Is ‘Mission: Impossible’ the Last Real Movie Franchise?

Every third film at your local movieplex is part of a Hollywood franchise.

That’s an exaggeration, but only a slight one.

Franchises reign supreme in mainstream Hollywood. You can change the actor playing Spider-Man, for example, but the franchise itself endures. And brand recognition is huge in the current film market, the reason we’ll soon see movies based on a Mattel doll, Hot Wheels cars and more product-driven fare.

They, in turn, will become franchises if the box office stars align.

Not all franchises are built the same, though.

The James Bond saga, as durable as any over the past 50 years, has never been so wobbly. We don’t have a new 007 yet, and we might not for some time. Plus, chances are whoever is chosen will lead a series leaning heavier into woke than before.

The “Fast & Furious” saga is clearly spent, creatively speaking, but we’ll get two more installments just the same.

What about the MCU? Yes, it keeps generating cash, and gobs of it. Each new film reminds us how superior the earlier efforts remain. And what’s the point of the MCU’s fourth phase, anyway?

And then there’s “Mission: Impossible.”

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The spy saga based on the classic TV series began in 1996, and the first three installments proved effective, not revelatory. Tom Cruise’s Ethan Hunt lacked Bond’s panache, no matter how many times he saved the day.

It was just another action series, albeit one led by its ageless star.

Then Brad Bird, the mind behind classic Pixar films like “The Incredibles,” took a crack at the formula. The 2011 hit “Mission: Impossible: Ghost Protocol” introduced Hunt’s support team – Simon Pegg and Ving Rhames – and juiced the action elements to Bondian levels.

Voila, the franchise found its voice after three game tries. And it’s only grown stronger from there.

Why else would Team Paramount green light two new sequels, shot back to back, to be released in 2023 and 2024?

It’ll be hard to top the stupefying stunts seen in 2018’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout,” but darned if the trailer for the next installment, “Dead Reckoning Part One,” doesn’t tease just that.

So why does this franchise loom above the rest?

It starts with Cruise, an aggressively apolitical star who keeps his private life private (at least he does lately). Cruise is in charge of his cinematic destiny, and he meticulously picks the talent behind the scenes.

The next two “M:I” installments are being directed by Christopher McQuarrie,” the auteur behind the last two sequels.

Plus, the new “M:I” formula gives the series its comic heart. Pegg is a natural scene stealer, and Rhames can do comedy and deliver gravitas in a single scene.

Add recurring players like Rebecca Ferguson and Vanessa Kirby, and you have a template built to last.

The New York Times recently dubbed Cruise the “last real movie star.” We might say the same about his signature franchise.

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