The Bourne Legacy’s expectation gap
I saw The Bourne Legacy, and I liked it. It’s not a perfect movie and it definitely has some issues (you can read my full review here) but it’s not bad, not by a long shot. And I certainly wasn’t disappointed by it, probably because I didn’t really have any expectations going in, beyond that it would be decent-to-good. Then the reviews started rolling out earlier this week and many of them were quite negative, and I was surprised. As I read these reviews, I found myself wondering what exactly the critics had been expecting.
Expectations are tricky when it comes to movies; you’re always balanced on the edge of wanting to hype something and yet not wanting to oversell it. But the marketing for Legacy was solid, and I thought they did a good job communicating that this was going in a new direction, more expansion, less extension. Legacy is essentially a pause in the action, a break to build up the world we’ve seen thus far. And somehow, this is a bad thing. When I first mentioned the negative tone of the reviews to Lainey, she compared it to The Amazing Spider-Man, wondering if the story’s angle wasn’t fresh enough to justify its existence.
Having seen Legacy, I really don’t think that’s it. Given the success of the Bourne name and the talent they attracted to this movie—the cast is loaded from top to bottom and the behind the camera talent is just as strong—I don’t see why you wouldn’t make this movie. And the end result is not bad at all, it’s just not very…Bourne. That is, to me, the problem here: the title. They’re trading on the Bourne name, but the movie is different enough in tone, intention and especially protagonist (Jeremy Renner’s Aaron Cross is basically a junkie on a murder spree) that the association is actually misleading.
With all the reboots/remakes/re-imaginings going on these days, I’m starting to think studios need some kind of Redux Control Panel to do quality control on projects like these (see also: the waste of space that is Total Recall) and assess audience demand, marketplace value and how to sell something old as new again without misleading the audience. Because The Bourne Legacy might have accidentally shot itself in the foot by relying too heavily on the very name it’s actually trying to get away from.
Attached - Jeremy Renner in Melbourne yesterday.