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Mission: Impossible 7 struggles to innovate within the familiar IP framework

The following content involves spoilers, please read with caution.
Five days after its release, the domestic box office of “Mission: Impossible 7” has just exceeded 200 million, and the Douban score has dropped from 8.4 to 7.9, showing a declining trend. Under the attack of the realistic theme “In the Octagonal Cage” and the national style animation “Thirty Thousand Miles of Chang’an”, no matter how hard Tom cruise is in his sixties, it seems that he can’t arouse more enthusiasm of Chinese audiences for watching movies.

Perhaps it has been mentioned countless times, and the public has lost interest in discussing the topic of “why Chinese audiences don’t like to watch Hollywood blockbusters”. In the middle of 2023, more than a dozen Hollywood blockbusters have been launched, and the best-performing “Fast and Furious 10” failed to break through the 1 billion mark, and received a passing score on Douban.

However, Marvel’s productions, which once swept the pop culture, are lackluster in both box office and word-of-mouth. Everyone knows that the era when the two “Avengers” raked in nearly 5 billion box office has passed.

IP feelings and blockbuster special effects are almost the last bargaining chips for Hollywood blockbusters in the Chinese film market. “Mission: Impossible 7” did not escape such routines, and naturally it failed to break new ground. But compared to the previous “blockbusters”, this new series has shown considerable sincerity and hard work, and it seems unfair to measure its performance solely by the box office. And in this movie, it presents the embarrassing situation of “blockbuster” when the audience changes from old to new.

sincerity and tribute

“Mission: Impossible 7” shows the best sincerity is undoubtedly “real shooting”. Long before the film was released, an official sideshow clip shocked audiences at home and abroad. In the film, the shot of Tom Cruise driving a motorcycle flying off the cliff and skydiving was shot in real scene. The 62-year-old cruise really rushed down the cliff on a motorcycle. Every time the director and staff waited with a heavy heart until the parachute opened smoothly.

“Jumping off the cliff” was repeated six times before all the necessary shots were shot. Director Christopher McQuarrie called it “a huge relief” after filming was completed. Similarly, the thrilling train fight at the end of the film was also shot in real scene.

For the audience sitting in the theater, it has been habitually defaulted that the difficult shots in the movie will be completed through green screen and CG synthesis, and it is difficult to distinguish the real from the fake on the big screen. Because of the “dedication” of the crew and actors.

That being the case, is such desperate live-action shooting still necessary, and has insisting on live-action become a kind of self-movement for the creator?

In fact, compared to the more controllable CG special effects, real-time shooting is a “stupid way”. Not only is it difficult to operate, but it is also difficult to present more complex and changeable lens scheduling in action scenes. The elements are up and down. But in the current trend of action blockbusters rushing out of the universe, from “sci-fi” to “magic”, the live-action shooting of “Mission: Impossible” maintains an old-fashioned sobriety and restraint.

As we all know, the literal translation of the title of “Mission Impossible” is “Mission Impossible”. Whether it is flying over the walls or going up the mountain and down the sea, the core point of the movie is “beyond the limit”. Overly dazzling special effects and incredible visual movements will dispel this excitement. The seemingly clumsy live-action shooting actually framed that the s presented by the movie would not deviate from the real physical laws, so a logical self-consistency was maintained from the story frame to the action design.

The “reality” of “Mission: Impossible 7” falls in all aspects of the film, showing the “decentness” that a qualified commercial action blockbuster should have. Fierce shootouts in the desert of Abu Dhabi, car chases on the streets of Rome, hand-to-hand combat in the cramped alleys of Venice, and confrontation fights on the speeding train in the mountains of Norway… On the one hand, the audience can enjoy the beautiful scenery of the world, on the other hand, all the The action scenes are carefully designed according to the different terrains and buildings, bringing different visual enjoyment to the audience again and again, and at the same time connecting with the plot. For example, because of the complicated streets and alleys in Venice, Ethan needs his companion to guide the way through voice intercom, so that the “smart body” parasitic in the digital world invades.

There is no doubt that, as always, the action scenes that are flexible and rich and refreshing to the audience support the core focus of “Mission: Impossible 7”. This is not only the accumulation of experience in the past thirty years, but also the tacit understanding formed between the creator and the audience.

