It takes most long running film franchises several installments to identify their signature style. Think about it.
For the “James Bond” series, it wasn’t until the third film, “Goldfinger,” that producer Cubby Broccoli perfected the classic 007 formula. It took the “Fast and Furious” series until the fifth installment, “Fast Five,” to make the Vin Diesel action outing finally take off.
Even the “Mission Impossible” series, which first launched in 1996, falls perfectly under this assumption, although, unlike the previous two examples, it isn’t as easy to define which film marked the start of the classic “Mission Impossible” style we know today.
Some critics say the first film in the series, directed by Brian De Palma, laid the necessary groundwork for the franchise’s signature style. However, others point to director Brad Bird’s fourth “Mission Impossible” film as the point where the series found it’s footing. Honestly, there is an argument to be made that any of the entries in the series could be the “defining film” behind the franchise with the exception of one: “Mission Impossible 2.”
I frequently say that “Live Free or Die Hard” is a bad “Die Hard” movie, but an otherwise entertaining action film. I can’t say the same about “Mission Impossible 2.” All of the ways “Mission Impossible 2” ignored what “Mission Impossible” is could be forgiven if the film was well-made.
The fundamental flaw of “Mission Impossible 2” is it’s disinterest in being a “Mission Impossible” film. The fun of the “Mission Impossible” films is watching a team use trickery, deception, technology and eventually incredible stunts to pull the rug out under the bad guys. “Mission Impossible 2” pays lip service to these elements while repositioning the “Mission Impossible” brand as a Tom Cruise action franchise. The elaborate heists and teamwork are ignored while the signature John Woo gunplay is pushed to the fore.
It’s also terribly paced. The movie quickly grinds to a halt right as it should be taking off and after an admittedly good opening scene, the film then spends fifteen minutes on Ethan and master-thief Nyah falling in love. (Note, the “Mission Impossible” films are always weakest when depicting Ethan Hunt’s romantic life.) When the mission finally does start in earnest, it still feels like a slog.
For a film where people infected with a virus have twenty hours to live, there sure seems to be a lack of energy.
As if the poor pacing, lame plot and total disregard for its predecessor film weren’t enough, “Mission Impossible 2” gives “Die Another Day” a run for it’s money in the race of “which film made at the turn of the century will age worse.” Limp Bizkit delivers an infamous remix of the iconic Lalo Schrifin “Mission Impossible” theme. The soundtrack is a showcase for tracks from Metallica, Godsmack and…Butthole Surfers. There is an excessive amount of speed ramping. What should be a beautiful backdrop of Australia feels wasted. And the signature John Woo tropes feel more like cliches.
Still, even I’ll admit the movie isn’t a complete failure.
The opening scene is chilling (and that was before 9/11), the villain’s plot actually makes sense and Thandie Newton actually finds herself in the middle of some tense scenes. It was also where Tom Cruise started committing to some incredible stunts, something he continued throughout the rest of the franchise. But this handful of positive attributes doesn’t even begin to makeup for the fact that, as a whole, “Mission Impossible: 2” is a mess.
This story originally appeared on Medium: https://medium.com/@mgohn4/mission-impossible-2-still-the-black-sheep-of-the-franchise-that-you-remember-ba7a6aefa1e6