Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dumb idea of the week: Pairing Tom Cruise with an unknown to boost box office? Fourth Mission: Impossible film to not be titled 'Mission: Impossible'?

Long story short, Paramount is doing all kinds of tinkering with the fourth Mission: Impossible picture, in a bid to cut down costs (yes, Randy, I know...), and/or 'reboot the series'. As Variety reported the other day, the two big change is that co-star Jeremy Renner will now be a co-lead with Tom Cruise, in a theoretical passing of the torch should Paramount or Tom Cruise decide to continue the series without Tom Cruise. Also of note is that the studio is considering calling the film something other than 'Mission: Impossible'. Brad Bird is (thankfully) still directing and the film is still set for December 2011.

As for the whole 'co-lead' business, it's a reasonable idea on the surface but if you look at why it's being done it's a little moronic. Yes, Tom Cruise isn't quite the mega-star that he used to be. Yes, Knight and Day 'only' grossed $215 million worldwide so far on a $110 million budget. But Jeremy Renner, Oscar nomination, obvious talent, and what-not aside, is a complete and total unknown to 90% of the movie-going populace. Most of America did not see The Hurt Locker. At best, anyone who knows Renner knows him from said Bigelow Oscar winner or as 'that guy from SWAT'. Sure, he may become a big star when Ben Affleck's The Town comes out in three weeks. And yes, he's playing Hawkeye in The Avengers. But The Avengers does not come out until five months after M:I4. And, while it's admirable that Paramount seems trying to 'make a star', it's a little insulting and cynical that the studio thinks that Tom Cruise needs box office help from someone that most filmgoers haven't even heard of. Furthermore, this is a trap for Renner himself. If the picture doesn't open huge, except an avalanche of articles asking 'is Jeremy Renner really a star?'.

As for the title thing, I'm not sure what the hell they are thinking frankly. The series, with its director-musical chairs and flexible continuity, has exactly two major selling points: Tom Cruise in an action thriller, and the four-decade long brand name. If you're downplaying the presence of Tom Cruise (still a stupid thing to do, despite his best attempts at public relations suicide), and you're removing the Mission: Impossible name (and music?), what exactly will be the hook for this $100+ tentpole picture? Does Paramount really think that anyone other than film nerds are going to be excited at the mere concept of a big-budget action picture from 'that guy who directed The Incredibles' and starring 'that guy from that Hurt Locker-thingy'? Free advice to Paramount: you've got one of the most beloved brand names in television history, and you've got one of the biggest stars on the planet. I suggest you use both of those items to your full advantage.

Scott Mendelson

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