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The Bourne Legacy
  • Composed by James Newton Howard
  • Varèse Sarabande / 2012 / 63:33

The fourth instalment in the Jason Bourne trilogy doesn’t have Jason Bourne in it; departing too is director Paul Greengrass, with Tony Gilroy (screenwriter of the first three) taking over the directorial duties.  The series has been so successful (and indeed good), it’s no surprise that the studio has looked to continue it; more surprising is just how positive most of the reaction has been.  John Powell’s own Bourne legacy was that the smart, very modern thriller sound he developed through the series has been imitated countless times in scores by other composers.  One of those is James Newton Howard, whose Duplicity and The Tourist in particular lean heavily on Powell’s style.  With Powell not returning for The Bourne Legacy, Howard seemed a reasonable choice.  In the score’s first two cues (“Legacy” and “Drone”) it seems that the composer is very much writing in the style of Powell (whose main theme appears, and whose style is imitated) but this proves to be slightly misleading.

While there are a few occasions when Howard revisits that material, for the most part this is a very different score from its predecessors, focussing more on ambient sounds, and when it doesn’t sound like Powell it’s more like a Harry Gregson-Williams score for a Tony Scott film.  Much like Powell’s scores it certainly has a very modern feel to it, but it lacks their energy and on album at least isn’t nearly so impressive.  The best action piece is “Manila Lab”, but even that’s a little stilted, not as slick as it needs to be given the type of orchestration and intricate keyboards Howard’s aiming for.  Likewise, some of the heavily-percussive action tracks sound like they ought to be decent on paper, but there’s always just a vague sense that his heart isn’t fully in it.  The exception is the thrilling “Magsaysay Suite” near the end, the only piece here which would have a chance of making a “Best of Bourne” compilation. A shorter album of the highlights would have been far preferable (and actually, there’s half an hour of strong enough material to have produced a good, solid album that way); but it’s a hard slog at over an hour, particularly through the more ambient material.  To be honest, even those sections are reasonably elaborate in the way they’re constructed – it’s easy to tell how much effort has gone into it – but it just never quite all comes together and too much of it is just boring.  A disappointment.  **

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  1. Dec on Thursday 9 August, 2012 at 19:47

    You’re 1 star too many.

  2. orion_mk3 on Friday 10 August, 2012 at 03:40

    Poor JNH has been in a real rut lately, hasn’t he? Or, perhaps, directors have been in a real rut about what they want him to do.