Does "The Bourne Legacy" Match Up to its Predecessors?

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The fourth film in the spy thriller series based on the Jason Bourne novels created by Robert Ludlum and Eric Van Lustbader, The Bourne Legacy is the first film to feature someone other than Matt Damon in its leading role. The story resumes after the conclusion of The Bourne Ultimatum, with a new cast of characters struggling to deal with the aftermath left by Jason Bourne. Jeremy Renner stars as the main character, Aaron Cross/Kenneth Gidson, an agent of Operation Outcome, while Edward Norton, Joan Allen & Rachel Weisz fill in the supporting roles.

Photo Credit: Universal Pictures
August 21st, 2012

Does "The Bourne Legacy" Match Up to its Predecessors?

-- When rumors surrounding a sequel to the Bourne trilogy first began fans were on the edge of their seats. The first three films easily made back the production budgets, and all three movies were hits with fans and critics alike. Those movies followed Jason Bourne (Matt Damon, "Good Will Hunting"), a man with no memory of his life as a government assassin. Many fans experienced a letdown when Damon announced that he had no plans to do another sequel. Damon claimed in multiple interviews that he viewed the first three movies as a strong trilogy and saw no reason to continue the franchise.

While many rumors circulated about the next star of the series, few people thought the movie would land in the lap of Jeremy Renner. Renner has a long history as an actor, struggling early in his career when he appeared in straight-to-video releases like "Dahmer." He gained more attention with roles in movies like "The Hurt Locker," which won an Academy Award for its director and a second for Best Picture. Renner himself earned an Oscar nomination in 2010 for his work in "The Town."

When Renner earned his role in "The Bourne Legacy," some fans were disappointed because he typically starred in grittier dramas and independent films. In the months leading up to the release of the film, he showed filmgoers a different side with roles in action blockbusters like "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol" and "The Avengers." Those roles likely helped increase the box office take for "The Bourne Legacy."

The last film in the franchise was "The Bourne Ultimatum." Filmed on a budget of $110 million, the movie grossed more than $69 million in its opening weekend. The film was released on August 5, 2007 on more than 3,660 screens. The movie also grossed millions in markets like the United Kingdom, Brazil, Estonia, the Philippines, and Russia.

Word of mouth and strong reviews only added to the movie's success. Within one week of its release, it hit the $100 million mark. By the end of August, it had made more than $185 million at the box office, and the film just kept going. The film climbed over the $200 million mark, finally earning just over $227 million at the box office. The movie played in theaters from August 5, 2007 to November 24 of that same year. It became one of the biggest films of the year and landed on several prominent "best of" lists for the year.

By contrast, the first movie, "The Bourne Identity," earned just over $27 million in its opening weekend back in 2002. "The Bourne Identity" went on to earn more than $121 million in the United States alone and over $92 million in other markets. "The Bourne Supremacy" was the top performer of the original trilogy. The film played on more than 3,100 screens in 2004 and brought in more than $52 million in that first weekend. The film earned more than $176 million in the United States and earned around $100 million in foreign markets.

With such high box office receipts from the previous films, it's not surprising that Universal Pictures wanted to capitalize with another film in the series. Universal launched a marketing campaign that let viewers know the story was over, and that Jason Bourne was just one part of the story. Many of the trailers focused on the characters who returned from the last film, which let viewers feel like they already knew much of the story.

The advertising campaign worked: "The Bourne Legacy" made $38.7 million in its opening weekend. Universal Studios expected receipts totaling around $35 million, and the company admitted that it was surprised at the success of the film. When it opened it foreign markets, the movie brought it $46.6 million in its opening weekend.

According to some reports, more people purchased tickets for this movie than the first movie in the series. Universal Studios estimates that 400,000 more moviegoers turned out for "The Bourne Legacy." The success of the film shouldn't be a surprise, but some assumed that fans of the franchise would not accept Renner as the star.

While some might claim that the newest film actually earned less than any of the other movies did, it's worth noting that theater attendance is down all across the country. Even movies featuring strong leads like Tom Cruise or Shia LaBeouf see fewer viewers than those films did in the past. "The Bourne Legacy" proves that audiences will come to the theater for movies featuring a strong plot, great action scenes, and stellar acting. As the box office receipts keep climbing, even Matt Damon might start second-guessing his decision to bow out of the franchise.