Fear “The Walking Dead’s” Return Because the Spin-off Doesn’t Match Up

…but we won’t explain HOW it began.

If you know anything about me, it’s that I’m not hyper-critical about sequels and spin-offs. I usually like them.

If I like the source material, I’m generally excited to see more adventures with the characters or see new angles of the universe through new characters and situations. If the creators of the “main” show, or original movie, are doing their jobs they’ve constructed a living, breathing world where all kinds of things can happen.

The Walking Dead does its job. Other than some logical and pacing missteps in its second season (rife with behind the scenes turnover and drama), TWD is a rich, fully realized world with a number of potential story paths to follow with our original cast and to explore away from them if they so choose. Unfortunately, Fear the Walking Dead mines the missteps from TWD season two as its concept—domestic drama.

The spinoff takes place in L.A., 3,000 miles away from where Sheriff Rick Grimes rests in a coma in Georgia. By all appearances, the new show takes place in the time when Rick was out of the loop. Society still exists. Kids go to school. Drug addicts get high. You get it.

The pilot introduces our main characters, a mixed-race family featuring Cliff Curtis (Travis), Kim Dickens (Madison), Alycia-Debnam-Carey (Alicia*), and Frank Dillane (Nick), in the midst of turmoil of the domestic variety – Nick is a drug addict and is in the hospital following a car accident precipitated by a proto-zombie attack. Of course, no one believes him because that’s crazy. This is another mistake FTWD makes – much of the show’s drama is based around the fact that the audience knows what’s happening and the characters don’t. In interviews, creators and cast cite this as a strength, but I think it’s a weakness. The show should stand on its own and create stakes based upon this story, not source cheap scares and suspense from the fact that we already watch The (superior) Walking Dead. What’s interesting about this story? Why should we invest in these people?

It’s unfair, but I have to compare the FTWD pilot to TWD pilot. When you do that, you see there’s no comparison at all. TWD pilot is cinematic, evocative, and tells a whole story in of itself – like a good pilot should. Rick Grimes is shot and goes into a coma; when he wakes up, he is alone and the hospital is abandoned. We enter this world with Rick as he discovers barricaded doors covered with a scribbled warning “Dead Inside.” The viewer is Rick’s companion as he stumbles deeper into a barren, empty, frightening world where the dead “live” and the only safety he finds is with a lone man and his son surviving in the abandoned suburbs near his empty house.

That pilot is highly visual, too. Rick riding down the highway in his sheriff’s uniform on a horse towards an apocalyptic Atlanta horizon, Rick weeping over an almost dissolved zombie body that still lives in unending torment, Rick shooting a zombified little girl in the head, and more! There’s hardly any dialogue, but the pilot communicates everything you need to know with powerful cinematography and crisp scripting.

Fear the Walking Dead’s pilot is nowhere near as strong. There’s nothing powerful happening here. Creator Robert Kirkman emphasized how this was going to be a story about a family and, man, he wasn’t kidding. Variety’s review suggested that FTWD is like Parenthood with zombies. The only problem with this is Kirkman and his co-writer, Dave Erickson, are not nearly as sharp as Jason Katims at crafting engaging family drama. But the question remains: why do we care about this family’s drama at all when we know there’s a zombie holocaust underway? One of the most fascinating episodes of the original show is “TS-19,” the first season finale where Rick and company arrive at the CDC and encounter the last surviving scientist who doled out tantalizing nuggets of mythology. I wasn’t asking for a show about chemistry, but some exploration of an outbreak that reanimates the dead might have been interesting.

FTWD’s focus on the family feels like a tease. I know Kirkman is dedicated to telling “ground-level” stories in his zombie universe, but he’s at a disadvantage here. After spending years with Rick Grimes and his motley crew, I have many questions about the zombie outbreak, the government response, what people knew and when, and so on. Since that show just threw us into the world after zombies, when we occasionally took a break to explore what family and friendships mean in this environment it was interesting (sometimes… I’m looking at you, Season Two). But FTWD has inverted that formula. We start with a family and, presumably, we will follow them into the apocalypse and see what that means for them. But there’s no hook. I have no reason to keep watching other than my foreknowledge about what’s coming. Kirkman’s insistence that he will give no answers or insight on the zombie virus (?) or sickness (?) is maddening. That’s the hook. That’s what would invest us in this story. Simply dropping us in a story of another group of people at a different point in time is just not a compelling reason for this show to exist.

