The James Bond franchise has had an enormous impact on the film industry as a whole, and it has influenced countless action films and parodies alike over the years. Even as the Bond franchise keeps moving along, the creative minds behind it are doing an exceptional job of making it modern without losing its old charm. And thus, it keeps setting an example for the other action and spy films of today. But in all of Hollywood, no film or franchise has mimicked the Bond movies so closely as Mission: Impossible.
The Mission: Impossible series is all about fancy tech, incredible action, and heroic measures. It concerns a single agent who keeps upping the ante on his own “impossible” feats, and he a reliable team of experts that he relies upon for support. There’s always sex appeal, a car chase, and impromptu journeys abroad in search of some villain or clue. And every piece of that description could also fit neatly into a Bond project.
The key difference is in the longevity of each series, and in the fact that while numerous actors have embodied James Bond, Tom Cruise has embodied Mission: Impossible’s Ethan Hunt since 1996 without interruption. But with Cruise now 53 years old (albeit an incredibly fit and sprightly 53), it’s become fair to wonder if his own spy series has any staying power beyond his own work.
The most recent installment, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation was a fine action film in which Cruise was as lively as ever, and the action as exciting as we’ve seen. It was truly one of the better action movies of the last few years and proved once more than this series has continually improved since its debut in 1996. And rumour has it Cruise is already working on a sixth film, with plans to star yet again as Ethan Hunt (though no casting decisions have officially been confirmed).
And even beyond continuation of the movie series, Mission: Impossible is proving to have more staying power and more cultural reach than many ever would have predicted. For one thing, it’s become a beacon of product placement almost akin to the Bond franchise. In the previous MI film, Ghost Protocol, BMW debuted a new hybrid electric sports car that made a lot of waves for its placement in the action sequences. And everything, from Tom Cruise’s sunglasses down to his watch, was strategically placed to look like a futuristic spy gadget—much like Bond accessories in so many films from years past.
We’ve also seen Mission: Impossible extend into new avenues of entertainment such as gaming, which is something Bond has always excelled with. There’s been nothing relevant to console players for several years, but this site shows that the series has even become relevant in online poker spheres—despite poker being much more closely associated with Bond, and rather irrelevant in Mission: Impossible. Cinematic and pop culture themes for online poker rooms are quite common, but the placement of a Mission: Impossible promotion during the same month in which Spectre was released speaks volumes for how much the series has grown and taken over the cultural zeitgeist.
And on top of all of this, the Mission: Impossible movies are still making incredible amounts of money. So what reason would the studio have to call it quits when Cruise has finally had enough of speeding around the world as Ethan Hunt? Back in the late-’60s it probably would have sounded bizarre to suggest that anyone but Sean Connery could depict James Bond. Yet 50 years later that series—the very one on which Mission: Impossible is so clearly based or at least influenced by—is moving right along with a sixth actor in its signature role.
Don’t be surprised if Mission: Impossible ultimately moves ahead in a similar fashion. It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Cruise embodying Ethan Hunt, but we’ve seen this story before.