Monday, February 06, 2006

Defying the Impossible: Could Mission Impossible 3 actually be good?

I would imagine that most of you saw the Superbowl TV spot for Mission Impossible III. Even better than the TV spot, in my opinion, is the full length trailer for the film. Now trust me, I am as surprised as you might be that I’m about to endorse this movie, but I have to confess I thought the trailer made the film look like a great, fun, summer blockbuster.

I have mixed feelings about the Mission Impossible franchise. I thought the first one was solidly enjoyable, and since it was dirceted by Brian de Palma before he officially went over the edge (Femme Fetale), it had a snazzy visual style, and was in certain ways as successful as a thriller as it was an action movie. While I think John Woo has a good handle on the action genre (I liked Face/Off), I thought Mission Impossible II was absolutely terrible. It was terrible in that Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life type of way; M.I. 2 it was just boring, confusing, and was nearly impossible (excuse the pun) to follow.

The thing about the Mission Impossible films that make me scratch my head is this: the films have gotten so far removed from what the original televsion show was, why not scrap the format and just make a generic Tom Cruise action film? The original show was very much an ensemble show, like the A-Team, yet Ethan Hunt seems to fly solo these days. The only other character who will have been in all three films is Ving Rhames, as Luther Stickell, hacker extraordinaire who helps out Hunt in a pinch. I guess in a way Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise’s character) has become a James Bond character of sorts. There are new women in each film, new missions and new villains. But after the second installment of Hunt’s adventures, the third one is going to need to be a heck of a strong showing to make up for it.

And so far the signs look promising. TV guru J.J. Abrams wrote and directed Mission Impossible III. This is actually Abrams’ first feature since 1998 when he worked on Armageddon; he’s spent the last eight years making some neat little TV shows you might have heard of -- like Felicity, Alias and of course most recently, Lost. I think Abrams is smart and I like the way he thinks. It might just be that he can put a creative twist on the standard action movie and Mission Impossible formatting. While Abrams is known for drama, he is also fairly adroit at injecting some good-natured humor into his work, and I think this franchise could benefit, after M.I. 2 which was particularly humorless. Certainly some of Abrams’ casting seems to be eclectic and unique which I take as a good sign. I am so excited to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman play the real “heavy” in a huge action film, and I love the snippets of him in the trailer; he radiates a brand of suave understated evil. The rest of M.I.’s cast also includes some old Abrams favorites like Keri Russell and Greg Grunberg, some indie veterans like Laurence Fishburnes, Jonathan Ryhs-Meyers, and Billy Crudup, and some new faces to boot.

In terms of action sequences I look forward to seeing the rest of that shot where Cruise is thrown by an exploision and nearly misses getting his head taken off with a missile. The film will be released on May 5th, 2006, kicking off the glorious summer movie season. Here’s to this year’s Opening Day being a great one.

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