Finally, if you forget the fact that The Walking Dead exists and evaluate this show on its merits, it’s OK. It’s not great. But if this had been the first show, I don’t think it would have done nearly as well. Again, what’s the hook? The measure of any great spin-off needs to be whether or not that show can be its own thing. FTWD would not have shattered ratings records if not for the fandom of the original show. I can’t begrudge the show for having a successful predecessor, but I can try to look at it objectively. If I do that, what was remarkable? Name a memorable scene. Name a character other than Nick and don’t cheat by going back in this post.

I’ll watch next week and, odds are, I’ll watch all the way up to The Walking Dead’s season six premiere. But, honestly, I’ll do so to pass the time until the exciting show I want to watch comes back. Maybe Fear the Walking Dead will grab me in the meantime.

 

*It’s distracting that Alycia Debnam-Carey is “Alicia.” Feels lazy even though I’m sure the name was set in the script before Debnam-Carey was cast.

Just finished “House of Cards” Season 3 – Gut reaction, no spoilers

Get it?

How do you match the hype and expectations around the return of your favorite, released-all-at-once, groundbreaking drama? You don’t. Go deep, not big.

I finished House of Cards’ third season about 15 minutes ago. My immediate reaction is positive. It’s going to be a long wait for season 4. I don’t want to post any spoilers this early in the game, but I think I can talk thematically about this season.

I had the same reaction some early reviewers did. The first two episodes were “slow.” But really they just did not match the harrowing, nail-biting pace that the closing episodes of season two displayed and I think that threw some people. Me included, at first. It was intentional, though, and it was a wise choice — necessary table-setting for deep, high-pressure, psychological drama.

It would have been hard to top the pilot episode (meet Frank Underwood), the season two premiere shocker (Zoey takes the Red Line), or even the late season one Peter Russo shock (breathe deep). The season three premiere doesn’t try and it’s actually a refreshing change of pace to focus on a particular character (who’s not Frank or Claire) for an extended period of time.

This season, when viewed in total, should actually be welcomed by fans. This is the “Frank and Claire” season. After watching seasons one and two, the question that always loomed large in my mind is, “How does Frank and Claire’s marriage work?” It was never wholly clear to me if they were plotting and scheming together or if things were more free-style. Do they actually love each other? Is the relationship merely one of political convenience? I won’t say if these questions are expressly answered or not, but this season finally starts probing those questions head-on.

I would also argue that the “slow” pace of the initial episodes is an intentional, necessary choice. This is not a Frank Underwood who can sneak around in back alleys and quietly grind/grease the gears of the political machine unseen — he is the President of the United States and he is in the light. His every move is visible. Plus, the choices he’s made in the previous two seasons that got him to this point have not been forgotten, particularly by the people who he burned. It’s an interesting juxtaposition to show — Frank lusted for ultimate power and he’s now achieved it, but he’s more boxed in than ever before.

It’s spelled I-R-O-N-Y.

Arguably, the best part of season 3 is a character/situation that I think is, in of itself, a spoiler coming out of Season 2 so I’ll hold off. But this season really gives some other cast members chances to shine in ways they hadn’t before.

I look forward to talking with you all about this latest season as you finish.

If you comment on this piece, please stay away from spoilers. I’ll post something more comprehensive after more than 1 1/2 days have passed.

Welcome Back.

Interest in Reviews?

Now, keep in mind Mike can’t control when movies begin or end…

Someone asked me last week if I’d be reviewing Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I didn’t want to see the movie much less review it. But if you guys would be interested in reading them, I’ll take that bullet.

