Bourne Legacy Meta

  • Aug. 13th, 2012 at 10:54 AM
carleton97: (Default)
Hello, LJ & DW! Yet again I have neglected you, but today! Today I bring glorious (?) meta for your delictation!

It's disjointed and a little scattered, but whatevs!

I started off here in an email to [personal profile] foxxcub:

Theme and motivation are on my mind and how they've changed and flowed from the original trilogy to this movie.

The first Bourne movie was all about, "Who am I? What am I capable of? Why did I choose to become this? *Did* I choose to become this?"

And even after he settles down with Marie, he can't quiet those questions. He can't just let things lie no matter how hard he tries. I think that, even if they'd never sent Kiril after him, eventually he'd have been driven to find answers because he really had no identity beyond the one he built for himself and that's really not an easy state to maintain.

Marie's murder definitely motivates him for the second and third movies, but underneath his quest for vengeance, there's a feeling of "who am I to spur such an action?" Once he digs deeper, it almost becomes more theoretical, more of a wider question of "Who has the right to do all of this?"

And that's basically his last line of the series, right? To Paz on the rooftop, "Look at what they've turned us into" or something to that effect. Because beyond the accident induced amnesia, Treadstone's entire MO seemed to revolve around completely breaking someone down and rebuiding them in a pre-set image.

I got the impression Outcome went about things differently. That maybe instead of choosing candidates who were already maybe the best and the brightest and breaking them, with their scientific advances they chose people who were more moldable (or so they thought) and gave them real reasons to be indebted to the program.

Because Aaron Cross chose Outcome, for as much as he was able to make a reasoned choice with an IQ of about 80 (92 is the required score for the US military) and once he was enhanced, going back was not an option. I think if it were just the physical enhancement, it wouldn't perhaps have been such a motivation, but as a couple people have mentioned, the whole Flowers for Algernon thing made that impossible.

And god, how fucking heartbreaking is the thought of that? I saw the movie three times in 36 hours (scheduling conflicts and non-crossover groups of friends) and the second and third viewings made it clear how terrified Aaron Cross is of that very possibility for the entire span of time until he wakes up post virus in Manila.

When you get down to it, I think Jason Bourne spent a lot of time motivated by anger compared to that all-encompassing fear, but while Jason was angry about things that might have been or the past he couldn't remember, Aaron is afraid of a very real thing that he is 100% knows will happen.


[personal profile] foxxcub replied:

I mean, they hint that Treadstone was also using the chems as well, but that Jason had been off chems for over three years? But either way, he didn't KNOW about them, so he wasn't driven by the same fears as Cross. And even if he did know, he wasn't legally mentally retarded before Treadstone got their hands on him.


I thought on that for a little bit and came up with:

And I think, probably, Treadstone had a different focus, so a different chem regime. They weren't enacting genetic change, so it was probably some form of amphetamine to keep focus and energy up on missions?


[personal profile] foxxcub then said:

Uhhh, let's talk about how, um, Cross more than likely harbored FEELINGS for Marta for a long time and subconsciously, that's why he showed up at her house.


After some pondering, I said:

Hmmmm.... I'm actually not sure I 100% agree with that. I think that really all that is driving him at that point is his desperate attempt to avoid cognitive degradation. The only contact he has, outside of any NRAG or NSA/DoD contact, is with the medical team. And as he sees from the paper, she's one of the few left alive after what he knows is an attempt to burn the entire program so she's probably his only real option.

That is not to say his subconscious isn't working on something else!

Let's think about Aaron Cross, or really Kenneth J. Kitson prior to his enlistment. From the flashback interview, he was living in a group/state home and it's unclear how old he was when he enlisted, but probably young considering he 'died' when he was 26. Whatever his age, he probably wasn't very experienced with women.

I could conceivably believe he was a virgin also.

But them Outcome picks him up, enhances his body and his mind, and trains him up as an asset. The question there is if that training included anything sexual for deep undercover assignments. I'm not sure there. I get the feeling that maybe Outcome divided its assets into undercover ones like the guy in Pakistan and the woman in Korea with more soldiery types like Aaron? That may be because the only mission we saw him on was the one ... somewhere in the Middle East where he seemed to have been more military than undercover.

But whether there was a sexual component of training or not I'd be willing to bet that Outcome kept a short lease on their people when they weren't on assignment, so even now his experience with women is probably very limited. I think that shows in his interactions with Marta and how...innocent they are in a lot of ways. It's all sideways glances and clutching hands.

Which is awesome! I'm not complaining about that. I actually think it shows a slow growth that's more believable that INSTANT SOULMATES.

I'm not saying there's not any attraction between them because I do think there is. But in the medical exam flashback it's also clear how *awkward* Aaron is with all of it and Marta, well, I think she probably doesn't see him as anything other than a fleshy bag of data until after they're on the run.

On a side note, I do give the entire series props for avoiding a lot of the sexual threat that can happen in action movies.


by this point, I had added a couple more people to the email and I got this response from [personal profile] mahoni (edited a little for length and some OT stuff):

One thing that really struck me after the movie was over, after I started thinking about Aaron's behavior throughout the movie in context with his back story, was that his back story really explained the...I don't know, the way he seemed a little 'off' at various times.

Like, the way he chattered away at his contact in the Alaskan cabin, and at Marta in the medical examination flashback. The way he exhibits tons of earnestness/sincerity towards Marta at her house while at the same time being very offhandedly efficient and brutal in killing the intruders, and was also so vicious and totally lacking in guilt in dealing with the wolf.

