TF Film Review: The Bourne Legacy (2012)

So the Bourne franchise continues without the main man himself and the big question is whether or not Jeremy Renner can fill Matt Damon’s shoes! The tagline for this film is ‘there was never just one’ which does sound good and all that whilst at the same time making me smirk in a ‘you really must be kidding’ type way.

 

This film is a completely new story and nothing to do with the Eric Van Lustbader book of the same name which I read a few years ago. Compared to the original trilogy I think this one starts quite slowly but once it got into its stride it was typical Bourne action with the Manila scenes being the most action-packed albeit similar to what we have seen by way of the rooftop and motorcycle chases which were a part of ‘The Bourne Ultimatum‘ Tangiers package.

Many of the cast from that last film are back if you believe the exciting trailers for the film but in reality its just a very clever edit and marketing ploy to get fans to return to the cinema as Pamela Landy (Joan Cusack), Noah Vossen (David Strathaim) and Dr Albert Hirsch (Albert Finney) roles are more of the cameo variety. The story is centred around Jeremy Renner’s character Aaron Cross and Dr Marta Shearing (played by Rachel Weisz) amid a plot which isn’t exactly easy to follow. The story pretty much begins as ‘Ultimatum’ ended which may sound difficult given how well that went full circle with Bourne starting and ending in the water as the story pretty much closed.

The Bourne Legacy‘ deals with the fall out after Bourne’s exposure of ‘Operation Blackbriar’ and the Department of Defence is trying to cover up their black-ops ‘Outcome’ program which is an offshoot of both ‘Treadstone’ and ‘Blackbriar’. However, it is a bit different as they are using science to provide their agents with green pills to enhance physical abilities and blue pills to enhance mental abilities and for some reason which I forget this is how the two main stars meet up in this film.

It’s pretty sad to go to the cinema pretty much on arrival in a different country but that is what I did today when I saw this somewhere on 42nd Street here in New York which by chance is also where some of the film was set. I will have to see if I can track some of them down! Other locations used include Calgary in Canada, Seoul in South Korea and Manila and El Nido in the Philippines with the latter being music to my ears as I’ve already been there and got the necessary shots!

As a stand-alone trilogy I don’t think the one’s actually featuring Jason Bourne can be beaten and whilst Renner and Weisz do put in very good performances their characters are lacking the interest and complexity of the main man. They’re also fighting against a pretty desperate script and this sequel (extension?) of the Bourne series is quite ok as a stand-alone thriller if you’ve not seen the previous three but as no-one at all is likely to be in that category of viewers it doesn’t add anything much and really has no reason to exist.

Tokyo Fox Rating 7/10

TF Film Review: The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

Whilst I have been excited about this release for a long time now I never quite realised how hotly anticipated this third and final part in the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy was. Sadly the opening weekend release in the United States was one of terrible tragedy with regards to the Colorado cinema shooting where 12 people were killed and 58 were injured.

  

Here in Japan we only had to wait another week for it to come out and though I couldn’t see it on the opening day I was there the following day to see if it could possibly live up to its hype. Having sat through all the Batman films in the last month (not just the last two!) I was never really expecting it to be better than ‘The Dark Knight‘ (2008) or my personal favourite ‘Batman Begins‘ (2005). I managed to avoid all trailers, previews, reviews and news stories relating to it as I wanted the end of the trilogy to be a complete surprise.

The Dark Knight Rises‘ is set eight years after the events of its predecessor with Batman no more, Wayne Enterprises crumbling and Bruce Wayne having not moved on to anything else in life. Whilst he is moping around Commissioner Gordon is also feeling guilty about ‘hero’ Harvey Dent’s crimes being kept under wraps and wants to set the record straight but decided his speech is not quite ready to be relayed to the Gotham public. Naturally it falls into the hands of the main villain Bane who I can’t say I took to in any way and it really is difficult to hear his dialogue through the mask. Obviously Bain is a far more physical antagonist compared to The Joker but is rather single dimensional and lacking the charisma him and Ra’s al Ghul (who does appear in this film too) had in the last two films.

