Two Hollywood legends. Loved by the studios, adored by the masses. And a summer where they can’t get a hit between them!
Why have two of Hollywood’s most bankable stars suddenly hit a duff note to the tune of box office success?
Tom Hanks and Tom Cruise have been the ‘Golden Boys’ of Hollywood for almost two decades. Cruise, the adrenaline fuelled action man, and Hanks, the loveable, middle-of-the-road ‘everyman.’ Between them, they have had a dynamic that has drawn both sexes into cinema seats as easy Forest Gump to a box of chocolates. However, the summer of 2006 has seen their new films, Cruise’s Mission Impossible 3 and Hanks’ The Da Vinci Code fail to strike box office success and critical acclaim.
The failings of both films are quite different from one another. The Da Vinci Code has been a big hit in terms of box office, but it has suffered bad press – in particular Hanks – from the critics. On the other hand, Mission Impossible 3, (which was excellent) has been getting enormous praise, but nobody has been going to see it! It appears to come down to the star factor. While Hanks has gone all academic and religious on us, never easy to digest in mainstream film, Cruise has been jumping up and down on Oprah’s sofa, sending his street cred’ right down.
Tampering with the star image seems to be the downfall of the Hollywood giants. For Cruise, instead of focusing on his signature Ray Ban specs and Colgate smile, there has been mass coverage of his devotion to controversial ‘religion’, Scientology, in addition to his constant attempts to (not quoted by us) “Indoctrinate his pregnant wife [Katie Holmes] to the point of demanding silent labour!” But can such external circumstance be so detrimental to a film’s success? I think so…
Outside factors can be worse than the flaws of the film itself. Consider Harrison Ford’s Six Days, Seven Nights. The film, although dealing with action themes, is essentially a romantic comedy focusing on the relationship between the characters of Ford and Anne Heche. As a Summer Blockbuster with major pre- release hype, the average film viewer expects promotion that ties in with the themes (romance), so for Anne Heche to publicly announce that she was a lesbian prior to the film’s release was promotional suicide! This proved to be so when the film was an enormous flop.
The Cruiser blew it! Mixing the personal with the promotional, but what about Hanks? He is by and large, a private man. So could it be that he has simply turned out a pitiful performance so bad that it recalls memories of Bonfire of the Vanities?
Well, it’s not quite that bad, but think about Harrison Ford again. We know what we are getting with Harrison, a good suspenseful action film with his signature dry, sarcastic comments. This was not the case with K-19: The Widow Maker. The film looked ok; explosions, effects and the like, but that accent! As soon as Harrison attempted to adopt a Russian dialect, he was asking for criticism. This seems to be the case for Hanks. We expect the role of the ‘every-man’, but he has given us a snooty, cold academic [Da Vinci Code’s Robert Langdon] that is so far away from what he has played in the past, that audience and critics alike are just unable to accept.
Quite simply, Hanks and Cruise have not stuck to what they do best; relate to an audience and dazzle them respectively. OK, you sticklers may argue that The Road to Perdition was an original performance for him, but think again…The Road to Perdition was a slight diversion, but – dare I quote my review- ‘He plays a Hit-man with a heart.’ He is not a bad guy; he is a good guy in a bad situation trying to look after his son. That has everyman written all over it! The fact is, changing a winning role is a massive gamble and it seems Hanks’ gamble on The Da Vinci Code was a bad one.
After a colourful argument covering promotion, star image, lesbians and Russian accents, I think it is fair to say that we have shed some light on the reason for Hanks and Cruise’s failings. However, I feel it goes much deeper, and that the heavy scent of religion on the subject has something to do with it. Can the idea of a cult religion and a Catholic threatening book be part of the reason why the golden gooses can’t seem to lay their eggs? Pastor Phil James from the Baptist Church believes so;
“If a person [Cruise] is publicly announcing his involvement within a controversial religion, the wider society can be offended by it. Even today, in a more secular climate, religion is still a highly delicate subject, so if, as is reported, Tom Cruise seems to be pushing the religious practices on to his pregnant wife, then people will be unsympathetic to his desires of making a film financially successful.”
An eye for an eye, possibly? But what about The Da Vinci Code? Could the religious elements of a highly constructed ‘Blockbusting’ novel be so influential in harming Hanks’ ability to generate mass appeal?
“Most definitely” says Phil, The Da Vinci Code may be fiction, however, its focus is on a highly sensitive subject that, if founded, would threaten the foundations of The Church. It does not matter how fictional the story may appear, it could be seen to make light of a heavy situation.”
Two failing legends? How can this be? Jerry Maguire, Saving Private Ryan and 6 nominations and 2 Oscar wins between them, and the men seem to be losing their touch! The problems for the films and the Toms (no pun intended) seem to be quite startling. The question now is whether they can return to form. I feel, one of the Toms will have a problem…
Bad films are forgotten when followed by a good one. The only concern for Tom Hanks now, should be to get back to what he was doing before; make us smile, make us laugh, make us cry! That should be achievable; his following two films seem to fit the bill. In Risk Pool he plays a thief who is forced to look after his son after his ex-wife suffers a nervous breakdown, and The Great Buck Howard should be fun as he plays in support as father to his real-life son, Colin Hanks! A great concept, where the audience will want to see the second generation Hanks take to the lead role.
Tom Cruise however, should be worried. It looks like he can still make great films, but nobody wants to see them because they don’t take to his public behaviour or loyalties (Scientology). The fact is, a film can be bad, but people will see it if they like the cast. This is what has happened with The Da Vinci Code, a huge financial success, but Mission Impossible 3 has got rave reviews but nobody has gone to see it! That has got to be down to Cruise. He is losing the love of the public.
So, with Hanks likely to pick himself up, things are looking bright, whereas the world of Cruise seems to have lost its Vanilla Sky. Let’s hope he can weather the storm.