Mission: Impossible – Fallout

The latest installment of the little movie series that could is good, though not as great as the last one. (Rogue Nation was something special.)

In this one, Ethan (Tom Cruise) has to stop someone from blowing up some nuclear bombs at a water source that impacts over a billion people. So, that’s pretty dramatic. He’s got Luther (Ving Rhames) and Benji (Simon Pegg) in his crew, and before too long, Ilsa (Rebecca Ferguson) shows up. The new, and unwelcome, addition to the team is August Walker (Henry Cavill), a CIA operative there to make sure things don’t go sideways. I kind of enjoyed Walker’s blase attitude toward violence, and his eye-rolling reactions to some of the IMF’s most treasured toys, like their impersonation masks.

There’s all the action you would expect, with car, motorcycle and helicopter chases. And, of course, Ethan running. You got to have some Ethan running scenes. The big stunt in this one was Ethan jumping out of a plane at 20,000 feet. Which Tom Cruise really did. It’s impressive in theory, but doesn’t carry the same visual impact of him hanging onto the side of a plane in flight. (Another reason Rogue Nation was special.)

Also, and this is a nitpick, the HALO drop was filmed at sunset, but the story has the characters making the jump at 11:30 pm to interrupt a midnight rendezvous. That bugged me.

So, this is a good film, but certainly not the best of the series.

I’m going to dip into spoilers for this next bit, so be warned.

The other thing I found interesting about Fallout was how it felt like a Greatest Hits compilation. Let’s run it down:

Mission: Impossible — Ethan impersonates someone to get a meeting with an arms dealer (who is played by an actress named Vanessa) and he has a weird May-December flirtation with her. (Fun fact. Tom Cruise is just as much older than Vanessa Kirby as he is younger than Vanessa Redgrave.)

Mission: Impossible II — The bad guy is an agent who Ethan dislikes because he’s more interested in killing than he is in spying.

Mission: Impossible III — Julia (Michelle Monaghan) is in danger in the third act. Also, one of the bad guys is impersonated by a good guy.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol — After Ethan claims he’s not the bad guy, the IMF Secretary believes him, and then is quickly killed. Also, the bad guy wants to set off nukes to bring about peace. Somehow.

Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation — The head of the CIA starts the film thinking that Ethan Hunt is a reckless fool, but is turned around by the end. Also, Ethan has a battle of wits with Ilsa because she won’t reveal her mission to him – until the second act, anyway.

Did I miss any?

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Justice League

How long have I been waiting for this movie? Probably since I saw the first Superman film from back in the late 70s. I got a taste of what it might look like in Batman vs Superman. And it did not taste good. (Sheesh, that was an annoying movie. I think Dreamscape might have had fewer dream sequences. Anyway…)

You could tell from the marketing of Justice League that they were looking for a lighter tone. Which I was looking forward to. But would things gel? Would this be the one that makes the DC cinematic universe thing worth it?

Long story short, this is a very mediocre film. Better (by far) than BvS, and better than Suicide Squad. Not as good as Wonder Woman or Man of Steel. Still, that’s a pretty big range of possible quality. Put simply, the story is kind of lazy, the villain is somewhat pointless, and there are a couple of scenes with very annoying special effects (more on that in the spoiler section below). What did I like? Pretty much all the performances and most of the comedy. Ezra Miller as Flash steals the show. Jason Momoa is excellent as Aquaman. Gal Gadot is fine, though not as magical as she was in her solo film. And Ben Affleck is okay, if not quite as punchy as he was in BvS.

The action scenes are pretty good. I particularly liked one that takes place in a park in Gotham City (which I will not describe), and the one in Atlantis. That one makes me hopeful for the Aquaman film they’re working on. I liked how things felt weighted down by the water. Considering how CG stuff usually looks too fast, this was a nice surprise.

I’ll dig into some specifics below, but put simply, if you already like any of the DC films, you’ll probably like at least some of this, but it won’t be going on any of your ten-best lists.

Spoilers next. Be warned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re going to start your film with a shot of Henry Cavill as Superman, make sure it doesn’t look weird and fake. Yes, I get that you weren’t allowed to shave off his mustache because reasons. But if you can’t make his CG shave look good, maybe don’t include the scene in your movie?

My biggest problem with the film was that I liked it better when it was called The Avengers. A dude with horns arrives via sky beam to steal a cube-shaped thing that people have been experimenting with? And he’s followed by a horde of faceless CG goons? And his goal is domination of Earth? I get that this is a plot line from the actual comics, but I don’t care. Maybe DC even invented Steppenwolf before Marvel invented Thanos. Also don’t care. I live in the movie world. The first film that comes out wins. (Also, if the first film that comes out is demonstrably better written, that’s another thing.)

I give the WB marketing team props for holding back on Superman, but there’s very little suspense for the audience about whether Batman’s plan will actually work. The only real suspense is how he’ll react once he’s been resurrected. I loved the scene where he goes postal on the rest of the League. It felt different and inventive. (Okay, maybe it was a little bit too much like Vision’s birth in Age of Ultron, but that’s a quibble.)

Sadly, this Superman is way too powerful. Once he’s involved in the final battle, the tension is gone. There’s little point for a whole league of super heroes if Superman can do everything they can do and never be hurt. This isn’t a Justice League problem, it’s a Superman character problem. I’m not super sure that there’s a solution. I think we may have to accept the fact that Justice League films will never really work.

Maybe when they reboot the whole thing in a few years.