The Bourne Legacy: I am Aaron Cross

There never was just one.

The Bourne Legacy is not a bad movie. It is, however, a movie without any meat.  It’s appetizer and soup without the main dish. And if it were in fact a main dish, it gives us only a single bite before the whole plate is taken unceremoniously away from the table. Yet the bite quenches our stomachs and we ponder, as the taste lingers, of how delicious it could have been if only we were given the whole plate to eat.

You see, it suffers from an abrupt ending. Just when I thought the story just started, the credits rolled in.

The movie introduces us to Aaron Cross. As the film opens, we see Cross in Alaskan training ground, diving into a river, being hunted by a pack of wolves and leaping over snowy rocky mountains. We learn that he is a member of Operation Outcome, a black ops program which involves modifying the human genome for incredible physical and mental ability. They do this by letting their operatives take little blue and green pills (‘chems’) every couple of hours. Operation Outcome, however, is threatened by the public exposure of the Blackbriar program by Jason Bourne. To address this, Outcome is closed down and everyone connected to it gets a death sentence. The fourth Bourne movie is essentially a man who needs his medicines (or his fix by viralling out) and tries to get it while being hunted down by his own agency.

At this point, it is important to take note what the guy is not: he is not Jason Bourne, he is not Jason Bourne without the amnesia, he is not Blackbriar and he is not Treadstone. The film takes pains to remind us of these from time to time. The story is a ramification which was set into motion by the actions of Jason Bourne. Aaron Cross is not Robert Ludlum’s rogue masterspy, but like his predecessor, he isn’t a superhero either. He gets hurt when someone hits him, he goes down when someone shoots him, and like every other human being in the planet, he doubles over when a virus is injected into his system. I don’t know how Ludlum would have reacted to the enhancers, but I do know that he has always intended his characters to be just human beings capable of feeling pain. While Aaron Cross may not be his creation, I feel like this aspect of him stayed true to Ludlum’s… ‘character vision’.

While the story itself is a bit uninspired, the film benefits from the performance of its two main leads. Jeremy Renner gives a magnetic performance as the enhanced ex-agent and embraces Aaron Cross as his own. The man can act, he’s likable in his role and he is indeed, Aaron Cross. Rachel Weisz holds her own strongly as Dr. Marta Shearing, a PhD geneticist. For the past few years the two of them has met thirteen times in the laboratory (he counted), he has flirted with her whilst on camera, and the movie isn’t shy at showing their attraction. Who knew Renner and Weisz has chemistry? They were actually… sweet.  In a film which sadly failed to exploit Edward Norton’s full potential as CIA hunter Eric Byer, both Renner and Weisz stands as its saving grace.

I’m not saying the movie is a disgrace to the Bourne franchise because it is not. But while it has its own story to tell and it tells it, it just doesn’t quite deliver. It may have been an uninspired story but it had potential. In food metaphor: it was a tasty bite, but as a meager one bite from a delicious dish would have it, it’s not enough. Imagine my shock when after that very long motorcycle chase the scene cuts to a boat, a meaningful look between Aaron and Marta and – poof! – the credits rolls in. It’s like yanking the dishes away from the table just after everything has been set and everyone has sat down. Maybe they could have trimmed down the chase scenes (they were unnecessarily long, and maybe badly edited because I didn’t get the whole picture) and spared us the genetic mutation crash course (the public doesn’t speak genetic science) to give more time for a decent conclusion.

Yes, I know there’s a sequel to this. The final scene doesn’t fail to promise us that. With six more books to go, the Bourne franchise is here to stay. While I may have not read Eric Van Lustbader’s  Bourne books (Legacy, Sanction, Deception, Objective, Dominion and Imperative) I very much hope the franchise doesn’t overextend its welcome. I love Jason Bourne, in fact Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity is my most favorite novel of all time. While the films didn’t quite turn out as how I initially thought they would be, I do hope that the quality of the remaining Bourne films would live up to the reputation of its original source material.

Perhaps in the next film Jason Bourne and Aaron Cross meet, team up and take down the CIA together a la Avengers: Master Spies Edition… An interesting concept. I don’t know how it would work, but the thought would be enough to make me watch it.

Cross is for Delta, and Delta is for Cross. (You wouldn’t understand this unless you’ve read The Bourne Trilogy.)

(P.S.: Did you know Jeremy Renner CAN sing? The man sure has an amazing voiceAnd is he gay??)

/ I’ve been running around trying to bring down the CIA /

/ They won’t leave me alone. I’m not Treadstone. Gotta get away /

/ You know I’m gonna shoot somebody / Someone like youuu. /

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Higashi no Eden (Eden of the East): the best conspiracy 10 billion yen can buy

Boy meets Girl.

