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May 08, 2006

Press Herd Mentality Savages M:I III

The latest woe-is-Tom's-box-office piece.

If you read these articles carefully, you'll note that M:I III isn't really underperforming much more than could be expected. What's the old rule in Hollywood? Each sequel costs twice as much to make as its predecessor and makes half as much money. That's overstated by half on both ends, but sequels have a very serious diminishing-returns slope.

Is Tom Cruise's flaky behavior depressing ticket sales? Almost certainly. But most of this can be explained by less sexy, less celebocentric factors. The original Mission: Impossible made money because it was new -- or, new for Hollywood at least, which means it was actually very old but at least was being remade as a movie for the first time. It wasn't very good, but there was a bit of fun in hearing the M:I theme music again.


The Other Guys from U2 did a fun mix of the theme that got a lot of radio play. So there was a lot of interest in the movie, and a lot of exposure.

The second Mission: Impossible was pretty lame (and I don't care if John Woo directed or not-- the man's barely managed a decent movie since he left Hong Kong).

So, now we're up to the third installment, and neither of the previous films can be described as terribly close to good. People have been left pretty disappointed in the first two movies; why would they be enthused to see the third, when the premise is no longer fresh?

The NYT makes much of "market research" that projected this movie would earn $65 million this weekend. Well, okay-- they were wrong; it earned $48 million. But that hardly proves the media's pack-attack thesis that it's all because we now hate Tom Cruise. I mean, if we all hated Tom Cruise, shouldn't this market research have demonstrated that? Doesn't this just mean the market research was, ummm, wrong and over-optimistic?

The movie isn't making a great deal less than the previous movies, especially considering they had a Memorial Day open (which means a third day is counted as a "weekend" day and inflates the "weekend" box office by almost a third). Articles mention that, but then poo-poo the idea than an entire extra day of ticket sales has much weight on box office.

Just so you know-- I don't like Tom Cruise. I never have. Even before he became a Scientologist. I don't like the persona he plays in every stupid movie -- the ultimate winner, but too reckless, often in the shadow of a dead father, etc. -- and when I like a Tom Cruise movie (Jerry Maguire, A Few Good Men), I'm actually surprised that I liked it. (I didn't see either movie, despite the rave reviews, until they were on cable, because I just don't like Tom Cruise, and expected them to be pretty bad.)

I'm not defending him or his goofy behavior.

I'm just trying to point out that the media is like a bunch of junior high girls. Something is "hot" until the alpha girl, or enough beta girls, decide it's not so hot anymore, and then the pack mentality takes over, and everyone tries to trump each other by revealing suddenly that they were "like, sooooooo over Tom Cruise five years ago, but just didn't say anything because I was, like, trying to be nice."

And of course they pick a storyline and then select the facts that serve that storyline.

Tom Cruise is a pretty bad actor. He always has been. It's not so much his technical craft (which I can't really evaluate) as just his fundamental presence, which has always been a bit too... well, Tom Cruise. When he plays a genuine adult man successfully, it's always a little surprising.

And yes, he's a flake.

But these things were as true five years ago, ten years ago, fifteen years ago, as they are today. The rush to declare Tom Cruise's career dead has less to do with the objective facts and M:I III's box office take than the junior-high clacque in the media deciding that it's now safe to attack Tom Cruise.

Very annoying and juvenile-- having to check with what the other girls are saying before offering an opinion. The safety-in-numbers, let's-say-nasty-things-about-the-person-we've-now-decided-collectively-is-"out" mentality is childish and cowardly.

So, 'N Sync is now 'N Stink.

That's what our press corps exists to tell you.

On the flipside, of course, anyone the junior-high-girls still dig -- like Joe Wilson -- can do absolutely no wrong.

Mustn't say anything bad about Joe Wilson. The other girls like him. It would be socially dangerous to express a contrary opinion on the point.

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posted by Ace at 12:21 PM

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