As Hollywood legend has it, Die Hard with a Vengeance wasn't even originally written as a Die Hard sequel. And when you watch them in sequence, the slight inconsistency in that threequel makes it seem true. The Bourne Legacy feels the same way--you can almost hear Big Bird singing "One of these things is not like the other" while you watch it. You go to Bourne movies to see Matt Damon running from the CIA, throwing blurry punches, jumping into bodies of water, and making spy-eyes at certain ladies (which are like bedroom eyes, if the bedroom had a boxing ring in it instead of a bed). Legacy you go to because…well, you want to see if Jeremy Renner can fill Damon's shoes. Ultimately, he doesn't get a chance to, because he is too busy chasing down pharmaceuticals to really thwart the CIA Damon-style.
The billboards that say "There was never just one" are not referring to Lays potato chips like I thought. They're talking about Jason Bourne and how he wasn't the only specially trained operative in all the Treadstone/Blackbriar madness that occurred in the previous films. Aaron Cross (Jeremy Renner) is another one of these guys, running around the woods, staring ominously at his dog tag filled with pills and threatening wolves with torches. When he was by himself and the movie felt like The Grey Part 2: Greyer, it was pretty excellent. But then he had to go talk to people and hear that the CIA is shutting down the program that supplies him with his "super smart and strong" pills, and that they don't want any loose ends. They come after him. But he has his pills. And then he runs out. So he drags a scientist (Rachel Weiss) along with him to help him find his fix. Didn't we see this already in Requiem for a Dream? But Ellen Burstyn does spiritual roundhouse kicks and does not go to the Philippines.
Director Tony Gilroy, who wrote the other Bourne films, makes huge strides to reference the other films to remind you that the CIA is always up to some shenanigans. But we already know that. The only new information is all this pill-popping the operatives do. In the middle of all this vaguely-new-but-mostly-familiar stuff, there are some great scenes. Poor Rachel Weisz is involved in the most intense scene in the film that kept me from breathing for about 10 straight minutes. Her panic in the moment and in the aftermath is grade-A acting. She and Renner, like the movie itself, are fine, but don't create anything memorable (and Renner doesn't do anything to endear me to him like Damon did in the first movie). At least there's a motorcycle chase and the ubiquitous "parkour on the roof" sequence is interesting enough.
The paltry amount of action thrown in to camouflage this mostly perplexing movie wasn't enough to shake the feeling that Weisz and Renner running around for two hours wasn't really accomplishing anything except making an extremely yell-y CIA bigwig Edward Norton yell-ier. And because no one wants this to be a "So Bad It's Good" film, they couldn't even fully explore the fact that if Aaron Cross goes long enough without pills, he is going to get dumber (not even one "Duh" was heard during the film, much to my chagrin). No one got exposed and the heat between the two fugitives was really subtle. They eventually achieve their goal, but the whole movie seemed more about setting up another film where something actually happens. I am growing weary of this in Hollywood films. Living in America has taught me that I deserve instant gratification, and waiting years for a movie that just barely gives me my fix makes me feel like Jeremy Renner did as he stared at that almost-empty dog tag pillbox around his neck. Maybe there are some wolves nearby I can go menace.