Saturday, May 06, 2006

MISSION: RIDICULOUS

Well, this weekend is the official start of the summer movie season. Or, as I call it, The Year of the Flop, Part II. The Sequel.

What else can you call the offerings this summer? There isn't too much to look forward to. There's the X-Men sequel again, then there's Superman Returns. Next week, it's Poseidon. So we're looking at more sequels, more remakes, and more ripoffs of the comic books. Maybe I'm better off just going to the comic book store and buying a few superhero comics, and read them at home. Saves me the money and effort of going to the movie theatre, or renting these things at Blockbuster.

So you have these retreads and remakes again, as usual. Then you have the usual regurgitation of the usual actors. There is going to be another Jennifer Aniston movie, and another Owen Wilson movie, and another Jack Black movie coming up. The "real" movie season, full of award-contending "serious" motion pictures and original independent flicks made with very little money, is over. The Oscars were all handed out a long time ago, and film festival season is coming to an end too (Cannes is this month). They've handed it back over to Hollywood, but instead of coming up with original stories, the big studios are giving us the same tired remakes and retreads again this summer, from the same entertainment moguls who think this is an easy way to make a quick profit. So we're getting the run-of-the-mill, let's-make-a-profit junk at the theatres again, just like last year. Then, when summer's over, they'll ask themselves why people are still staying home and blame the bootleg DVDs for their problems. Hollywood just won't learn.

About the only movie that looks semi-original is The DaVinci Code, which promises to be the blockbuster to end all blockbusters. But again, this isn't some original idea from Hollywood, it was a book for crying out loud! Still, the book was certainly a big bestseller and a sensation in its own right. And Tom Hanks is in the movie, so everyone is expecting this picture to be a huge hit and a big money train for all the people involved. Maybe it won't be The Year of the Flop, Part II, after all, maybe it'll simply be the year of The DaVinci Code. Maybe that movie will be a catalyst for big business this summer for all these flicks. But many of these other movies do not look promising in the least.

YOUR MISSION, IF YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, IS RIDICULOUS

The first big blockbuster of the summer season is a big retread, Mission: Impossible III, or as I call it, Mission: Ridiculous. The hype for this movie has been unrelenting for weeks now. Ridiculous hype.

The movie is ridiculous because Tom Cruise is in it, for one thing, and I just think he's unrealistic in the role. "Jerry Maguire as a secret agent", you get the picture. But that's beside the point. What's most ridiculous is the storyline.

The plot from that movie I saw last night was so twisted and nonsensical, and the action scenes were so unrealistic and so loud and noisy, that you couldn't follow all the twists and turns! First there's a bad guy. Then, it turns out there's another bad guy. Then it turns out he's not the bad guy after all, it's a different guy who's really the bad guy, and the guy you thought was the bad guy is actually the good guy.

By that point you've lost track of who the bad guys are and what the heck is happening. And the bad guys were after something called the rabbit's foot. Why? Who knows, who cares. In any event none of these bad guys clearly explains why they wanted this silly rabbit's foot to begin with or why it's so important.

They had Tom Cruise's character get married, thinking it was a good idea to try and humanize Cruise's character. But this love story just made the whole movie seem, well, hokey. They got married in the hospital and there was some scene where they made love in the hospital. I mean, that scene was a sure sign you couldn't take this movie seriously. Another example of this: there was a scene at the Vatican where Tom the Scientologist was decked out in Catholic-priest duds. That got a few laughs.

The stunts were okay, and there was lots of senseless violence. I will say the action sequences were pretty good, some death-defying shoot-em-ups, and the locations were interesting. They went to Shanghai, so seeing Shanghai on screen was worth the price of admission right there. But the rest of the movie was not believeable, period. You go into the theatre, and just to keep your sanity you have to forget about following the plot. You're expected to simply sit back and watch Tom Cruise fight the bad guys. But it was really frustrating to try and follow the twists and turns. I think there were too many twists in the movie, so you got to the point where you quit following all these twists in the movie. Consequently, all the action in the movie just seemed like senseless violence. I was left wondering: why did these bad guys need Tom Cruise to go and rescue this secret agent, and then go to Rome and then Shanghai, if what they really wanted was for him to bring them the bleeping rabbit's foot?! Wasn't there an easier, more direct way? And what the heck was the deal with that suitcase Cruise took from the bad guys in the Vatican?! Was that part of the bad guys' grand setup?! I find it hard to believe it was, but then we the audience aren't supposed to care about stuff like that. It looked like they were making the plot up as they went along, these folks.

Anyway, a lot of the patrons at the movie theatre were unimpressed with this silly movie, shaking their heads at how ridiculous it all was. But Rotten Tomatoes is giving this one two big thumbs up! Ebert and Roeper are more in line with my thinking, though; they split their vote. This is a movie that has a lot of action and guns, and enough exotic locations, so that's your main reason to see the movie. It's the reason why it'll be a big hit, in spite of the fact that the plot is a mess. Who cares if you can't keep track of who the bad guys are or what is going on, it's Mission: Ridiculous. That's the whole point of the movie, it seems- it makes no apologies for being ridiculous and winking at the audience about how silly and impossible the storyline is.

Also, J.J. Abrams of Lost fame directed this movie so all the Alias and Lost fans will see it, just because it's J.J. Abrams. They're not going there to see Tom Cruise. This movie is going to be a hit, not because of Tom Cruise, but in spite of him! Let's face it, his personal life has been splattered all over the tabloids and his personal PR is terrible. If Tom Cruise wasn't in this movie, and it was, say, Will Smith instead, this movie would still be a huge hit. And Will Smith would have done just as good a job.

Tom Cruise does get credit for this, though: he has access to some excellent scripts and potential blockbuster hits, so Cruise is lucky enough to get to pick and choose movies that make him rich and famous, in spite of himself. He churns out the hits, in spite of all the nonsense that is going on with his personal life with Katie Holmes and the rest of it, all because he's able to make sound choices about what films to make. Plus he has enough clout to get some big names on board. It was Cruise's idea to bring J.J. Abrams on board, for example. Canny move; this guarantees this movie will rake in the patrons at the theatres and sell lots of DVDs. It all but ensures that we will get Cruise starring again in Mission: Ridiculous IV, whether we want to see him back or not. Really, anyone could have done this movie. But the audience gets stuck with Tom Cruise. Not because movie fans like him as an actor, but because he is good at picking the hit movies people want to see. Because he is part of so many hit movies, the people in Hollywood end up believing Cruise is a big box-office draw. So he ends up getting all of the good scripts to read and winds up getting more of his own big-ticket projects off the ground. And moviegoers keep getting blockbuster Tom Cruise movies to see at their local theatres until the world ends, regardless of whether they like him or not! Give this guy credit, at least, for figuring out how to stay on top of the heap at the box office. He's got this racket all figured out.

That's my Mission: Ridiculous rant. Stay tuned this summer for further coverage of The Year of the Flop: Part II.

1 comment:

PG said...

Nothing wrong with sourcing movies from books and comics, as long as the books and comics were good themselves. I liked V for Vendetta, and look forward to seeing Thank You for Smoking (starring Katie Holmes, incidentally), and will not have to be dragged too hard to see the third X-Men or the new Superman movie (Kevin Spacey!).

The Da Vinci Code was an incredibly bad book, but paradoxically I think it will make an OK movie. The things I hated about the Da Vinci Code were book things -- the writing was sophomoric and overburdened with italics, the exposition was painfully obvious, etc. But you can't fault it for the amount of information it feeds the reader, nor the action of most of the plot. Some stuff isn't plausible (the prequel, Angels & Demons, is even worse in this respect), but who needs reality in an action flick?