At the same time, elements of nostalgia and tribute are scattered everywhere in the movie. For example, the new “heroine” Grace, as a habitual thief, steals the core prop “key” with ghostly dexterity. In “Mission: Impossible 1”, the young Ethan Hunt used magic tricks to replace the classic scene of the disk. Another example is the train fight in the final climax of the movie, which also makes people dream back to the climax of the first movie. As an important prop for igniting the fuse in the first film, the lighter was often used as a symbol of identity in the subsequent “Mission: Impossible” and became Ethan Hunt’s own in “Mission: Impossible 7”. identification.

Such a tribute bridge section not only takes care of the perception of new audiences, but also arouses old audiences’ memories of the previous work to the point, completing the arousal of the movie’s “feelings”.

neat spy movie

If you use a neutral word to describe the overall plot and expression of “Mission: Impossible 7”, it should be “neat”.

As a result, some viewers are satisfied with the smooth narrative and interlocking plots, and are satisfied with the familiar style.

“Mission: Impossible 7” sets up an omnipotent and unpredictable villain-intelligence. As an AI that survives through data and constantly absorbs information to grow itself, it has no emotions and no weaknesses. It knows the past and predicts the future through complex calculations of large amounts of data, which is close to “God”. The movie clearly points out that in order to defeat the intelligence body, one must abandon all emotions and think and judge with extreme rationality and calmness.

And as expected by most viewers, in the final struggle, Ethan still insisted on protecting his companions under the threat of intelligence, Grace chose to believe that Ethan gave up the money and asylum at his fingertips at the last moment, and Paris was at the critical moment of life and death. Saving his life to save Ethan repays Ethan’s momentary compassion. Regardless of whether it is within the calculation of the intelligence body or not, the choices made by people in accordance with emotions and intuition at extreme moments have become the key to turning the tide of the battle.

Telling such a story completely so that the audience can understand and accept it smoothly is the basic skill of a commercial film, but this story really does not have too many novel highlights.

It seems that today, when ChatGPT is popular all over the world, the elements of AI seem to keep up with current events, but in the field of movies, as early as 50 years ago, “2001 A Space Odyssey” has thrown out discussions on artificial intelligence. And in the long time after that, from “Blade Runner”, “Terminator”, “The Matrix”, to “Artificial Intelligence”, “I, Robot”, “Ex Machina” and other classic movies, even “Western World” “Person Tracker” “, “Black Mirror” and other dramas have made bolder, richer, and in-depth assumptions and discussions on AI from different angles.

“Humans finally overcome the cold judgment of AI with emotional logic.” This theme is also a familiar American heroism routine. Although “Mission: Impossible 7” tries to highlight the current real threat of AI to human beings by linking it with military, national defense, and political games, it is a bit hollow because of the lack of digging into AI itself.

A typical performance is that in the movie, an “agent” is found for the intelligent body as the biggest “villain”, which weakens the powerful power and sense of oppression that AI can present. The intelligence body is generally summarized as a force “enough to destroy the world”, and it is always human greed to drive the further development of the story-wanting to master the power of the intelligence body.

And the way the protagonist saves the world is simply classified as “destroying the intelligence body”. It is true that this is a common attitude towards “omnipotent power” in many film and television works in the past, but today, when AI has begun to change human life, it is really a bit of a sense of choking.

Perhaps the “Mission: Impossible 7” script, which was born 4 years ago, did not think about doing an in-depth discussion on AI through movies, but used it as a gimmick to keep pace with the times, nesting a different version of the previous “Mission: Impossible” Impossible Impossible has a similar story to the movie: the protagonist gets the task, and this character is often an evil plan of a villain to threaten mankind, and then gathers teammates, encounters a crisis, and finally defeats the villain through a series of extreme-challenging actions to save mankind. Whether it is high-tech gimmicks or the macro setting of the upper and lower parts, none of them made the movie break out of this fixed mode.

A neat and smooth spy war story, coupled with sincere action scenes, is already the full value that this new classic series can bring to the audience. For the audience who walked into the cinema with popcorn and bought tickets, at least it was worth the price of the ticket. And more expectations may not be within the scope of the creator’s consideration when creating.

