“The Bourne Legacy” (2012) Mini-Review/August Updates

I’ll start with a brief, super-belated review of The Bourne Legacy. It’s well-made and mostly enjoyable. The action is well done and the disorienting shaky-cam that plagues the other moves is toned down much to my satisfaction. Jeremy Renner does a decent job as Aaron Cross, a Jason Bourne-like member of a similar program to Treadstone, called “Outcome”. Cross is quick on his feet and charming to an almost sociopathic degree, which is more what I would expect a member of such programs to behave, but he lacks the wonderment and moral conscience that makes Jason Bourne human, and therefore relatable. It’s easier to project ourselves onto Cross’ female companion Dr. Marta Shearing (Rachel Weisz). She’s involved in the Outcome program, but largely oblivious to what it is, and simply gets caught in the crossfire along with Cross (OH–his name suddenly makes sense) when the government decides to shut down Outcome after Bourne exposes Treadstone in the previous film. The whole “wrong place/wrong time” element works well for a movie character because we’ve all been there in reality and can potentially make us really care about what’s happening on screen. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to truly care about Shearing as she’s played off merely as a damsel in distress, which is a jarring juxtaposition to the strong, latent heroes the female characters of the Bourne films have become famous for.

The biggest issue with The Bourne Legacy is that it’s largely unnecessary. It doesn’t so much move the series forward as it does sideways. The story focuses on how completely different characters operating a completely different program belonging to a completely different government organization react to the events of The Bourne Ultimatum. Occasionally, we see glimpses of what becomes of certain characters from the other films, but all in all, The Bourne Legacy begs the question “so what?” It’s like making a sequel to Top Gun and having it be about the family of one of the enemy pilots shot down at the end of the first movie. There’s also the noticeable absence of the elements of discovery and thirsting for answers that drive the first three Bourne films. Each previous Bourne movie peels off yet another layer of Treadstone and Jason Bourne comes closer to discovering who he truly is, but in this film, everyone already pretty much knows where they stand and there are no more secrets to uncover. While being on the run from an organization who considers you merely being alive as a liability is a really interesting premise, it isn’t explored deeply enough in this film to serve any real purpose. Cross and later Shearing know exactly why they’re being hunted and never end up uncovering crucial information that reveals some dark, incriminating secret about Outcome like you would expect. This forces their motivations to simply be self-preservation, which is enough to sustain a film per se, but not an interesting or engaging film by any means. The whole thing plays out like a clunkier version of The Terminator where Shearing is a more helpless Sarah Connor and Cross is Kyle Reese if he were mostly void of humanity.

Also, nobody is being chased by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

I give The Bourne Legacy 3/5.

Okay, now onto some updates. It’s that time of year again where I collect my books and go back to school. Or steal my daddy’s cue and make a living out of playing pool … wait, where was I going with this? As the lecture halls and library beckon, that means there will be a few changes to Frepow Films in the coming months. I’ll still be releasing reviews on Wednesday, but they’ll be shorter and more compact like the one you see above. I’ll also be doing reviews every other Wednesday instead of once a week. If I find I can handle the workload, I’ll move it back to every Wednesday. In the meantime, please keep an eye on the blog for updates. As the year goes on, who knows where things will go and I’m more than open to experimenting with new content and even bringing on guest writers or another blogger to do a bi-weekly column or help out with reviews. It will be an interesting year.

I’ve also recently made @FrepowFilms my sole Twitter handle and will be updating it much more frequently now, so follow me if you want to stay in the loop!

That’s all for now and I’ll be returning around the beginning of September with my review of The Expendables 2!

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“Men in Black III” (2012) Review

Films such as Men in Black III are rare these days. With Hollywood out remaking … I mean, reBOOTing every franchise of the last 50 years, when a film series like Men in Black stays quiet for over a decade, one can only assume Columbia couldn’t possibly work with the franchise in its current form any longer and we can all expect a reboot in 2014 starring Liam Neeson and Donald Glover.

Which would be awesome … so long as no one tells Michael Bay about it

But MIB III is the result of one of those uncommon instances where the conditions for a sequel were perfect. Will Smith’s been absent from the big screen for nearly four years. Tommy Lee Jones is suddenly relevant again after appearing in Captain America. Doctor Who is currently one of the biggest sci-fi shows on the planet, so aliens and time travel are hot topics. Punch that into the machine and POOF! we get MIB III – Smith and Jones reunite in another alien-fighting adventure … now with time travel!

Granted, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to ever ride on Doctor Who’s coattails.

