What’s in a name? A hell of a lot if you’re talking about the Bourne series.
Since the moment many of us found out the next Bourne would be without the incredible anchor of the series, Matt Damon, we’ve been sitting in silent protest. Nope. Not going to work. And this weekend’s The Bourne Legacy comes prepared for the holdouts and the stalwart Damon enthusiasts. A simple name-count reveals what appears to be a well-thought-out plan to slowly transition us to the Jeremy Renner era of the franchise. And the technique may be simple, but it’s incredibly effective, nonetheless.
For those who haven’t spent hours of their lives watching Joan Allen chase Jason Bourne in The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum, the first three films spend a hell of a lot of time repeating that golden ticket of a name – in fact, Bourne can be heard over 100 times in the first trilogy. That’s enough times to make the word lose all meaning. Well, almost.
The word “Bourne” still means a great deal to the studio, and that’s clear in the first half of Legacy. Up until the midway point, we’re treated to that signature name a whopping 16 times. While scenes of Renner’s Aaron Cross are interspersed with overwhelming mentions of the series’ namesake, we’re being prepped with the message that “This is still a Bourne movie, even without Matt Damon.” By the time Aaron Cross starts his own ass-kicking movie-long chase alongside his new lady friend (Rachel Wiesz), the Bourne mentions are waning and Renner’s “Aaron” begins making appearances in greater succession.
But it’s not a simple flip of the switch. As the Bournes decrease, the script employs a conspicuous name-blackout in which all mentions of Jason Bourne are billed as the Treadstone project and all mentions of Cross — including some rather conspicuous moments where a name is not only merited, but expected — simply consist of Renner’s character being motioned toward or referred to by his lab name: Outcome 5.
When the film finally decides it does want you to be hooked on the new renegade super spy, Cross’ first name, Aaron is thrown into the script rapid fire – a grand 14 times. And by the end, even moments that demand the name Jason Bourne simply refer to the franchise’s former hero as “the subject.” Suddenly, it’s all Aaron and no Bourne. We see what you’re doing, Legacy.
Step one: establish the connection to the source material. Step 2: prove that the franchise still has the action and fire we need. Step 3: establish Aaron Cross as the mascot of that signature shaky-cam action. Step 4: Remove Bourne as a character and leave behind only his all-important origin story. And just like that, we’ve got a whole new franchise.
Of course, as ingenious as this name-drop progression may be, it doesn’t guarantee that audiences will latch on to the new genetically enhanced chase-meister. That’s up to Renner, and no proliferation of his character’s name can alter what he manages to bring to the big screen.
Follow Kelsea on Twitter @KelseaStahler.
[Photo Credit: Universal Pictures]