I’ll try to work more in should you want them. I’ve actually been toying with reviewing Hannibal from the beginning to gin up interest in the show before Season 3 starts in February. I may eventually review Twin Peaks episode by episode, too, but again those projects were meant to be on my own time, at my own pace.

Let me know in the comments (or on Facebook) if anyone would be interested in more reviews, both movies and TV, on here.

 

Guardians of the Galaxy: Another Marvel Win

“Real” heroes.

I won’t bury the lede: Guardians of the Galaxy was everything I wanted it to be and more; it’s a solid, good, enjoyable movie. It’s a contender for the best Marvel Studios movie yet — and yes, I realize that pits it against Iron Man, The Avengers, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. It doesn’t matter because Guardians can take the heat.

Guardians of the Galaxy grabs you right at the start, with a surprisingly emotional scene, and is pure joy for every moment afterward. In fact, was this Marvel’s first “cold open?” I don’t think any of the movies before Guardians started before the Marvel Studios logo. Feel free to gut check me on that.

The story is very simple — a decidedly good approach — and I’ll save major spoilers for a later post, perhaps. Peter Quill, aka: Star Lord (his self applied nickname), played by Chris Pratt, is a “ravager,” essentially someone who hunts down and finds (or steals…) valuable items for payment via the network of ravagers that abducted him from Earth as a boy. He’s after an orb on a beaten down, faraway planet. Think: sci-fi Indiana Jones, but without the moral compass. Bad guys are after the orb, too (because it’s part of a significant piece of Marvel canon), and they try to take it back from him. He escapes with the orb and the rest of the film is, architecturally, a “chase after the MacGuffin” story leading to a final confrontation. But really, it’s just a vehicle for Writer Nicole Perlman and Director James Gunn (who also wrote a script draft) to spend time with our main characters, Star Lord, Gamora (Zoe Saldana), Rocket (Bradley Cooper), Groot (Vin Diesel, collecting an easy paycheck), and Drax (Dave Bautista).

The script does a fantastic job of giving every character numerous chances to shine. Quill is undeniably the film’s lead, but the ensemble runs the show. And how often can you say you watched a movie where a walking, talking Raccoon and a tree are a movie’s emotional center?

There is so much to like. The pace is perfect. The movie is laugh-out-loud funny consistently throughout. This is certainly Marvel’s most comedic movie yet, but that doesn’t downplay the action, adventure, or the threat behind the villains and their motivations. The character, gadget, and set designs are all superb — they give this world a vibrant, lived-in feel very much like Star Wars though I’m not the first to make that comparison.

The heart of the Ghostbusters.

I was surprised by how much I responded to Rocket and Groot. Rocket is a lot like a more aggressive, violent raccoon George Costanza with a heart (so, maybe not like George Costanza). Groot can only say “I am Groot,” but he gets a lot of mileage out of it and he’s an endearing character for a tree voiced by Vin Diesel. The movie invests a lot of time with them and their relation to the rest of the team and it all works. I don’t know how James Gunn did it, quite frankly — having Rocket and Groot be weird and schlocky was the more likely outcome. Bradley Cooper deserves a fair share of the credit because his performance imbues the animated creature with real personality and emotion.

All of the characters are out for themselves, Rocket most of all, and the movie does a great job of putting everyone together and working together in an organic way. In fact, the story makes getting all of the characters together look easy. The MacGuffin is what everyone wants and the story wastes no time putting everyone after it and mixed in with the others.

From a writer’s perspective, I’m impressed with how stories unfold. In my own writing, I’m always concerned with showing all of the setup to events. It’s just how my mind connects. This movie makes it look easy. The characters’ actions and motivations all come from real, natural places and yet the pace never lets up. Plus, since this story takes place in the same Marvel Universe that all of our other heroes inhabit, there might have been a concern with establishing alien world and situations, but no — Guardians dives right in. Aliens exist. There are other worlds and spaceships and crazy gadgets and powerful enemies; this is the world our heroes inhabit and that’s how it is — accept it. And we do! The Thor films and The Avengers only hinted at the larger universe that exists elsewhere and Guardians makes it real, lived in, and matter-of-fact. Given how Tony Stark had a nervous breakdown over the Chitari and the Tesseract portal in The Avengers, I wonder how he’ll react to what’s really out there?