The Men in Black movies have always been fun, exciting popcorn flicks and the third installment in the series is no different. Barry Sonnenfeld returns to direct and delivers the expected dose of action and comedy. As a sequel, MIB III is not necessary. There are no burning questions that the first two films left unanswered and it’s no dramatic conclusion to the MIB trilogy. It’s just there to entertain. Nothing more, nothing less.

The most serious the acting gets is when Will Smith
busts out the latest version of his “Aw, hell naw!” face.

While MIB III is certainly enjoyable, is it any good? Well … kind of. Jones and Smith once again give great performances as Agents K and J respectively and the dynamic between the two of them continues to be where these movies shine in comedic terms. Emma Thompson is believable stepping into the role of O, the new head of MIB. The gallery of aliens is as colourful as ever with several fan favourites returning as well as introduction of some interesting newcomers. The movie is also loaded with cameos from stars such as Will Arnett, that girl from the Pussycat Dolls, and Bill Hader with a hilariously ironic portrayal of Andy Warhol.

It’s Josh Brolin as young K who steals the show, however. Brolin does an impeccable Tommy Lee Jones impression and he truly disappears into the role. Even though Jones’ screentime is comparatively short, Brolin ensures you still feel K’s presence strongly throughout the film, even down to his witty arguments with J. Excellent casting, excellent performance.

Gold star for you!

Of course, MIB III is not without its flaws. The problem with the mindless fun of popcorn flicks is if you even think for a second about what you’re watching, you’ll realize it makes absolutely no sense. The truth is, MIB III is not a very well-written film. The premise itself is nothing beyond comprehension – J has to travel back to 1969 to stop a time-traveling alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) from killing a younger K and dooming planet Earth. But the time travel angle is where it all falls apart, leaving the otherwise basic story full of major plot holes and glaring inconsistencies.

Naturally, this raised a few questions for me…

If characters travel back in time, can they meet past versions of themselves or do they just take control of their bodies at that point in history? If K recruited J to MIB in the first movie, how is J still a member in the alternate timeline where K is dead? Is J’s trip to 1969 a temporal loop that was always in place? Minor spoiler: J’s plan in 1969 is to convince young K to kill the 1960s version of Boris to stop 2012 Boris from going back in time and killing K in the first place. But in doing so, future Boris wouldn’t be alive to go back in time meaning J wouldn’t have to go back in time either, so there would be no one there to tell young K to kill young Boris, which would make him both dead and not dead at the same time. Wouldn’t that make the whole thing a massive time paradox?

I get it, time travel isn’t real, so you can basically do whatever you like with it in fiction. But you have to establish rules and you have to be consistent with them. MIB III does neither. And this isn’t me overanalyzing things – the writing just feels lazy. The movie treats time travel as this smörgåsbord of convenient plot devices that are haphazardly employed to move the story along even if it means contradicting what the audience already knows. And the inevitable confusion that results is dismissed by the careless argument “because it’s time travel, dammit!”

I also didn’t care much for the villain Boris the Animal. He’s an interesting enough character on paper. He’s the last of a hostile alien race called the Boglodites, which are basically the MIB universe’s answer to Daleks (just in case you still weren’t convinced this movie is cashing in on Doctor Who’s popularity), and has a lot of cool powers, but he’s pretty weak in the long run. I love Flight of the Conchords and I love Jemaine, but this film isn’t his finest performance. Unfortunately, he chews the scenery throughout the entire film, which gets very annoying very quickly. He can’t take all the blame, however, for Boris isn’t a very well-written character. He’s shallow and over-the-top, his motivations are often unclear, and he’s slapped with this stupid gimmick where he freaks out every time someone calls him an animal. Who is this guy – John Merrick? Is “animal” some kind of racial slur on … Bogloditeland or whatever? What’s also very frustrating about Boris is that you never know how he figures things out. Even with J going back to the 60s and influencing the course of events, Boris always seems to be one step ahead of the protagonists, consistently arriving at the right place at the right time, and we have no idea why or how. Again, this isn’t Jemaine’s fault, but is once again chalked down to problems with the script.

Meanwhile, Bret McKenzie was winning Oscars.

Men in Black III is fun. The actors deliver solid performances for the most part and there are plenty of laughs, action, and special effects to be enjoyed. It’s everything you’d expect from a Men in Black film. But it’s a popcorn flick in its purest form. It’s riddled with continuity errors, gaping plot holes, and convenient devices that will drive you mad if you can’t turn off your brain. An overall decent movie that partially salvaged an overall flawed script.

And love it or hate it, I guarantee that god-awful Pitbull song will have you running from the theatre the second the credits roll.

I give it 3/5.