Monday Morning Critic – Guy Pearce & Lockout – Matt Damon, Jeremy Renner and Rebooting a Franchise In The Bourne Legacy (Spoilers)

Every Monday morning, InsidePulse Movies Czar Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings an irreverent and oftentimes hilarious look at pop culture, politics, sports and whatever else comes to mind. And sometimes he writes about movies.

There are plenty of films coming out this weekend but the big one, the one I have the most thoughts about, is The Bourne Legacy. How come? Because it’s a reboot/re-launch of a successful franchise that seemed to conclude and with everyone back except the principle actor and director. That Universal is continuing forward and such but without the two people that took a great but underperforming spy thriller and crafted two sequels that propelled it into a massive blockbuster franchise tells us something.

When they announced a fourth film in the franchise I was genuinely surprised but I wasn’t all that shocked when Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass declined to come back as the starring character and director respectively. You have to figure that in the new Hollywood, where stars on both sides of the camera aren’t getting the paychecks and percentage of the box office gross they used to, that ultimately Damon/Greengrass would price themselves out of the franchise to give them a reason to walk away with their heads up. When you end things like they did it takes an awful lot of money to change their mind; Arnold Schwarzegger asked for and received $30 million back for a third Terminator film when T2: Judgment Day gave us all we needed for that franchise.

It’s easy to ask for the moon and stars to come back when you really don’t want to; but actors are human and Ted DiBiase was right years ago in that “every man has his price.” And one imagines the cost of meeting this new price for Damon/Greengrass was less than what they wanted to pay and thus “new directions” were taken. And it’s not like you can blame Damon for passing on the film.

The Bourne Ultimatum gave us all we needed to know and feel about Jason Bourne in a fluffy pink bow. Bourne knew who he was, bad guys who were doing bad things were brought to justice and he was presumed dead to the world. Life was open for him as he was able to walk away and into the sunset, perhaps. There was no new world to conquer for Jason Bourne; he could settle down and not have to look over his shoulder as he presumably forged a new identity.

Much like in the novels, that featured Bourne taking on a new identity of David Webb (a professor) but coming out of the shadows on regular intervals as his previous identity to battle evil-doers and such, one imagines that the cinematic Bourne crafted a new identity from the ashes of his old one. And it’s easy to see why a sequel would be appealing; it’s easy to write a film involving a character with a happy ending and give him a new focus as he comes back out of the shadows and such. It’s essentially a more dramatic version of Commando but it’d be bankable and sort of follow the novel series by Eric Van Lustbader (at least in spirit).

Bourne would go from intriguing character to paycheck film for Matt Damon, it seems, and I can see why he would be content to leave things like they were in The Bourne Ultimatum. And Greengrass probably has other things he wants to do and directing a new actor in the same type of part probably didn’t appeal to him, either, so it’s easy to see why he walked away. One imagines Universal handing the reins of the franchise over to Tony Gilroy would be the thing to do as well; he wrote the first three films and would understand the tone of the franchise better than anyone else.

It’s a chance for a fresh start for all involved as they can bring back in just enough of the cast from the prior three films to make a nice bridge to a new franchise. So now we get a new special agent in Jeremy Renner as Aaron Cross, who’s apparently also been experimented upon as the film takes on some quasi-science fiction elements to it. Apparently now he’s on the run with a scientist as Ed Norton wants to kill everyone in the new black ops program that replaced Treadstone & Blackbrier from the first trilogy. Pictures of Jason Bourne are bound to populate this film, if only to provide another storyline bridge to the prior trilogy, but one thing remains. Is it going to be good?

The one thing about rebooting a franchise like this, one that been remarkably successful and didn’t suffer a bad or underwhelming third film like some franchises have, is that it didn’t warrant or demand a fourth film for story-telling purposes. We got that final closure in the third film and a fourth feels like a pure money grab at this point. It’d be like making Rocky 7 but without Sylvester Stallone in any capacity; yeah you could probably make it work if it’s like Rocky Balboa’s cousin trying to win the boxing championship of Philly or Boston or something but it isn’t warranted.

It’s a big risk, I think, because you have an entire world that you have to deal with in terms of storylines and such that has already been developed. You can’t pull an Alien 3 and just kill everyone off with your original star back; without Damon you need Joan Allen, etc, to make that connection to the old. Yeah you can bring in Rachel Weisz and Norton, et al, but you can’t eliminate everyone who was still alive at the end of Ultimatum if you don’t have Damon onboard. He was the key to the first three films, which had new villains and flunkies each time out, and if you eliminate everyone in one fell swoop it’s just not a Bourne film if it doesn’t involve Jason Bourne.

That’s where having Renner as a new character fascinates me in an odd way; how does he interact in this new world and is it welcome to see someone new in the Bourne role? I don’t know. But I’m curious to find out.

A Movie A Week – The Challenge

This Week’s DVD – Lockout

If there ever was a film that was a great riff on the Luc Besson style of action film-making, while also being a Luc Besson produced film, it would be Lockout.

It has a straight forward premise. The President’s daughter (Maggie Grace) has been stranded onboard MS-One, a space prison designed to house the worst of the worst, during a riot in which the prisoners have taken over. So they do what any sane, rational government does: send in one man to get her out. He’s Snow (Guy Pearce), a former CIA operative apparently, and he’s a “loose cannon who plays by his own rules” and such. Sent in as part of a deal for him to avoid jail time, Snow boards the space station and has to find the girl and get her off the station before he’s caught by a bunch of psychotic prisoners who’ve taken over.

Usually this is where things get all harsh and serious, or goofy and charming, because those are the only two modes Luc Besson knows as a producer/writer/director. And this one is a semi-serious tone that just gives Guy Pearce Cart Blanche to fire off as many one liners as he can. And it starts with the opening scene.

How can you not love a guy who taunts the guy beating him up AND the guy asking him questions during an interrogation? Easily, that’s how.

I enjoyed it in theatres and despite its flaws, which are many, it is a quick and fairly fun waste of time.

Slightly recommended.

What Looks Good This Weekend, and I Don’t Mean the $2 Pints of Bass Ale and community college co-eds with low standards at the Alumni Club

The Bourne Legacy – Jeremy Renner is the new Bourne but not Jason Bourne.

See It – Gilroy has some talent to him and I’m curious to see what he can do in this world.

The Campaign – Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis run for political office in the South. Shenanigans ensue.

Skip It – Anytime Hollywood actors make a film about politics it winds up being one thing: celebrities going out of their way to try and tell us something about the “current state” of American politicos.

Hope Springs – Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep are having marriage problems. Steve Carell, marriage counselor, to the rescue!

See it – Its total counter-programming for the week but it has a really good cast to it that it could be an interesting film.

Nitro Circus: The Movie (3D) – Travis Pastrana and a bunch of guys do stunts … but in 3D!!

Skip It – It’s kind of like Jackass, I think, but without the pranks. Just crazy ass stunts.

Scott “Kubryk” Sawitz brings his trademarked irreverence and offensive hilarity to Twitter in 140 characters or less. Follow him @ScottSawitz .

Tags: , , , , ,