I’m dressed in black and I have a deep, terrible voice. I’m the bad guy.

I had to look hard to come up with a criticism. It’s actually a familiar Marvel complaint — the chief villain, Ronan, is not very compelling. He’s got reasonable motivation, I guess. He’s pretty tough and menacing and gives our heroes a good fight. In fact, given how capable they made him, I genuinely wondered how the Guardians would actually defeat him (not that I ever thought his defeat was in doubt, of course). Other than Loki, Marvel films have had a recurring problem creating good villains that aren’t just seething, stomping, fonts of evil, and unfortunately, as good as Guardians is, it didn’t clear this hurdle either.

I can’t wait to see Guardians of the Galaxy again. I’m excited about what I hope it means for the Marvel Cinematic Universe and by that I mean I hope the films only get bolder, brighter, and more daring. This film is unabashedly open about what it is — and that’s a comic book superhero movie which is also a comedy, an adventure, and a science fiction saga.

I’m not sure what problem Edgar Wright had with Marvel Studios regarding Ant-Man because Guardians of the Galaxy is unlike any Marvel movie you’ve seen before and is full of James Gunn’s spirit — and is the better for it! I wish Wright luck, but I think he made a bad miscalculation in dropping out of Ant-Man because he and us missed out on a unique experience. I’m always suspicious of creative people who won’t compromise (see George Lucas) because out of process and feedback ideas only get better.

In any case, go see Guardians of the Galaxy and have a really good time. It’s fun, entertaining, and inspires me to create something great just like it.

Transformers: Age of Extinction – A Contrarian’s View

The tag line doesn't really seem to reference anything in the movie...
The critics have savaged Transformers: Age of Extinction. Even people like Harry Knowles of Aint It Cool News, who once wrote that Star Wars: Episode I was great, has ripped it apart. I haven’t read a single positive review of the film.

I kind of liked it.

And here’s the thing: I don’t necessarily disagree with any of the negative reviews, either. Contradictory? Maybe, but not quite. The only criticisms I have, which I hold against the movie are two-fold:

(1) The length; Transformers is not The Dark Knight — it doesn’t need 2 hours and 45 minutes to tell its story. Consequently, it also doesn’t need the myriad plots and sub-plots on top of sub-plots. The movie definitely needed some judicious cutting. And…

(2) *See “The Plot” section.

Yet, I was entertained. Maybe a movie is a movie and there are common criteria and judgments you should use to evaluate one. The problem is, I don’t do that. I don’t think it’s an accurate way to review a movie. If I was to do that, this movie absolutely fails. No question. But movies are supposed to be, I believe, first and foremost, entertaining, and second, provoke emotion. It’s not written anywhere that the emotions have to be “transcendent awakening;” they can be dumb excitement, too. That’s what this movie provides. It also provided a good opportunity to check off items on this list of things that all women in Michael Bay movies do.

THE PLOT

There are a million things going on in this movie, so I’ll stick to the main(?) through-line, such as it is. I’ll try to avoid too many spoilers, but let’s be honest, I doubt anyone will care. Despite being positioned as a “reboot,” the movie depends a great deal on the previous entry, Dark of the Moon. It featured Earth’s leaders (read: the US) kicking the Autobots off of Earth because they believed that the only reason the Decepticons were still here is to continue their war against them.