Here is an anime whose plot is like a ripoff out of a Robert Ludlum novel: On November 22, 2010 ten missiles strike Japan. However, this unprecedented terrorist act, later to be called “Careless Monday,” does not result in any apparent victims, and is soon forgotten by almost everyone. Fast forward three months later, a guy wakes up in Washington D.C. with no memory. He is stark naked, he has a gun in his right hand and a phone on his left – a mobile phone charged with 8,200,000,000 yen in digital cash. Who is he, really?

Jason Bourne has an anime lovechild.

This is not your typical anime series.

Higashi no Eden opens with Saki Morimi on a graduation trip in the United States. She takes a detour and heads to Washington DC where she makes it a personal mission to throw a coin to the White House fountain. Problem is, the fountain is several feet away from her, there is a huge iron gate in between her and the fountain, and it is the White House. But she endearingly tries so we forgive the absurdity. This sentiment is however, lost on the two burly policemen who has spotted her. They approach her and in the midst of her panic she is saved by a nudist with a gun and a cool cellphone.

yes, this scene had me going “WTF!?”

i think all three of them had the same reaction too.

Grateful for having saved her, Saki lends the man whose only cover is a distracting white squiggly moving lines  her coat, he accepts it and leaves. It would have been her last meeting with him, but as belated realizations would have it, her wallet and passport are in her coat. Saki ends up chasing him who has, because of his cellphone, now found his apartment.

It is a charming opening scene. But when we later see the numerous passports the man has in his apartment, the number of weapons he has, his highly specialized cellphone that is connected to a computer who calls herself ‘Juiz’ (Portuguese word for ‘Judge’), his suspicious looking documents, how easily he blew an entire room by using a toaster, and how he can effortlessly dodge the police, the show is quick to remind us that this is a mystery thriller. And so when Saki finally catches up with him and asks him his name, he takes one of the names in his passports and says ‘Akira Takizawa’. And we wonder, who is Akira Takizawa?

Higashi no Eden boasts, among others, the best opening episode I have ever seen in an anime series. NihonReview said it best when they wrote: “When it’s done right, the mystery genre can produce some of the most absorbing and unique stories in anime. Eden of the East is a fine example of the mystery genre done right, and it’s utterly captivating from its first few minutes. ” Indeed, it proves to be a remarkable original, never once diminishing its quiet charm and charisma, its sweet innocence and subtle humor as the story progresses. We smile at the not-quite-friendship friendship between Akira and Saki, and we smile over the other supporting characters as well: Saki’s friends and family, Akira’s allies and even his enemies.

Production I.G., the studio that brought us anime series such as Ghost in the Shell, Blood+, and FLCL, has never failed to give us quality-driven shows. It continues to do so now. Feature it with Chika Umino’s (Honey and Clover) character designs and you’ve got an unlikely match made in heaven. Generally, the mystery thriller genre can never be perfectly mixed with the words ‘charisma’ and ‘sweet innocence’ but in Higashi no Eden it takes an exception and mixes them in a way that no one has successfully done before. Its character designs reminds us that these are well-meaning characters with a heart and Production I.G. was finally able to do what it had tried to do before: give us characters with such humanism it is impossible to not like or soften up to them. Its visuals is, in one word, disarming.

Higashi no Eden is one of the best anime series I’ve seen. As the story progresses, it strives to be more than just a mystery thriller that could be straight from a Ludlum novel. As it mirrors the daily realities of current events of our world we see that it struggles for political and social significance. It is one of the very few anime out there laden with movie references and parodies, most notable of which is when Akira imitates Taxi Driver‘s infamous line “You talkin’ to me?” and at one point, he even has a poster with the phrase “The World is Yours” (Scarface) printed on it. It is a smart anime.

Noel Gallagher. Oasis. Seeeeeeeeeeeeee.

… Aaannd its opening song is “Falling Down” by the Oasis. (I don’t know about you but that garners plus points for me.)

Later, we are introduced to the very core of the series’ plot: the 12 Selecao (Portuguese for ‘Selected’) (Akira is the 9th). Who are they? What is their connection with these missile attacks? Are they terrorists? If not, then why do they each have 10 billion yen in digital cash? Who is Juiz? Who is Mr. Outsider?

What is going on?

– A good question that sprouts more questions. It takes eleven episodes and two movies to answer each of them. But as NihonReview puts it: “My only major complaint can almost be seen as a good thing: with the hanging ending, comes confirmation that there’s still more to come.”

the cooool Selecao cellphone that answers with a “This is Juiz and I will be your conscierge.” And ends with a “Noblesse Oblige. Please continue being a messiah.” I want one.

akira takizawa and saki morimi

 

A line from Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar, “The abuse of greatness is when it disjoins remorse from power.” behind the icons of the 12 Selecao . In other words, there’s a connection.

.: I believe I once quickly ranted about Higashi no Eden and promised to do a review. well self, here it is.