Series of IP, where is it headed

At present, “Mission: Impossible 7” has a score of 8.1 on IMDb, and the freshness of Rotten Tomatoes is as high as 96%, and it has been called “the best series” by media people. Compared with the high reputation overseas, the domestic evaluation of this film can only be said to be unsatisfactory. Douban’s score of 7.9 is a good score, ranking among the top three imported films this year , but the audience still seems to be dissatisfied beyond “cool”.

The last “Mission: Impossible” movie was released in 2018. After five years, the audience has great expectations for this new series. However, the entire production period experienced a difficult epidemic. After several stoppages, it took several years to complete the work. The “innovation” designed at that time seemed a bit outdated in the ever-changing development.

In the film, due to the omnipotence of intelligence and body in the digital world, the protagonists had to return to the “classical” way of handling cases, such as using old satellites for communication, which suddenly narrowed the technological space for this new work. Dazzling high-tech equipment was originally one of the important highlights of “Mission: Impossible”. In past works, not only created novel visual effects with unrestrained imagination, but even contained certain scientific foresight.

For example, biometric technology that has evolved from iris to gait recognition, touch-screen cars, holographic 3D projection screens, human magnetic levitation, intelligent oxygen-controlled diving suits, etc. In contrast, what can be called high-tech in “Mission: Impossible 7” is the sunglasses worn by Ethan at Abu Dhabi Airport, which displays the information of visitors through AR (augmented reality).

At that time, the Metaverse was in the limelight, and AR and VR (virtual reality) technologies were still topics that entrepreneurs talked about, but when the trend passed, similar technologies had been repeatedly presented in countless works, and today it seems clichéd, not enough novel. In terms of visual effect, it is really difficult to compare with the gecko gloves that climbed the Burj Khalifa freely.

In addition, the “Mission: Impossible” series, which has been performed to the seventh, is trying to carry out a new heroine change. The newly joined Grace is a slick female thief, who is evenly matched and restrained in several confrontations with Ethan. The film tries to create an image of a heroine who is independent, confident, not attached to men, and does not accept the hero’s rescue. But the audience has established a strong trust in the image of Ethan Hunt in the long story in the past, so Grace’s resistance to Ethan’s protection seems a bit stupid in the eyes of the audience from God’s perspective.

And because the image of Grace has not been truly established, Vanessa, who performed amazingly in the current work, almost died because of her. This tragic moment that was originally embarrassing caused the audience’s confusion and even anger.

It can be seen that “Mission: Impossible 7” tries to make some innovative expressions within the established story framework. However, on the one hand, the film needs familiar characters and stories to complete the inheritance of the series, and on the other hand, it hopes to inject new values ​​and aesthetics that are in line with the current situation. In addition, objective reasons delayed the progress of the creation, and when it was actually presented to the audience, it appeared to be more than neat and lacking in depth.

In the current situation of the film industry, maintaining the standard of the previous work and stably producing a qualified commercial film seems to be the best solution to the shackles of a series of IP films.

In the film, Ethan, who wears AR glasses, is blinded by his intelligence and falls into a new crisis, which seems to form a metaphor of reality.

A recent episode is that before and after the release of “Mission: Impossible 7”, a collective strike by screenwriters and actors broke out in Hollywood. The promotional activities of “Mission: Impossible 7” were stopped, and the filming of the second part of the film was also suspended and postponed. One of the fuses that triggered the strike was the concerns of film and television practitioners about artificial intelligence. Screenwriters worry about being eliminated by AI-generated scripts, and actors worry about digital humans replacing actors. This situation is very similar to the protagonists in the movie who are determined to “destroy the intelligence body”, and there is an unexpected intertextuality in and out of the play.

But today we don’t seem to be able to easily make the decision to “destroy the intelligence body”. We cannot predict whether digital actors can replace real people, but cruise, who is over sixty years old, still wants to continue to challenge the limits of human actors.

At the premiere of “Mission: Impossible 7”, Tom Cruise expressed his desire to continue filming the “Mission: Impossible” series while celebrating his 61st birthday. Lead actor Harrison Ford, who he hopes to play until he’s 81, “I’ve got 20 years to catch him.”

But next time, whether Tom Cruise, who is still “desperate”, will be able to capture the hearts of the audience, we still don’t know.

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