Critics prefer Matt Damon's Jason Bourne to Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross
Bring back Jason Bourne.
That's the take-away from America's critics, most of whom argue that "The Bourne Legacy" suffers from the lack of Matt Damon's amnesiac super-spy.
The spinoff premiered Friday with Jeremy Renner playing Aaron Cross, another genetically enhanced operative for the same shadowy government program.
Rachel Weisz co-stars as the scientist on the run with Cross from assorted bureaucratic baddies and Tony Gilroy, who wrote the original Bourne films, directs this latest installment.
Reviewers complained that the new film was nothing more than a tired rehash of its paranoiac predecessors.
In particular, TheWrap's Alonso Duralde said "The Bourne Legacy" suffered from "franchise fatigue" and had too many scenes of cumbersome exposition.
"If nothing else, 'The Bourne Legacy' is an object lesson about what the phrase 'cut to the chase' means," Duralde writes.
"The ultimate legacy of 'The Bourne Legacy' is that a lot of very talented actors (including Donna Murphy, Corey Stoll, Stacy Keach and Zeljko Ivanek) will now be able to afford to do Ibsen in the Park next summer, thanks to the fat Hollywood check they picked up for a movie that asks little of them but to point at screens and bark out some version of 'arglebargle-science-jargon-bring-him-in!,'" he added.
Also left cold by the frenetic action unfolding on screen was Time Magazine's Richard Corliss, who said the new film was more about trying to wring the franchise for more profits than it was an attempt to explore fresh narrative angles.
Corliss also faulted Renner, complaining that the actor was ill-suited to the big-budget action roles he has favored of late.
"Renner’s anonymity worked splendidly in The Hurt Locker," Corliss writes. "Since then, in standard-issue action fare like The Avengers and the fourth Mission: Impossible, he has looked uncomfortable, trying to Act when the other performers, more used to the camera’s rapt gaze, know how to simulate having a good time. Now, a star without star quality, Renner plays it a little too nice as the junked-up renegade spy."
Adding his voice to the collection of naysayers was Roger Ebert. The Chicago Sun-Times' critical kingpin said that the film adds up to a series of incoherent chase sequences that left him checking his watch.
"I freely confess that for at least the first 30 minutes I had no clear idea of why anything was happening," Ebert writes. "The dialogue is concise, the cinematography is arresting and the plot is a murky muddle."
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy was more balanced in his appraisal of "The Bourne Legacy." Though he ultimately found it to be unfulfilling, he maintained that it had its virtues.
"With Jeremy Renner stepping in to play another covert operative and franchise screenwriter Tony Gilroy taking over the directorial reins from Paul Greengrass, the same tone and look are maintained, but the visceral excitement is muffled by familiarity, an insufficiently conceived lead character and the sheer weight of backstory and multiple layers of deception," McCarthy writes.
Far more appreciative of the cacophonous action sequences and herky-jerky plot was The New York Times' Manohla Dargis, who praised the chase scenes and labeled the reboot a "solid salvage mission."
"Yet Mr. Gilroy, perhaps impatient to establish his own Bourne legacy, doesn’t work off the franchise’s foundation for long, instead veering off to juggle his many new faces and places," Dargis writes. "By the time Rachel Weisz, as a scientist called Dr. Marta Shearing, showed up in a lab coat, I stopped trying to parse every plot twist and just went with the action flow."