In today’s world of movies, when sequels are being announced even before the first film has released, and cinematic universes are being created with lot of fanfare, the model on which Mission: Impossible franchise has been built seems unique now. A kick-back to the good old days, where you made a good movie, enjoyed its success, relaxed a bit and then began work on the next. Mission: Impossible movie, the original one, came at a time when Nicholas Cage was holding the Oscar statuette for Best Actor, Bill Clinton was the President of the USA, and Miley Cyrus had not even turned four. It does seem a long time back, doesn’t it? It was in May 1996, when Brian de Palma’s Mission: Impossible hit the big screens. An action-packed spy movie based on a television series of the same name, Mission: Impossible was an instant hit. It opened in 3,012 theatres in North America, which was the biggest release ever seen till then, and right from Day 1, the movie started earnings big bucks. A New York Times article published towards the end of May 1996, carried the following quote from the then Chairman of Paramount Pictures, the studio that distributed the movie.
Sherry Lansing, chairman and chief executive officer at Paramount Pictures, said over the telephone: “No one could have ever dreamed the numbers we’re getting. The movie, we feel, is intelligent, it’s got great special effects, you never catch your breath and it holds you on the edge of your seat. Also, Tom Cruise is a major, major, major movie star, arguably the biggest draw there is.”
This was the beginning of the Mission: Impossible franchise, co-produced by Tom Cruise himself. The first movie made on a budget of $80 million or so went on to earn $458 million worldwide, more than 5.5 times its production budget! And remember this iconic scene, right? Till date, it remains one of the best scenes ever seen in a spy film of such nature.
The success of Mission: Impossible did launch a franchise as one would expect, but at a slower pace than we see in today’s world. Each of the movies have had substantial gaps between them, ranging from four to six years. Mission: Impossible II released in 2000, Mission: Impossible III in 2006, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol in 2011 and now we have Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation in 2015. It is as if the studio does not want to overload the market with a similar-themed film. That does make sense. The movies in this series have a similar idea behind them: a tough mission to be handed over to Ethan Hunt and his team which requires some daredevil stunts and a lot of infiltration, using some mind-blowing gadgets, as the famous MI tune plays in the background. If you were to see all the movies of the series back-to-back, you would find your interest waning, for they aren’t meant to be seen in that manner unlike, say Lord of the Rings series.
Each of the Mission: Impossible movies can be seen as a standalone film too. While some core characters do return, there isn’t much of a linkage with the previous movies. There is a new mission, and a new villain each time. So the time gap does not erode any continuity. And no wonder, five different directors have worked on the series, with no director returning for the sequel. After Brian de Palma, the sequel was directed by John Woo, and then by J.J. Abrams and Brad Bird. The latest movie has been directed by Christopher McQuarrie. Even the writer teams have kept on changing, and believe it or not, the music composers too, though Michael Giacchino did compose for the third and fourth movie both. The production of this series can be equated to a van-ful of film-makers coming in, building a film around the broadly outlined framework, and then leaving for another van to take over the job.
The one constant factor over these last 19 years has been Tom Cruise playing Ethan Hunt. Cruise was a big draw in Hollywood way back in 1996, and still commands a strong position now. His latest movies haven’t really lit the box-office on fire but his last flick Edge of Tomorrow did earn fantastic reviews, and so did Cruise’s performance. Hardly anyone will disagree that the presence of Tom Cruise gives the Mission: Impossible franchise some sort of continuity and makes it work at the box-office every time. He makes the character of Ethan Hunt admirable, someone who is determined to get the job done. He has a charisma of his own, something that isn’t easy to replicate, and that is why I can never imagine another actor being brought in to play Ethan Hunt. If ever the time comes when Mission: Impossible has to continue without Tom Cruise, then it would have to be a spin-off of sorts. In fact that was the theory speculated by many when Jeremy Renner was brought in for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. But hey, four years later, Tom Cruise is still going strong!
At the box-office, the sequels have not seen the collections surpass the predecessor’s figures each time. Mission: Impossible III in fact was a bit of a disappointment, and if the series had to end at sometime, then it should have been then. Instead, another film did happen, and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol emerged as the biggest earning film of the series!
Chart: Global box-office collections of Mission: Impossible series
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation comes to theatres in North America this weekend. It was initially planned to be a December release, before being jumped up to the summer period. No one is complaining about that for certain. Till then, care to listen to the Mission: Impossible theme music to get in the mood? Here we go…