When star Matt Damon and director Paul Greengrass both departed the Bourne series after 2007's highly successful threequel The Bourne Ultimatum, Universal Pictures proved far from willing to give up on further expansion of the popular action franchise. This led to the creation of the kinda sequel but mostly spin-off film The Bourne Legacy in 2012, starring Jeremy "Hawkeye" Renner as Aaron Cross, a different black ops CIA operative who finds himself on the run from his employers. Unfortunately, underwhelming box office receipts and relative audience apathy led to that being the last Aaron Cross adventure (so far).
That brings things to this summer's Jason Bourne, featuring the return of Damon to perhaps his most iconic role to date, and the return of Greengrass to the director's chair. Damon's long-awaited return to the Bourne role has naturally drawn mountains of hype and anticipation from franchise fans hoping that he and Greengrass will be able to correct the mistakes of Legacy and restore the series to its former place near the top of the action heap.
Did Damon and Greengrass succeed? According to the first round of professional reviews for Jason Bourne, the answer is both yes and no, depending on what one values more: quality of action or originality of plot. Check out some highlights below, and click the links to read the full reviews.
THR - Todd McCarthy:
"Technically and logistically, Greengrass delivers everything you expect from him; there's no one better when it comes to staging complex, chaotic action amid the real life of big cities."
Village Voice - Bilge Ebiri:
"There's a greatest-hits quality to the movie, only the band is tired and its heart isn't in it."
EW - Leah Greenblatt:
"Jason Bourne has already given us a hero who transcends two dimensions. We just need to know more about what he's fighting for."
The Wrap - Robert Adele:
"This fourth entry after a nine-year break for Damon and Greengrass should represent, for those ready and able to separate popcorn mayhem from the grim realities of world headlines, a bruising and exhilarating ride."
Cinema Blend - Eric Eisenberg:
"This is the first one that just wears its tropes on its sleeve -- making it feel uninspired and artificial (two adjectives that particularly sting when you consider that this is the character's big screen return after a nine year hiatus)."
Variety - Peter Debruge:
"Just as the initial Damon-driven trilogy wrapped up Bourne's business but left us wanting more, this sequel offers closure even as it entices us with the possibility of his return."
We Got This Covered - Matt Donato:
"Jason Bourne packs a punch, but it's softened by dizzying camera work and an expected story that loses what made the franchise so thrilling from the start."
The above sampling is a good indicator of the central critical opinion of Jason Bourne as a sequel that values stylish action over innovative plot twists. The film currently sits at a just barely fresh 63% on Rotten Tomatoes, and as more reviews pour in as next weekend's release date draws ever closer, Jason Bourne could very well end up dipping into rotten territory.
While not nearly as ravaged as fellow summer 2016 follow-ups like Independence Day: Resurgence or Alice Through the Looking Glass, Jason Bourne continues the trend of long-delayed sequels not going over well with critics this year, currently holding the lowest RT score of any Damon entry in the series by a large margin. Of course, the real test of whether or not Damon as Bourne is still a draw will come at the box office. If the film performs well, Universal may very well soon be contacting Damon and Greengrass to negotiate a Bourne 6.
Jason Bourne hits U.S. theaters on July 29, 2016.
Source: Rotten Tomatoes