, and the action and energy helps LEGACY to feel very much a part of the same universe. There's definitely something intangible missing without Paul Greengrass that made the last two more memorable, but Gilroy's no slouch. The lengthy and exhilarating final chase is evidence enough.
Commentary by writer/director Tony Gilroy, writer Dan Gilroy, editor John Gilroy, director of photography Robert Elswit, second unit director Dan Bradley and production designer Kevin Thompson: This is a big group (not to mention a serious family affair) so there's a wide range of expert information dispensed throughout this track. A dense, but fun listen.
Deleted Scenes (6:47): There's a bit more Albert Finney in these three fairly short and useless extra scenes, with optional commentary from the Gilroy Family and DP Elswit.
Re-Bourne (6:10): A brief featurette on how the creative powers made the decision to carry on the franchise without Matt Damon. ($$$$)
Enter Aaron Cross (7:10): Renner speaks about taking over the challenging role and making it his own.
Crossing Continents (8:22): Follow cast and crew as they shoot on location around the world.
Moving Targets (6:11): Some interviews discussing balancing Renner and Weisz's characters.
Capturing Chaos (7:48): Go behind the scenes with the film's climactic and effective motorcycle chase.
Man vs. Wolf (4:36): A look at how they pulled off the wolf fight using real wolves and fancy puppets.
Wolf Sequence Test (1:40): An animated storyboard sequence for the wolf fight.
A DVD and UltraViolet Digital Copy is also included.
THE BOURNE LEGACY is more of the same, which for most fans of the franchise, is good news. I wouldn't say no to another trilogy with Jeremy Renner.
Extra Tidbit: Daniel Craig visited his wife Rachel Weisz during production, meaning at one point Jason Bourne and James Bond were on the same set.