  

You really do need to have seen the previous two films I think but then again why would you be watching this one if you hadn’t! There are lots of little flashbacks and dream sequences with a slight nod to ‘Inception‘ I guess and ultimately one particular dream has a massive bearing on what we see at the end…..or does it?! If I can be so vague without giving away any spoilers that is open to ones own interpretation.

It takes a while to see Bruce Wayne actually back in the Bat suit having been persuaded to come out of retirement by Gordon and Officer Blake. That does open up the chance for Christian Bale to put in more of an acting performance than is needed when he’s just wearing the suit. Michael Caine puts in a fine supporting role as you’d expect from an actor of his fine reputation and the emotional content of the film is driven by the stories involving his character Alfred. All the other characters – Tate, Blake, Selina and so on – are efficient enough but nothing exceptional as, for me, they are there just to help move the story on and so there is not so much in the way of background or expansion of their characters.

If I’m to be perhaps overcritical there are a few things which suspend belief such as 3000 cops being buried underground for three months and then getting out clean, healthy and basically ready to fight a mass of fully armed baddies by just charging them down.

At a very lengthy 165 minutes I felt it did lag a bit in the middle third due in part to my tiredness and the fact that about three stories were going on at once and I wasn’t quite sure what exactly was happening but unlike some viewers I’ve never been too worried about such a thing. The final part of the film is great albeit a bit over the top but more than satisfactory with all the ends more-or-less tied up but leaving it slightly open for another director to take over the reins sometime in the future. In fact, by that stage I could have actually watched a bit more of this movie.

  

Tokyo Fox Rating 8/10

TF Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man (2012)

I’ve been complaining for years about Japan always being last to see films released but every so often the tables are turned. I’ll be honest and admit that I probably wouldn’t have gone to see this if it hadn’t been for the fact that it was to have its worldwide Premiere in Tokyo followed by limited advance screenings a week ahead of its national release and two weeks before the UK and the USA.

When it was announced that the aptly named Marc Webb was making a new Spider-Man movie my initial reaction was inevitably that of “why?” given that there had already been three Spider-Man films in the last 10 years. However, as time moved on this seemed to be less of a problem and I was really looking forward to my evening out in Shinjuku with friends Andrew, Rina and Yuka. I even worked my way through the Tobey Maguire Spider-Man trilogy from the last decade in the days before as part of my preparation for this viewing and enjoyed the simplicity of them.

Andrew Garfield is the youthful looking (he’s a 28 year old playing a 17 year old high school kid!) American-born British actor portraying the latest Spider-Man incarnation and he does a fine job in the role though I do think his Peter Parker is a bit too cool at times with all the skateboarding tricks and just his overall style. At 24 the very cute Emma Stone is also playing a girl way younger than reality but can just about get away with it.

 

Spider-Man is the only teenage superhero out there (is that really such a claim?!) and doesn’t really hide his alter-ego at all from his acquaintances in this film. His adversary Dr Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans), later ‘The Lizard’ is an intrigueing character to begin with which may just be down to him only having one arm but yet again in a Spider-Man movie I really wasn’t too keen on how such a villain came about.

This was actually the 1st time for me to see a movie in the 3D format and as I expected I wasn’t that fussed about it. Sure there were some great effects but the glasses are not comfortable for me to wear and gave me a bit of a headache. When a film is 136 minutes in length I need all the help I can get in being comfortable, and though the seats were the best in the house, the special glasses didn’t aid my comfort.

Don’t get me wrong for I have probably come across as quite critical here but I did really enjoy this slightly darker, grittier re-boot which is also quite light and frothy in places. Its a good action film and will keep you entertained but I really don’t think this re-telling  adds too much to the original trilogy as we know about his dead father, the spider bite, being bullied and the consequences that lead to his uncle being shot.

Tokyo Fox Rating 7/10