Neil Calloway says it’s time Hollywood started saying no to Cruise…
It’s a cliché to say success has many fathers while failure is an orphan, but it’s no less true for that. The most recent example of this in Hollywood is everyone disowning The Mummy and blaming its poor box office on star Tom Cruise having too much control over the project. It’s easily done, and most films that fail will go through similar finger-pointing and blame spreading. The thing is, in this case, you can imagine its true.
Cruise can be a superb actor; when he challenges himself to get out of his comfort zone – an all too rare experience these days – he’s brilliant. He’s better than Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, amazing in Magnolia, the best thing in Collateral, but far too often he falls back on the same stock characters in ultimately forgettable films.
Cruise’s career has come in three overlapping phases. His first phase, where he made his name, covers the years from 1986 to 1995, where Cruise plays a young man who excels in his field, knows it, and overcomes difficulties which make him humbler and a better person. In his review of Days of Thunder, Roger Ebert set out the character beats better than I ever could for this sub genre. Then came the experimental years, which lasted for the next decade or so and ran in parallel with the Mission: Impossible movies, where he worked with directors you wouldn’t expect and did some of his best work in films that straddled the border between studio pictures and indie movies, then for the past decade he has stagnated in what might be called the Christopher McQuarrie decade, as the writer has worked on many of Cruise’s films since then. In fairness, he’s made good and bad films during all three periods, but in his current period the films have become more formulaic than ever.
One of Cruise’s more recent films actually states the type of character he plays now. In Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Alec Baldwin’s character gives a speech that sums up not only Ethan Hunt, but Jack Reacher too, “Hunt is uniquely trained and highly motivated – a specialist without equal – immune to any countermeasures. There is no secret he cannot extract, no security he cannot breach, no person he cannot become” Not having seen The Mummy, I can’t comment on whether he plays the same archetype, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Edge of Tomorrow – his best film by some distance of the past decade or so, is notable because it has less of these elements than the other, but you do wonder if he is currently surrounded by people, and collaborates with people – McQuarrie, Doug Liman – who have never said no to him.
Now, with that in mind, it just adds to the 1001 other reasons why Top Gun 2 shouldn’t be made. The fact that its working title is called Top Gun – Maverick tells you everything you need to know. I love the original film, and watch it every six months or so. It was the first movie I watched when I got my current TV, and will be the first one I watch on my next TV, but that doesn’t mean I want Tom Cruise Version 3.0 working with the current version of Jerry Bruckheimer on a sequel that will have none of the fun, originality or excitement of the first film. The world has moved on, too – it’s not going to be cool, sleek F-14s against the Soviets, it’s going to be drones against some faceless third world jihadist. It’s hardly sexy.
Someone needs to start saying no to Cruise, and they need to start by canning Top Gun 2.
Neil Calloway is a pub quiz extraordinaire and Top Gun obsessive. Check back here every Sunday for future instalments.