Of course, that was dumb and the Decepticons were really trying to resurrect their dead planet, Cybertron, in Earth’s atmosphere and use humans as a slave workforce. The Decepticons ran an all-out attack on the planet, Chicago, in particular, and went for broke. The Autobots didn’t abandon Earth, of course, but they let Chicago get ravaged so we’d understand that the Decepticons really are the assholes we knew they were. They came in and saved the day — after thousands(?) were slaughtered and the city was decimated. Not the most heroic plan… but… well, but nothing, that’s actually kind of terrible. In any case, the Autobots helped the military retake Chicago and killed most of the Decepticons on Earth in the process. Shia LaBeouf’s annoying character, who (despite our protestations was at the heart of all of these films) is recognized as the hero he always aspired to be (I guess?) and hugged his girlfriend who was 10 times hotter than the previous girlfriend who was still really hot and out of his league. The Autobots are heroes and Optimus Prime, following the formula of the previous 2 movies (and the new one, too), gives us his big narrated speech at the end and says (this is a direct quote):

In any war, there are calms between the storms. There will be days when we lose faith, days when our allies turn against us. But the day will never come, that we forsake this planet and its people.

I wanted to quote it directly, because the plot of this film features a secret CIA unit hunting down all transformers, Autobots and Decepticon, alike because of the “Battle of Chicago” and Optimus Prime forsakes this planet and its people. Yeah, you read that right.*

*(2) Second criticism resumed: The plot of the 3rd movie had mankind coming to understand that the Autobots are our allies, they should be trusted, and will never abandon us. Literally, everything learned and achieved in the 3rd film has been negated before this movie starts AND Optimus Prime, our immovable symbol of bravery and honor, is deeply resentful and willing to abandon Earth to its fate. I’m OK with the overlong running time, the endless slow motion sequences, etc. but don’t negate earned plot developments for the sake of new plot just because. It’s like killing off Michael Biehn’s character from Aliens between that movie and Alien 3 because you don’t want to pay Biehn to come back or having Michael Stivic (aka: Meathead) from All in the Family leave his family to join a commune in California just because Rob Reiner won’t do the role anymore. I’m not suggesting that the Transformers plot developments are that offensive, but it’s the same concept — otherwise, why did we watch the 3rd movie? Nothing the characters did there mattered, in effect. Anyway…

Frasier and the Man in Black from Lost (or maybe you know him as the evil 1st officer of the USS Equinox from Star Trek: Voyager?) run this secret CIA group and have partnered with a transformer called Lockdown, who more than anything is after Optimus Prime for reasons that are murky at best. This spills over onto Mark Walberg’s farm. He’s an inventor (??) who sucks at it and is about to lose his house. Why an inventor has a farm that he doesn’t use is one of the questions I chose to ignore for my movie-going enjoyment. He claims he just needs to make one thing that matters (spoiler alert: he doesn’t and the movie never really apologies for not paying that off…) He has a hot daughter played by Nicola Peltz, who dresses hotly and has a secret boyfriend because Michael Bay. Walberg’s business partner and friend is played by the guy who plays “Erlich” on Silicon Valley on HBO. He’s moderately funny here. Anyway, Marky Mark finds Optimus Prime and restores him (sort of). Obviously, OP is pissed off about being hunted and attacked by humans because he gave that speech at the end of the last movie and now he looks like a jerk.

Bad guys show up and things blow up. Marky Mark’s hot daughter’s race car driving boyfriend shows up to save them (sort of… Optimus Prime did the heavy lifting) and they escape. Erlich dies and no one much cares. Stanley Tucci is in the movie, too, as another inventor who’s profiting from the transformer bits that the government gives him.

There’s actually a lot more, but I promised to limit spoilers, so suffice to say there are 28 hundred more transformer fights, car chases, nonsensical screaming matches, and action poses. And I was along for the ride (excepting my criticisms). The movie is certainly not boring. And, big plus, there is zero percent Shia LaBeouf in this movie. He’s not even mentioned. No one else from the previous trilogy of films appears (or is mentioned) either. I’m grateful for the lack of Shia, but some acknowledgement of the history there might have been nice. Or maybe even from Josh Duhamel’s character. Maybe he would have had something to say about the Autobots being slaughtered, for example. Just sayin’.

