Welcome to Breaking Geek, where uber-geek Nick Doll offers strong opinions, fun commentary, informed reactions, and thought-out theories regarding the most interesting news of the week, using his expansive knowledge of all things geek!
What is the best film franchise ever?
Is it Star Wars? 007? Alien? Die Hard? Lethal Weapon? Indiana Jones? Jurassic Park? The Marvel Cinematic Universe?
How about Mission: Impossible?
For reference, at this point in time, 2019 when there are only six Mission: Impossible films with two more on the way, I would rank my favorite franchises as so:
- Indiana Jones
- Mission: Impossible
- Star Wars
I don’t know which franchise listed above would be my fifth favorite, as I do love them all, but, yes, I like Mission: Impossible more than Star Wars, which is mainly based on personal Star Wars fatigue and the rise of Mission: Impossible – Fallout as the best film in that franchise, and the best action film I’ve seen in decades. Before 2018, Star Wars would have rounded out a nice top three, and though I’ve always loved the Mission: Impossible films, I wouldn’t have considered it a top franchise.
But Christopher McQuarrie changed things… forever. And if he can pull off shooting Mission: Impossible 7 and 8 back-to-back resulting in two films as good as Fallout, or even Rogue Nation, Mission: Impossible WILL go down as one of the greatest — if not still underappreciated — film franchise of all time!
The franchise started in 1996 with Mission: Impossible, directed by the legendary Brian De Palma. Though it has the memorable finale on the top of a train, the film is not an action movie, but rather a thriller. Even if you aren’t a Mission: Impossible geek – I feel like I am very much in the minority by being one – surely you remember the sequence of Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) stealing the NOC list. You know, the scene where he is hanging inches from the ground?
Now you got it.
The franchise took a nosedive when John Woo switched genres and made a brainless action film out of Mission: Impossible II in the year 2000. No longer clever, charming, or filled with twists and turns, this not only scared a good portion of potential Mission: Impossible fans away, but it turned many against the first, which was my favorite film the franchise… until Fallout.
Mission: Impossible III, JJ Abrams’ first feature film back in 2006, was a vast improvement over M:I II, but suffered due to some silly choices that make audiences laugh instead of hold their breath during a major set-piece, that was more CG than actual stunt. It also didn’t help that Tom Cruise destroyed his public image around the same time, with his obsession with Scientology and jumping on Oprah’s couch, causing M:I III to under-perform and Paramount to make the decision they no longer wanted Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible films.
Time heals all wounds, and Paramount doesn’t have the strongest library of high-grossing franchises, so all was amended in 2011 when Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (I’m so thankful they switched from numbers to sub-titles) was released; Brad Bird’s first live-action feature. A new sense of urgency was brought to the franchise with everything getting worse the moment one of our heroes thinks they finally have something under control. The script is solid, adding Jeremy Renner and Simon Pegg to Hunt’s four-person team was amazing, the film looked stylish, it was fun, the action was great, the gadgets and masks weren’t abused, and Tom Cruise really did climb up the tallest building the world – shot on an IMAX camera.
In a way, it took the franchise back to its roots, with Ethan being on the run without the support of IMF, while keeping the action genre from II and III. But it pales in comparison to what Christopher McQuarrie would bring to the franchise next.
McQuarrie was no stranger to these types of films, and Tom Cruise, even before he began work on Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation. He wrote The Usual Suspects early in his career, and wrote Valkyrie, Jack Reacher, and Edge of Tomorrow, all starring Tom Cruise. Cruise, always being the one to select the director since he picked JJ out of the world of TV, likely selected McQuarrie after he directed Jack Reacher which is “Mission: Impossible – Lite.” Fallout was actually the tenth film he and Cruise collaborated on, and McQuarrie is even the writer of the currently in production Top Gun: Maverick.
With Rogue Nation, McQuarrie hit one out of the park as writer and director. Though at the time, I still held the belief that the first Mission: Impossible film was sacred, just like the first Jurassic Park, and no sequel could ever overcome how classic and nostalgic it was to me.
So, I LOVED Rogue Nation, even though it wasn’t my favorite M:I film. McQuarrie elevated everything above even the course correction that was Ghost Protocol, adding multiple huge stunts done for real, and even incredibly dangerous action scenes more deadly than anything Cruise had attempted before. McQuarrie also added the first woman to stand out in the franchise, the incredible Rebecca Ferguson as Ethan Hunt’s equal, Isla Faust. McQuarrie even did the impossible (no pun intended); he topped Phillip Seymor Hoffman’s terrifying villain from M:I III with Sean Harris as Solomon Lane. It was a near perfect film.
Then, last year, Cruise and McQuarrie delivered Fallout, the greatest action film since the ‘80s. Somehow tying all the films together, even if only in Easter Egg form for some, Fallout delivered the best stunts and action scenes ever shot, bringing back Lane as the most personal villain Hunt ever had to face. Plus, a Henry Cavill mustache goes a long way.
It was the most artsy, action-packed, emotional Mission: Impossible film, finally unseating the first Mission: Impossible as my favorite film in the franchise.
This is why I feel that currently, Mission: Impossible is the third best film franchise to date. But, what could possibly make it my #1?
How about the two Mission: Impossible films that were announced this week for Summer 2021 and Summer 2022, both to be written and directed by McQuarrie?
Obviously, this is the finale to the entire franchise. Cruise can’t do this forever, McQuarrie doesn’t want to do it forever, but why not go out with the best director/actor combination since Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford?
And two-parts mean something huuuuge! Not only can we expect stunts that somehow top the very real HALO jump in Fallout, but with a two-part finale, I’m hoping for an Avengers: Infinity War/Avengers: Endgame scenario with Hunt’s IMF team seeing defeat in M:I 7 with redemption/revenge only a year later in M:I 8.
If McQuarrie can deliver two more films as good as Rogue Nation or Fallout, there is no better franchise in my mind. It would not only cement Mission: Impossible as the most ambitious action franchise of all time, but Tom Cruise and McQuarrie could unseat Ford and Spielberg as my favorite actor and director, respectively.
There’s a spark of magic when these two contribute on a Mission film, but hopefully it is not lightning in a bottle. Because of the other hand, if these two sequels can’t live up, the whole franchise would take a dip, in my mind.
So, call me crazy, but I truly do believe that in 2022, Mission: Impossible will officially be my favorite film franchise.
If you have a Tom Cruise or M:I II bias, please consider revisiting the five good-to-perfect films before 2021. It likely won’t be your favorite franchise ever, but if you’ve tuned out you are really missing out on a franchise the likes of which we’ll never see again. Because… CGI.