Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Some Movies Belong In Theaters (MI: Ghost Protocol)


I was going to write a long review of Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, which I have finally got around to watching on Netflix. It was going to cover the roles of female characters in such clearly male dominated franchises as Mission Impossible, and perhaps even delve into the weirdness that is Tom Cruise and his career.

And I could still do that. But I’m not going to, because watching that movie made me realize something very important.

Some movies just really are not meant to be watched on a thirteen inch laptop.

It sounds really superficial to say, but it’s totally true. I could not get into this film. I was bored, confused, and frequently caught myself trying to change windows just so I could browse through tumblr while the movie was still playing. It just couldn’t hold my interest. I’m not even entirely sure of what the plot was.

I don’t say this as a kind of angry rampage against action movies or anything. If my reviews of Bourne Legacy and Witch Hunters have said anything, I would hope they made that clear. I really like action movies. There’s something satisfying about watching a building go boom.

But I don’t like movies I don’t understand. Now, Mission Impossible is starting out with a handicap here, because I’ve never particularly understood those movies. The last one, Mission Impossible III really only exacerbated my issues by creating a weird macguffin and trying to spew science at the audience until it “made sense”. Which it didn’t ever.

So I went into this movie not really thinking that I would get it, and not really trying to. For those of you interested, and those looking for a good laugh, this is what I’m pretty sure the movie was about…

Ethan (Tom Cruise) is in prison because he got mad and killed some people who didn’t actually kill his wife but we’re supposed to think they did. He’s rescued in an unnecessarily complex way by Paula Patton, Simon Pegg and eventually Jeremy Renner, all of whom presumably have character names that I have never learned.

Together, our wonder team has to work without the resources of the IMF for reasons that presumably were explained but did not affect the plot whatsoever. They’re looking for nuclear launch codes, I think, that were stolen by somebody and then sold to somebody else and there was a car chase in a sandstorm that’s really all I got.

In fact, that’s really all I got for the rest of the movie. I remember the action set pieces, of course, because it’s hard to forget things that involved jet turbines and robots, but I have absolutely no idea what purpose the scenes served in the overall story. I just understood them as action for action’s sake.

Really, this is my problem with a lot of movies. You see, big set piece action sequences are fun. They’re fun to write and they’re fun to film, and they’re fun to watch on a big screen when you’re in the darkened movie theater, nomming on popcorn and screaming with joy when something surprises you. But they absolutely suck when you’re watching them at home, on a laptop, by yourself, while eating salad.

So while a movie that is based almost exclusively around action scenes and the setup for the action scenes can do very well in theater, and be incredibly enjoyable in the theaters, which are more immersive and create a more intense movie-going experience, when they come to the home viewer, they need something more than effects and action to be considered good.

Movies like Mission Impossible aren’t intended for a home audience, and largely that’s fine. I get that they plan on making all their money back off of the ticket sales, and I respect that choice.

What I don’t respect is that they didn’t bother to make the plot worth following. There was no sense to the plot, no real cohesion. Without the adrenaline from the set pieces, we were left with some anemic characters and a plot that didn’t make a lot of sense. I wanted to like this movie. I love most of the actors in it (I respect Tom Cruise, but love is a little too strong a word), and I wanted to enjoy some mindless action. Unfortunately the action was too mindless. There’s a balance to be found, and it just wasn’t there.

But, I’ll probably watch the sequel. In theaters.

Jeremy Renner had better be in it.

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