WRAP UP

It’s a Transformers movie. I mean, you have to enter it expecting a known quantity. In fact, dare I say, this one improves upon the previous three in two big ways:

(1) No Shia LaBeouf. Or his parents’ characters. Or the humping dogs. This kind of contradicts my issue with continuity that I cited earlier, but he really was annoying. I’m willing to forgive it here.

(2) One of the biggest criticisms of the earlier movies, Parts 1 and 2 in particular, was the lack of Transformer screen time. You can’t say that about this movie at all. In fact, this has probably the most Autobot screen time out of the whole series. They flipped the quotient between the human and robot characters here — whereas there was way too much Shia and anything the robots did in the first trilogy was always through the prism of the humans. In this film, the Autobots are given a lot to do and they interact with each other a lot. In the case of the Autobot John Goodman voices (IMDb tells me his name was “Hound”), that’s a good thing — he’s moderately amusing. In the case of the green Autobot, less would have been more. In the first movie, the limited screen time was somewhat understandable given how they told the story, but the Autobots didn’t really have any time for characterization. Even Optimus Prime was barely given a chance to say or do anything. Part 2 is just terrible. It spent way too much time with humans we hated and two racist-stereotype bots that are cousins with Jar-Jar Binks in terms of annoyance and loathing. In this movie, I didn’t mind Mark Walberg’s character too much (I definitely didn’t mind his daughter), but the humans here were really just connective tissue to jerk the plot forward. And the movie is called Transformers; it definitely delivered.

I realize that this all comes off as really negative despite my assertion that I was entertained. I really was. It’s entertainment like watching two people argue over a fender-bender on the side of the road as you drive by. An interesting diversion.

 

**PS: Only at the end do I realize that I have completely omitted mention of the Dinobots featured so prominently in the commercials and trailers. They were almost omitted from the movie, too, because they appeared at about the 2 hour and 30 minute mark and are akin to a Deus Ex Machina. They don’t have personalities like the cartoon characters did (a point which Harry Knowles rails against in his review) and exist solely to give our heroes a boost over the villains at the end. They were cool and made for great action, but were pretty peripheral to the whole thing and then they just run away at the end of the movie.

Will we see them again?

Where are they going?

No one thought to explain.

“The Bourne Legacy.” Why?

The Bourne Legacy

When your franchise actor won’t come back, you soldier on.

Jason Bourne as played by Matt Damon was a compelling character. Bourne had lost his memory and he discovered that he was a special agent working for nefarious government overlords. He wanted to remember who he was while dodging a variety of villains gunning for him. Damon played him with vulnerability and menace in equal parts. It’s easy to understand why the character and the three films he starred in, The Bourne Identity, Supremacy, and Ultimatum, were so successful.

It’s also easy to understand why Universal didn’t want to give up on the franchise when Damon said he wouldn’t come back.

And it’s fair to say the universe that Bourne inhabited seemed rife with interesting stories. I certainly think there is a way this series could carry on without Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne and still be compelling. Unfortunately, The Bourne Legacy isn’t it.

It should go without saying that this piece contains spoilers about Legacy as well as the previous Damon vehicles as well. The central problem with Legacy is the premise. In the first three films, generally the premise was focused on Jason Bourne was trying to learn who he was while battling shadowy government forces seeking to escape exposure. Legacy starts during the third Bourne movie, Ultimatum, when it’s discovered that Jason Bourne is in NYC. Some of Ultimatum’s characters like Scott Glenn and David Strathairn make little more than cameos throughout the movie and pass their evil batons to Ed Norton and Stacy Keach. Joan Allen literally appears for about 15 seconds towards the non-sequitur ending, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bourne is in NYC and while the 3rd film’s evil characters are dealing with that situation, we find out they were also talking to other shadowy, evil characters in another government agency who now strive to clean up the mess. All of this is juxtaposed with disconnected sequences of Jeremy Renner’s character, Aaron Cross (not named for like 3/4 of the movie, by the way), in Alaska swimming in freezing lakes, fighting wolves (really), and taking pills. This is all setup for a ham-handed comment later on where a character suggests that wolves don’t normally pursue a person like they’ve been doing and maybe it’s because they don’t perceive him as a man, but as an animal. Ok.

