First off, I couldn’t agree more with Matt Dentler about the annoying experience of going to see a major release like M:i:III on its opening weekend.
Even though I managed to avoid the overpriced Diet Coke, the up-selling concession workers and the temptation of the candy counter, I was forced to endure what appeared to be a Junior High School mixer, kids chatting during the “slow parts”, texting one another, answering their phones, and kids maneuvering their way through the theatre popping up and down like so many whack-a-moles (what I wouldn’t have given for a large polo mallet…)
That said, M:i:III is solid popcorn entertainment. J.J. Abrams took the keys to the franchise and handled himself quite well in his major feature directorial debut.
Those unfamiliar with Abrams’ work in television, however, would be better advised to tackle ALIAS on DVD.
In the past three weeks, with some unexpected free time on my hands, between posing resumes and the like, I have been catching up on ALIAS at the strong urging of my friend Paul. (And he's a film professor.)
Doing so took some of the pop out of M:i:III--which only goes to support my argument that television is outpacing movies. If one of the most anticipated tent pole action pictures of the summer (itself a bog screen treatment of an old television program) pales next to the rich escapist complexity of a program like ALIAS, how do the studios expect to rebound?
Below is a brief index of similarities between ALIAS and M:i:III
In ALIAS, episodes often open with Syd in jeopardy. Season one begins with Syd being tortured vs. In Mi:III the scene begins with Cruise in jeopardy, being tortured, and with his fiancé in peril.
In ALIAS, Victor Garber drops the following insult, “I’m not impressed that your daddy plays golf with the President”vs. In M:i:III Laurence Fishburn says something eerily similar--I'd quote it directly but somone's cel phone went off...they answered. I swear the caller was in the theatre too, so they were having a cel phone conversation with one another inside the theatre!.
In ALIAS, Abrams often opens the action “mid-episode,” cutting back to the events that lead up to perilous scene vs. In M:i:III, the action begins with the torture scene, and cuts back to the events that lead up to it.
In ALIAS Lena Olin stages a surprise escape by jumping off the roof of a building and pulling a parachute vs. In M:i:III Cruise stages his exit from a building by jumping out a high rise window, pullikng a parachute
In ALIAS Lena Olin uses a defibrillator to disable an embedded bug vs. In M:i:III Cruise attempts to use defibrillator to disable an embedded bomb in Kerri Russell’s head.
In ALIAS most of Vaughn and Syd’s early meets were set in supermarkets vs. In M:i:III Cruise and Crudup have a priceless meeting in a 7-Eleven.
In ALIAS Syd perpetrates a break-in at the Vatican vs. In M:i:III Cruise and company break-in to the Vatican.
In ALIAS Syd received phone calls from a pizza delivery service to set up covert meetingsvs. In M:i:III Cruise receives a phone call from a travel agency to set up a covert meeting.
Other J.J. Abrams touches:
Rambling tech geeks who ramble on with pop-culture non sequiturs: Marshal Finkman = Benji Dunn (Shaun of the Dead’ star Simon Pegg).
Casting Keri Russell Felicity as Cruise’s protégé along with his longtime personal friend Greg Grunberg ALIAS.
Early seasons on ALIAS dealt with the conflict between personal life and the secret life of an intelligence agent. Here in Mi:III, Abrams gives Cruise a personal life—the better to place his loved ones in jeopardy—another Abrams staple.
The home office in Mi:III looks eerily like SD:6 etc.
Despite his penchant for staging elaborate action sequences, and an obsession with extraction points, Abrams shows an uncanny preoccupation with tracking shots of an agent running to escape. In the end, it is the lowest common technology of placing one foot in front of the other that makes the difference.