I just thought, as Kenneth James, he knew militarized violence and he knew how to be taken care of in a home. He probably didn't have a lot of understanding of social interaction/picking up social cues (which are probably harder to learn than how to pick up on danger in situations that could clearly be dangerous). He's probably a sucker for people who are nice to him, but knows what it's like to be picked on - though 'nice' is something that probably always came with an element of being treated a little thoughtlessly or callously, or as a bit of a nuisance, which may be why he was able to be so loyal to both Ed Norton's character as well as Marta. (Norton's character treated Aaron with respect while also treating him as a weapon; Marta maintained a professional distance while also being gentle in the way she handled him physically and *not* being rude or mean.)

It was all very subtle, and it's entirely possible I am imagining it, but I really feel like Jeremy Renner knew what he was doing when he chose his mannerisms and line delivery. He knows Aaron Cross is not a typical hero or a typical cool, hotshot soldier, and is in fact a bit of a child made to grow up physically and intellectually while lagging behind socially.

It is kind of awesome, really.


And I was buying what she was selling:

One thing that really struck me, as you say, was how earnest he was throughout all his interactions with Marta. How he seemed to be lacking that... knife's edge of danger that you see in all the Treadstone agents including Bourne. Not that he wasn't dangerous or that he couldn't kill easily and without guilt, but that... I don't know, it's just something that has to be done? And once it's done, it's done. I think that may be a left over from the military actually. My dad was in Vietnam and he still doesn't/never talks much about it but he has talked a little about basic training and how messed up it was, how unreal to be skewed just enough that military violence is acceptable (my interpretation of his words). The absolution of actions taken while under orders or on a mission.

Social cues and missing them: yes! At Marta's house, she asks, "Did you kill all those people?" and she's scared and more than a little horrified but he completely misses that and is obviously trying to be reassuring by his off-handed answer of, "yeah, they're all dead."

And his chattering at Outcome #3 is another example of that. He wasn't playing much of a game with him beyond his ruse with the chems (which is completely understandable by the end of the film knowing how terrified he was of cognitive degradation). He wanted to know more about the program so he asked. Plain and simple.

I think that might what be throwing some people who are feeling sort of 'eh' about the movie. They're used to Bourne playing all the angles and being steps and steps ahead wherever possible, but Aaron Cross is much more straightforward. He has a target or a task and he does what it takes to accomplish that. Like his plan when he realizes Marta doesn't have any of the medication he needs but before he knows it's in Manila. Whereas Bourne would have concocted some elaborate cat and mouse game to get Rick Byer to deliver him a truckload of pills, Aaron just decides to put himself in front of Marta and wait for the next person to try to kill her.

I don't think you're imagining those things at all re: Renner's performance. I think, time and time again, he's shown how thoughtful of an actor he is and how informed his choices are when it comes to character and mannerisms. Aaron Cross, when he's not in action, is pretty obviously not socialized in a standard way. I think he was shown or learned how to fake it on missions (and maybe this is why I feel like he's more of a military style asset than deep undercover) but it's not natural to him.


After I responded above, I had some different thoughts:

Today I am thinking about agency and choice.

Someone on my LJ flist (I can't remember who, dammit) was talking about how they had a real problem with Kenneth being unable to give a truly informed consent. While I do agree with that, I think it's fairly clear that there is never a different decision Aaron Cross would make.

HOWEVER, I think there is some part of him that is bothered by it going by the way he handles interactions Marta. He is constantly giving her choices whenever they are possible and not ordering her to do things but presenting information and telling her what he thinks is the best option.

It starts with, "Do you want to live?" That is her choice to make. If she doesn't want to live, he can't force her to. She has to be the one actively participate in her rescue.

Even though he comes up with the idea and then covers her house in gas and kerosene, she has to be the one to drop the lighter.

The only time he gets the slightest bit mansplainy is in the car when he's telling her about her (non-existent) options. You can't really blame either one of them here, really. She's traumatized, unused to violence, and he's freaked out about losing sense of self and frustrated with what he sees as her deliberate naivete.

He tells her she can't call anyone, but it's not an order. He explains why and makes sure she understands how important it is. AND THEN, when she asks, he explains why this is all so important to him. It's not that he wants to be a super soldier/spy or that he loves the power being enhanced gives him, it's that he will lose his entire identity. It may only be a few years old, but it's *his* now and going back to the way he was before is a cruelty that's beyond bearing.

And after doing that, he separates from her in the airport, trusting that she's going to choose to stick with him to Manila.

Most telling, once she's completed her part of the task, viraling him off the chems, he gives her the final choice to go, to disappear in the crush of humanity with a handful of blank passports and all the cash he's accumulated. He recognizes everything he's asked of her and that a) staying with him will be dangerous and b) he can probably never repay her. It's all so delicious!

And and and! Never through look or deed does he try to leverage the fact he's keeping her alive for anything other than reciprocity (because for him, loosing his enhanced intelligence would be both a death sentence and something he'd rather die than have happen).

Someone else on my flist (not that I remember who here either) was talking about the power disparity, but how they felt it was to Marta's advantage. I can see that, I can, but I really don't think either of the characters realized that or, if they did, it wasn't really a consideration once Aaron revealed his reasons for wanting to stay enhanced. I think, while Marta can't really understand his POV completely since she's *always* been intelligent and always used her intelligence to the best of her ability, she did empathize and make the decision to help him beyond knowing she needed his help to stay alive.

And at the very end, Marta wants to stay lost, so he rolls up the map and stops making any real motions to *do* anything for the moment.

And that's it for now. I will update this post as new meta comes to me. Also, I guess could take some requests if anyone wants me to wander about on a topic.

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