This evening, or roughly six hours hence, Hollywood Elsewhere will finally see Mission: Impossible — Fallout (Paramount, 7.27). Which led me this morning to read David Edelstein’s 7.23 Vulture review, and his somewhat dismissive description of Tom Cruise (i.e., Ethan Hunt) as “cocky” and “generally unlovable.” Which is true, I suppose, and yet Cruise remains on a short list of bona fide Hollywood movie stars who deliver heft and consequence.
Who are the real-deal movie stars of the present, Cruise aside? Denzel Washington, Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt, Meryl Streep, Dwayne Johnson (dented), Robert Downey, Jr., Jennifer Lawrence (dented), Will Smith (seriously dented), Tom Hanks (although his last gasp of star-power oxygen happened over 15 years ago, with the release of Sam Mendes‘ Road to Perdition), Samuel L. Jackson and who else?
Liam Neeson, I suppose, to a lesser extent. Adam Sandler is done. Julia Roberts is a “name,” obviously, but she hasn’t been a super-power for a full decade if not longer. Bruce Willis is mostly about the paycheck these days, overly willing to make crap.
Consider a 2.6.18 Observer piece by Brandon Katz, titled “Movie Stars Are Dead and They’re Never Coming Back.”
Key passage: “It isn’t about the names these days — it’s about the property.”
Paul Degarabedian, senior media analyst for ComScore: “The idea of star power used to be in global audience recognition, a major star in a movie might ensure global success here and in the international marketplace. But with the advent of big-concept movies, franchise ensembles like Fast and Furious and Marvel and big-budget blockbusters, the concept and marketing is now what gets people excited. Merely having a movie star is no longer a guarantee of box office success. Now, big stars need a concept in concert with that star power to create excitement.”
Favorite Edelstein passage: “The script is Mission: Impossible to Follow. Gobs of exposition pour from the mouth of Alec Baldwin as Cruises’s superior and what registers is yak-yak-McGuffin-yak-Apostles-yak-plutonium-McGuffin-the Widow-yak-yak-McGuffin.
“The thing to hold onto is the baddies, the Apostles, aren’t terrorists but apocalypsists — they want to destroy the world and rebuild — and that the twisty-faced Solomon Lane (Sean Harris), mysteriously left breathing at the close of the last film, is bent on blowing everything to hell. Cruise’s Ethan Hunt has to spring the hated Lane to trade for the plutonium he let slip from his grasp because he couldn’t sacrifice Luther (Ving Rhames), so he has to dodge not just Apostles, but Angela Bassett from the CIA, her smug agent (Henry Cavill), a deadly mole whose identity isn’t much of a surprise, and Ferguson’s Ilsa Faust, who loves Ethan but has MI-6 on her ass.
“No, I couldn’t diagram it. But all you really need to know is that it comes down to a ticking clock; many amplified kicks and punches; and a bunch of actors grimacing at multicolored wires along with numbered dials approaching the single digits.”