in journalism, movies

Leave Tom Cruise alone

The other day, director Dan Trachtenberg wondered on Twitter why some movies that are only okay get completely destroyed while others are bafflingly elevated by the critical community:

I’m not sure if he’s referring to anything specifically here, but The Mummy certainly falls into the latter category for me, a movie that is inoffensive at best, and comes off as a craven cash-grab at worst. In our podcast review of The Mummy, we weren’t huge fans, but I was a bit confused at why critics decided to take a huge dump all over this one, when other equally terrible films this year have not endured such harsh treatment.

I can’t speculate too much on when/why critics sense blood in the water and try to bury a film. But what’s indisputable is that this one certainly has created a lot of anti-Cruise sentiment.

Many observers (including me) think Cruise needs to change career trajectory. Here’s Chris Eggersten writing for The Hollywood Reporter:

It’s hard not to be disappointed by all of this. Cruise is undoubtedly one of the greatest stars of the modern era, and over the course of his long career he’s consistently championed original projects over release-date slot-fillers. Like him or not, his reputation as a star who cares deeply about the quality of the films he puts out is beyond refute. While his current trajectory doesn’t necessarily suggest he’s getting lazy (I honestly don’t think he has it in him), it is an indication that he’s finally been forced to concede to the demands of an industry that has left old-guard action stars like him scrambling to find their place.

Then, this week, Variety published a harsh and somewhat confusing hit piece on Cruise, seemingly built from sources inside the studio, Universal:

As Hollywood is playing the blame game on what went wrong on “The Mummy,” which had a measly domestic opening of just $32 million, many fingers are pointing to Cruise. In the same way that he commanded the stage at the film’s premiere, leaving his cast standing awkwardly by his side, several sources close to the production say that Cruise exerted nearly complete creative oversight on “The Mummy,” essentially wearing all the hats and dictating even the smallest decisions on the set. On stage, Cruise admitted his own perfectionist tendencies. “I don’t just make a movie. I give it everything I have and I expect it from everyone also.”

Universal, according to sources familiar with the matter, contractually guaranteed Cruise control of most aspects of the project, from script approval to post-production decisions. He also had a great deal of input on the film’s marketing and release strategy, these sources said, advocating for a June debut in a prime summer period.

I found this piece to be odd because I’d always just assumed that Cruise exerted significant creative control over most of his films, whereas this piece presents it as a revelation. Cruise is one of the biggest movie stars in the world and, for most of his career, he has understood what makes a good action film (he’s a producer on all the Mission Impossible films, which have grossed over $2 billion worldwide). I would’ve found it strange if Cruise hadn’t had a huge amount of veto power on The Mummy, which is presumably the studio’s first entry into their Dark Universe of films.

In a recent issue of The Ankler, Richard Rushfield takes aim at the absurdity of the Variety piece:

Will you just look at that!  A star throwing his weight around on a set and taking over everything! And just because Universal had, “contractually guaranteed Cruise control of most aspects of the project, from script approval to post-production decisions.”  It’s like he took that contractual guarantee literally!  When all Universal meant by it was as sort of a big cuddly bear hug.

But what’s a poor little studio to do when their star out of nowhere, with no warning at all that he can be a little controlling, suddenly wants to run the ship.

Anyway, good job, entertainment media. You actually made me feel bad for Tom Cruise and The Mummy this week. A high accomplishment.

[Note: The headline of this blog post is not meant to imply that Tom Cruise should be left alone for his complicity in Scientology’s abhorrent actions. Those he should still be held accountable for.]

  • Lynette Lewton

    He’s an illuminati,scientology puppet. Maybe his contract with the devil is coming to an end.

  • jerrycitizenmathis

    Abhorrent actions, oh please. Just admit you are susceptible to the ongoing BLACK PR campaign against Scientology. When was the last time we blew up a concert or beheaded a jorno. Fair article on Tom but you final qualifying statement needs a bit more thought your part.

    • Bob Crouch

      You’re right, no beheadings. Of course, there are the dead victims of the Narconon quackery scam, Lisa McPherson and a few other cult fatalities. There are those, like Jim Carrey girlfriend Cat White, who may still be alive if the cult had not denied them proper medical care. But NONE of them was beheaded.

      Last time someone blew up a concert (and on numerous comparable occasions), the cult sought to “rebuild the world” by financially profiting from these events by raising money: NOT for the victims, mind you. But for its own publishing corporation. But it would definitely be a stretch to suggest that they had any part in committing these atrocities just so that they could subsequently line their pockets.

      While on atrocities, they have a remarkably prolific track record there: Family disconnection, forced divorces, forced abortions, predatory immigration and labor practices, families bankrupted due to their rapacious fundraising practices. Not to mention former members and journalists terrorized by scientology goon squads and the planting of slanderous information with neighbors, family members and employers in order to NOT behead them but at least ruin their lives.

      Just like you, I am all FOR “supporting well-meaning people.” And if your standard is as low as beheadings and bombings, scientology is in the clear. But it IS remarkable that this group has managed to become known for its utter lack of benevolence and its fraudulent practices to the degree that they are now advertising their services on the internet ANONYMOUSLY in order to find a rube or two who haven’t heard about what they stand for (see for yourself on craigslist, for example). Can you imagine Apple, Mercedes or Coco Cola having to HIDE their brand in order to make a sale or two every blue moon?

      But there’s no need to take it from me. Let’s allow scientology founder L Ron Hubbard to speak for himself:

      “You don’t get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion” (LRH, 11-7-1948)

  • Lacey Sheridan

    I don’t care about the Scientology; if these people weren’t involved in that, it would be something else equally odd. In any case, Cruise isn’t responsible for them. I don’t read about the press confronting the uber-Catholic Mel Gibson about pederast priests. Enough of that stuff. The Cruise-bashing needs to stop; the man has delivered for more than thirty years. Show a little respect.

  • Friends and I saw The Mummy first weekend. Enjoyable, for sure. We each commented that it held our attention throughout the entire film–no one started day dreaming. I noticed the same reaction in various comment sections. The film kept the audience interested. Action and special effects were all top notch. Cruise was excellent as always. He is so big that lesser lights have to shoot at him in hopes of driving down his appeal. I think this film will continue to gain word of mouth and become a favorite for those who love the old horror flicks and supernatural stories.

    Just checked–uh huh, the ratings are climbing.

    • Bob Crouch

      “Up” to 15%. He’s on a roll. If not in this reality, maybe in one far away…

  • Bob Crouch

    It’s “up” to 15% now on rottentomatoes. This number aggregates consensus of the leading critics, as well as many other ones. So far, 221 critics have weighed in. It’s safe to say that this number will not move much at this point. Certainly, NOWHERE close to 60%, where it would be considered “fresh,” i.e. watchable or better. It’s safe to say: A devastatingly low rating even among a critics’ consensus of “rotten” for a “major motion picture”.

    On a positive note: It’s still 12% ahead of Battlefield Earth. At least, Cruise had the good sense to avoid a script by his cult guru Hubbard! He deserves the extra 12 points for that!