Anyway, Bourne in NYC has exposed the secret programs the government has been running and now the press and Congress are aware. Eventually, the bad guys start doing what they generally do in movies like this: they start killing everyone and destroying evidence. Of course, since Aaron Cross is battling nature off the grid in Alaska, he is spared from the poisoned drugs the other agents take. Cross comes upon a cabin in the wilderness that’s run by a fellow operative in a very confusing series of sequences where we learn that Cross “asks too many questions” and has kind of a quippy demeanor, which none of the other agents we’ve seen in the series this far have displayed. But it’s not clear why Renner’s character was in the wilderness at all and it’s not clear why the operative in the cabin is acting so weird–he’s clearly not a part of the evil government’s plans since they blow him up with a drone strike that Cross escapes purely on luck.

At this point, the movie devolves into, well, a Bourne movie without Jason Bourne. And this is glaringly apparent in our “hero’s” primary motivation: to find more drugs. Yep, really. Jason Bourne sought to learn his identity and escape the reach of a massive government cover-up. Aaron Cross is running out of drugs and wants more. That’s his motivation and that’s the story which drives the plot.

Did I mention Rachel Weisz is in this? Well, she is. In the first half of the movie, while inter cutting between Cross in AK and Ed Norton snarling in DC(?), they eventually add a third cut to a pharmaceutical company where Weisz’s character works. She runs blood tests on mysterious guys who, I think we’re just supposed to infer are secret agents like Bourne and Cross. It’s not until a flashback much later that we see Cross was, in fact, one of her patients. They don’t appear to have any real connection or chemistry in this scene other than Renner kind of mugging for her attention. It’s Rachel Weisz, so I can understand.

Anyway, Zeljko Ivanek (aka: State’s Attorney Ed Danvers from Homicide: Life on the Street and about a million other things) plays another researcher at Weisz’s company. One day he starts killing everyone and, I guess, he kind of liked Rachel Weisz so he didn’t kill her right away. But then he does try and security guards kill him. The movie clumsily tells us that this guy did this because he was biologically programmed to do so. YES, shock: the same kinds of drugs that Aaron Cross takes are being leveraged by the government to program super agents into doing… things. Killing people. You know, spy stuff.

Weisz was the only survivor and when the government tries to kill her, too, Renner inexplicably shows up and kicks ass, kind of. I say “kind of” because I couldn’t help but think that Jason Bourne would have mopped these clowns up in no time. I mean, this was a guy who defeated another super spy in hand to hand combat with a Bic pen. Renner, on the other hand, has trouble battling some guys who appear to just be faceless government stooge suits. Maybe I’m being picky on this point.

But really, the rest of the movie is just Renner and Weisz traveling from place to place looking for pills so he can avoid devolving… or something. I’m not 100% clear what happened with that. I think I was on Twitter during those parts. Suffice it to say, they sort of figured it out and the government chased them. Even the motorcycle chase through Manilla (I think it was Manilla) was sort of *blah.* Bourne’s car duel vs. New Dr. McCoy (Karl Urban) in The Bourne Supremacy was a far superior chase sequence, though this one had Rachel Weisz screaming and freaking out a lot. She also got to do something at the end other than be scared and scream, which was nice for her, I guess.

Then the movie just kind of ends. Literally. Our heroes(?) have escaped evil Ed Norton, who was really an ineffectual government opponent, but it’s not like he’s done looking for them. They only defeated the super(?) agent pursuing them, who apparently had better drugs (really), and dropped the local police off of their tail. But Norton and Stacy Keach are certainly still looking for them. There’s that weird, pointless Joan Allen cameo I mentioned earlier where it kind of seems like she’ll be arrested or… something, which kind of negates the semi-positive ending of The Bourne Ultimatum.

I guess what I’m really saying is: Matt Damon, stop making movies with Jim from The Office and do more of these movies because these guys are lost without you.