In 2008, Tom Cruise was still human. Comes from a series of films that are included minority report, war of the worlds, and Mission: Impossible III, Cruise had found a meaningful second act in his career by embracing adulthood. The grinning rooster man was history – now he was playing husbands and fathers with something to lose. So when Marvel called and asked if they were interested in anchoring the first film in a big new franchise experiment, it must have been tempting to oblige. How could cruise Not Play Tony Stark, the seminal superhero of this new era? But Cruise declined, and while he never spoke at length about the decision, what little he said reveals it all. “I have to be able to make decisions and make the film as great as possible,” he said The Indian Express in 2021, “and it just didn’t go that way.”
So Tom Cruise didn’t play Iron Man, not even as a cameo Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, as has been rumoured. For most actors, the role of a superhero is the ultimate gig: a steady, well-paid opportunity to increase their global status. But Cruise is the rare actor for whom superpowers would diminish his stature. Why wear a suit when you can fly without it? As the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominated the cinematic landscape, Cruise kept up, morphing into a capeless hero, a wingless demigod. At this point in Cruise’s fame, his characters are impervious to pain or injury. He slices through the air in fighter jets; He defies gravity and time with a wizard’s sorcery. If there really is a multiverse, Cruise has already been there and back. He plays characters with no backstory; Some of them are referred to as “ghosts”. He never gets laid, at least not on screen. Maybe pleasure doesn’t matter to him. Entertaining the world is the reward he needs.
Cruise may have been passed on iron man, but he has still internalized the rules of the superhero era. While the MCU was taking off, three films that defined Cruise 3.0 were released between 2010 and 2012. first was knight and day, an action comedy starring Cruise as a rogue spy who becomes the protector of Cameron Diaz’s classic car expert as she finds herself caught in a spy crisis. His Roy Miller is a classic Cruise creation — an absolute lunatic who gets by with his dizzying charm — but also one of his oddest. Just think of the scene where he pulls Diaz out of a crowded diner at gunpoint and yells nonsense to confuse and distract the terrified patrons. “Everyone gets cake. No ice. A la mode weakens the legs, folks! Lincoln knew. That’s why they caught him!” knight and day wasn’t a hit. Just a few years after Cruise alienated some of his fan base by jumping onto a couch and furiously debating Matt Lauer about the merits of psychiatry, the oddity Cruise flaunted showed knight and day might have taken a little too close to home. Namely, he would love to continue doing non-franchise action comedies edge of tomorrow and american made, They would also be among his least successful films from this period.
One year later knight and dayhe returned to that Impossible Mission franchise with Ghost log and transformed his signature character, Ethan Hunt, from a loving husband into a man barely recognizable as human. At the end of Mission: Impossible III, Hunt wanted to leave life as a super spy behind and sail into the sunset with his wife. but Ghost log begins, Cruise has suddenly changed his mind, separated from his wife and single-mindedly devoted himself to saving the world. It’s no surprise Cruise hired Brad Bird, best known for his creativity The Incrediblesto direct the film. You can imagine him looking at the Pixar film’s overpowering quartet and thinking: “Can he do that for me?” in the Ghost log, Hunt goes cartoony, bouncing off the sidewalk, fighting with unearthly ingenuity and climbing the world’s tallest building without a safety net in what is still the series’ greatest stunt. He has no family and no home. Even his government discredits him. Cruise became a ghost and audiences loved him for it: Ghost log was the franchise’s biggest hit to date, and Cruise suddenly had a new way forward. In the years that followed, Ethan Hunt continued to save the world and avoid romantic entanglements, never stopping to eat or drink or just hang out with his friends. A man dedicated to the cause.
Just like them Impossible Mission series reached new heights, Cruise launched another franchise and starred as Jack Reacher in the first film adaptation of Lee Child’s beloved book series. Fans of the books howled at Cruise’s casting; Reacher was meant to be physically imposing, and while his films tend to hide that, Cruise is obviously short. But it’s easy to see why Cruise saw himself in the character. Reacher is another of Cruise’s lone wolves, fully committed to justice and willing to give up the earthly pursuits of mere mortals for it. For example: a ridiculous scene where Cruise, alone in a motel room with Rosamund Pike, struts shirtless, distracting her with his wet, muscular torso and turning the savvy defense attorney into a giggling schoolgirl. She wants to have sex with him; He hands her the car keys and tells her to pack. This is no ordinary man.
While the Cruise 3.0 films represent a new, improved model of the film star, they continue a winning formula that has defined him from the start: merging Cruise with his characters. Check out his career and you’ll find characters that perfectly reflect their moment in his arc. in the top gun, he was the cocky upstart trying to prove himself. in the Jerry Maguire, he was an accomplished professional who sought a new direction as he neared middle age. Today, he sees himself as the savior of cinema – and probably the world – with his adamant refusal to release his films on streaming services, his earnest desire to save viewers from the evils of motion smoothing, and his unbridled anger at those which broke COVID protocols on set and, according to him, jeopardized the future of Hollywood. “Because he’s so capable, that brings with it a responsibility.” That’s how he described Jack Reacher in an interview, but the quote could just as easily apply to Ethan Hunt or even Cruise himself. What is the difference at this point?
Lest we think that Cruise is as invulnerable as his characters, his films in recent years have put an end to his time as an immortal. In the boring sequel Jack Reacher: Never go back, Reacher spends much of the film with a character he believes is his daughter; Cruise rarely plays dads (eyes wide closedin which his children hardly exist, and war of the Worlds are the only examples); The idea of having a teenage daughter suggests a confident mortality. In the end, however, we learn that she isn’t really Reacher’s daughter, leaving him free to continue his life of independence – but in the unexpectedly touching final scenes, you can feel Reacher grieving for the life he could have lived, and Cruise reflects on his career if he ever returns to the land of the living.
He’s not ready yet, but he’s having fun finding out. Top Gun: Maverick seems set at first glance to go even further and let Cruise finally embrace his role as Elder Statesman. After a hypersonic jet crashes in the opening scenes, Maverick is grounded and assigned to the Flight Academy. It’s not just a new job; for Maverick it is like death. “The future is coming,” his gruff boss tells him. “And you’re not in it.” Technically, he’s talking about how drones are making human pilots like Maverick obsolete, but he might as well be telling Cruise that movie stars don’t matter in the age of creepy CGI and franchise hegemony. Don’t worry: As the film progresses, Maverick finds a new purpose as a mentor to the young pilots, and Cruise carries himself well into it. The character reconciles with Rooster (Miles Teller), Goose’s son, who accuses Maverick of holding him back in his Navy career. He properly leads the high-spirited young Hangman (Glen Powell), who surely reminds Maverick of himself, by keeping him grounded during the final assignment, which puts him in exactly the right place to save the day, where Maverick and Goose are in danger. The transition from hotshot to aging mentor seems so natural that it actually comes as a surprise when Maverick – and Cruise – regain control at the last minute and spend the last 30 minutes pulling off the most death-defying stunts of his career.
So far that is. While it’s only a matter of time before this superhero by another name is finally given house arrest, the teaser for next year Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One promises bigger and better set pieces. And after that comes another. By then, Cruise will be 62 years old. By then, he may be ready to embrace the character-driven phase of his career that many of his oldest fans have been eagerly awaiting. But while the idea of Cruise going back to his roots and working with an Aaron Sorkin or Cameron Crowe again is enticing, it’s hard to imagine him finding his feet again as a regular guy. Once you’ve spent that much time in the stratosphere, life on Earth just isn’t the same.