Oh, come on, let's face it ... and I will confess: the biggest reason I couldn't let the weekend pass without catching The Bourne Legacy was not because I am die hard fan of Robert Ludlum. I am not even going to say that my excitement for the Jason Bourne series in the movies could match my obsession for anything with Batman.
It was because an important portion of the movie was shot right here in Manila.
And it was also because some of my friends ... people who I have worked with ... actually appeared in the movie. Ang saya-saya, di ba?
OK. So I am not going to write this mind-boggling movie like I am going to sound so film literate.
There is no way that I am going to compare and contrast the mind of Tony Gilroy with that of Christopher Nolan. Nor will I try to deconstruct the angst of Jason Bourne and his successor, Aaron Cross --- and how they represent post-modernist man in search of his identity. I tried doing that with Batman in Nolan's trilogy, trying to squeeze every philosophical juice I can extract with Bruce Wayne's endless questionings of "Who am I?","What is good? What is evil?" or "How do I overcome my fears by being fear itself?" Until the closing credits of The Dark Knight Rises, I found myself in bewilderment: "You mean ... this young cop is going to be Robin?" But enough of that.
The Bourne Legacy did not carry the weight of such angst. It was about a lot of ice ... then even a lot more perspiration.
It was a movie about universal spies pumped up with genetic engineering --- much like Captain America or GI Joe sans superpowers. In this case, the superspy is all woozy and confused. He is also trying to kick some drug addiction that was inflicted upon him by some high-end ultra secret clinic in cahoots with the US Government. This is also where a gorgeous Ph.D. in Microbiology played by Rachel Weisz works with utmost seriousness and dedication. Weisz, a terrific actress, adds that much needed charm and beauty to the dull world of science where everybody looks staid, unusually intellectual and post-menopausal. Except Rachel, of course, who was exceptionally beautiful and intelligent: her character, Dr. Marta Shearing, could rattle off terms like endoplasmic reticulum and make it sound like an ingredient for instant brownies.
Oh, but what the heck!!! This is a movie that is meant to be enjoyed and savored ... like a tub of popcorn with a lot of salt and melted butter on top. I am not going to go into this with pretenses of being tight-assed critic. Pass me my tall glass of Coke.
If I wanted a meaningful human experience which I can discuss over cups of chamomile tea and cannabis, then I would have spent the evening watching DVDs of Kurosawa's Throne of Blood or Pasolini's Teorema or Salo. Even Joey Gosiengfiao's original Temptation Island or Elwood Perez' Waikiki. Sige na, even Pribeyt Benjamin. I would not have gone to the mall, spent P220.00 to watch Jeremy Renner, right? And this isn't even The Hurt Locker.
But wait ... there is nothing sinful about a Friday night watching the LMF. Nor does this immense pleasure mean that my taste is pedestrian. It is just that I enjoy greasy doughnuts as much as I appreciate buttery tasting Kobe beef.
Was the movie great? Will critics all over the world do cartwheels celebrating this cinematic excursion?
Well, let me put it this way: it isn't The French Connection or even Bullitt.
The movie tended to be disjointed with parallel actions taking place all over and ... well ... it showed enough of the third rock from the sun to cover everything from the wolf-infested mountains of Alaska ... to the idyllic seas around Palawan. Throw in Korea, Pakistan ... and, uh, Maryland. The movie was just ... all over the place. Literally.
Still following the narrative thread of Ludlum's Bourne series, this installment did not have the same nerve-wrecking pace of the previous movies of the franchise.
Maybe because we are not dealing with Jason Bourne here --- since Matt Damon only comes out in photos with recurring characters as those portrayed by David Straitharn and Joan Allen further adding to the sense of continuum. There is that attempt at continuity indeed since the director of this movie, Tony Gilroy was the screenwriter of all the Bourne series brought to the screen. So he must certainly know what he is talking about. But somehow, uh ... you feel the Ludlum touch impersonated rather than fabricated.
Admittedly we all expected more. That's the problem. We wanted our minds blown off by action scenes ... and to be mesmerized by the new hero in the series.
In trying to reshape the franchise to focus on Jeremy Renner's Aaron Cross, the tension behind the entire back story of Jason Bourne is lost. But then again you knew that even before you bought your theater ticket so that's a given in the deal.
There was just so much explaining and elaboration during the first hour and thirty minutes that you wish you can press a fast forward button so you can get to see the much anticipated Manila scenes.
In moments of great discomfort, I just keep telling myself that the entire production staff and stars of this movie were so nice and kind and helpful to the Filipinos that I will not mind spending another fifteen minutes dealing with Edward Norton (who wasn't here in Manila anyway!)and all these people seated behind computer monitors and consoles trying to determine the fate of the world.
So did I enjoy this movie? Naman! Why shouldn't I? It is seeing friends and actors who I have worked with appearing in a major mainstream international movie that had my heart pumping extra hard.
It is the thrill of seeing Madeleine Nicolas as the landlady who took in the leads to her sleazy apartelle, Antonette Garcia as the screaming neighbor but more so ... John Arcilla and Lou Veloso in roles that are so markado that you just end up pointing at the screen, giggling and saying, "Ay ... si ...!" then end up feeling very, very happy for them.
When that famous chase scene from San Andres down EDSA to the corner of Taft Avenue where Law Fajardo shot Amok last year then down through EDSA again with people flying over jeeps and tricycles and what nots --- I knew this was where my P220.00 went. All the while I was trying to figure out how many cameras they were using, how were the logistics of camera planning implemented --- more so, how was the entire stunt choreography designed to be so brilliantly done in the streets that I know so well.
If only for that, then my Friday night was not completely wasted. For I realized that filming like that can be done here --- and hopefully the Filipinos who worked with the production of The Bourne Legacy learned a thing or two on how it can be properly done.
If only for that, then it was worth the trip to the cineplex.