Pivoting away from superhero movie fatigue and introducing Ethan Hunt (or Tom Cruise?): the modern a
I don’t necessarily agree with the concept of superhero movie fatigue, but I do acknowledge the general sentiment that certain (most?) audiences are growing tired of seeing larger than life comic book characters on screen. There's no shortage of superhero movies these days, and as much as I’m a fan of this sub-genre in commercial filmmaking, it is refreshing to be taken in other creative directions. A counter argument to this is the simple fact that there’s always alternative programming available to viewers. This is certainly the argument that I would make, which is why I don’t necessarily agree with the idea that you can become fatigued over superhero movies. If you feel that way for whatever reason, just watch something else. Problem solved.
Having said that, I also have to quickly backtrack and add that there’s something special about large-scale Hollywood studio productions. It might be a remnant of their pop culture significance that has taken hold over the years, or simply a result of large cinematic spectacles being subversively awesome on so many different levels. They’re damn fun to watch, and this is especially true for the summer blockbuster season. Even if you don’t consider them to be of the highest artistic endeavours in cinema, they are irreplaceable in many ways, which is evidenced by Hollywood’s continued grip on the global box office market with their blockbuster films.
And because of this affirmative stronghold that these films possess, watching something else isn’t always a desirable option. Which is why I have to soften up my stance and admit that the saturation of superhero movies can be a bit distracting. Not everything is as refreshing and purposeful as Infinity War, and at a certain point, something different doesn’t seem like a terrible option. But the conceptual framework of superheroes is just all too appealing, which is why people (myself included) are always coming back for more. Superheroes are often the personification of what many of us wish we could be, and as idealistic as that sounds, it’s hard to grow tired of something like that. But sometimes, what we need is for that idealism of pure heroics to evolve and be modernized. With Mission: Impossible – Fallout, Tom Cruise has given us that modernized superhero in the form of his endearing and seemingly bulletproof portrayal of Ethan Hunt.
Unlike the previous Mission: Impossible entries, Fallout really tries to emphasize the iconic nature of the Ethan Hunt character. This is a guy who puts his life at risk on every single outing, and over time, we’ve come to witness both the physical and emotional sacrifices he’s had to make in order to protect the world from imminent danger. That, and the fact that he performs greater-than-human tasks despite his mortal vulnerabilities, makes him a pretty damn good superhero. A superhero that happens to exist in a more ‘realistic’ world, and without any overt super powers. He’s kind of like Batman, but probably buys way more life insurance given that he does everything without wearing any advanced protective equipment. And conveniently enough, we also get another 'Batman v Superman' showdown here, with Henry Cavill once again getting his ass beat by a human.
Watching Ethan Hunt in Fallout felt like I was watching a tweaked version of a comic book superhero, with the flavourings of a non-superhero film. His personality and physical feats are larger than life and beyond realistic, yet as a viewer, there may be hints of disbelief but never disengagement. The combination of all these elements made the film extremely refreshing to watch, and enjoyable on so many levels. A big part of my enjoyment for Fallout can be credited to Tom Cruise, who is an aging but ever so daring actor, effectively blurring his real life persona with that of his onscreen character. I don’t know how the guy still does it, but somehow, he does. Seeing Tom Cruise run in a film is still one of the greatest cinematic joys in my opinion, and you get lots of running in the movie.
Even if he’s doing less of his stunts these days (which doesn’t even seem to be the case if you've been following production reports), the physicality of Tom Cruise has an unwavering effect with a timeless quality to it. There is no doubt that Ethan Hunt feels like a superhero because he’s played by Tom Cruise. I would even go so far as to say that Tom Cruise being on screen, is in many ways a modernized version of a superhero. It’s a stretch, but not without merit, in my opinion. In fact, since we’ve long forgone the studio era of Hollywood filmmaking, we don’t really have the kind of onscreen titans that the studio days used to employ. Those days are long gone, but I’d say that Tom Cruise is a bit of an exception who somehow embodies a titanic presence that follows him no matter what film he’s in. As an example, The Mummy remake last summer was pretty horrible, but Tom Cruise carried the film on his shoulders and it’s the only reason why I didn’t stop watching the film half way through.
But I digress. Regardless of what your views are on Tom Cruise as an actor, you’ll hopefully agree that Ethan Hunt is more than what he was in his previous films. It took some time, and it took some evolving, but he is undoubtedly a bona-fide modern day superhero. If like me, you’re an avid fan of comic book movies but also sense a growing haze of indifference brewing the background, you will have a blast watching Mission: Impossible – Fallout.