When I began watching the Mission: Impossible movies recently, I expected a similar trajectory for the series that I experienced with The Fast & The Furious. I assumed that the Tom Cruise super spy franchise would start with an ungodly mess of rap rock era machismo, but eventually find its way into something a little more respectable & cohesive. What I found was that the first film was a surprisingly classy action flick from a precious moment in pop culture that came just before America’s rap rock dark times. The first Mission: Impossible film was campy, sure, but it was also excessive & dated in an entirely enjoyable way that I thought wouldn’t come until much later into the series.
It turns out that the rap rock garbage fire I was expecting from the first film was actually well & alive in the the second installment in the series, Mission: Impossible 2. M:I-2 ditches the Brian De Palma sense of 60s chic for a laughably bad excess of X-treme 90s bad taste helmed by John Woo. The drop in quality from the first film to the next was so drastic that it’d almost be more believable if M:I-2 were a spiritual sequel to Woo’s ludicrous Nic Cage trashterpiece Face/Off than it having anything to do with Brian De Palma’s film at all. He even recycled the slow-motion dove flapping from Face/Off, which was released just a few years before this stinker.
Almost everything pleasant about the first Mission:Impossible film is absent in the second. De Palma’s over-the-top abuse of camera trickery is replaced by straight-faced action movie blandness accompanied by non-sarcastic record scratches. Any enjoyment derived from the removal of faces in the first film is ruined here by an unrestrained overuse of the gimmick (this really should’ve been a second Face/Off film). The Danny Elfman score from the first film was supplanted by (I’m not kidding, here) a goddamn Limp Bizkit cover of the film’s original theme. Even Tom Cruise’s hair got douchier. He’s got these awful, long-flowing locks that swing in the breeze as he shows off his leather jacket on his super cool motor bike that he slides around on while shooting his gun with wild abandon. God, I hate this movie. Pretty much the only element of the first film that comes through unscathed is Ving Rhames, who remains a delight in every scene he’s afforded.
Here’s to hoping that the series bounces back from what has got to be its darkest hour. In the year 2000, when this film was released, I was a dumb kid who probably would’ve loved a Limp Bizkit soundtracked love letter to late 90s X-treme marketing & Tom Cruise’s shitty, shitty hair, but fifteen years later I’m desperately missing the campy, but classy 60s super spy homage of the first film. If the series somehow keeps spiraling down in quality this drastically (an Impossible proposition if I’ve ever heard one), I don’t think I’m going to make it to the other side.