Dead Reckoning Part One’s Underperformance Might Be Bigger Than ‘Barbenheimer’

With Greta Gerwig’s Barbie having crossed a billion dollars at the box office, and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer making its way to becoming the director’s most commercially successful film outside of his Dark Knight trilogy, it’s easy to forget that there’s another juggernaut currently playing in theatres this summer: Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One. The seventh installment in Tom Cruise’s long-running franchise released in theatres on July 12th—a week before ‘Barbenheimer’ would take the world by storm—and has yet to cross half a billion dollars at the global box office as of writing. After taking inflation into consideration, this would make it the second-lowest performing Mission Impossible outside of the franchise’ third film.

The series’ last film, Fallout, remains the franchise’ crowning achievement as far as box office numbers are concerned; with the film bringing in a commendable $786 million worldwide. Save for the third film, the series has seen continual growth with each of its installments making more money than the last. Couple that with the fact that each subsequent movie has seemingly done better in terms of its critical reception, with Dead Reckoning Part One topping its predecessors by notching an impressive 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s curious as to why the film has seen a considerable dip at the box office.

Barbenheimer | Warner Bros/Universal

The Unique Case of ‘Barbenheimer’ & Franchise Fatigue

We all knew ‘Barbenheimer’ was going to be big, with its somewhat egregious marketing that capitalized on zoomer meme culture. But I doubt many of us believed it was going to be ‘taking-away-money-from-Tom-Cruise’ big. The superstar actor who nearly kills himself doing life-threatening stunts in his movies has been credited for “saving Hollywood’s ass” by none other than Steven Spielberg himself. With theatres struggling to get back into business after the COVID-19 pandemic, Top Gun: Maverick came in to make an eye-watering $1.4 billion globally; spurring the idea amongst journalists that super stars like Tom Cruise no longer existed. Which isn’t entirely untrue. It’s not difficult to see how Marvel and Disney have slowly but steadily shifted the narrative that audiences care more about the IP and the fictional characters within them than the actual actors playing the parts; which if you’ve kept up with the strikes, you’d understand why this is such a dangerous notion for actors, especially with the advent of A.I.   

Cruise stands as the last ‘movie star’ of his ilk, one that can solely attract tens of millions to the theatre. Very few actors (Keanu Reeves possibly being another, though his persona isn’t exactly fitting of the archetype) can command such attention. Even with his controversial connection with the Church of Scientology, the public love them some Tom Cruise—which says a lot about how much we’re willing to forgive if you look a certain way and are charismatic enough. So it’s quite interesting to see his franchise—one of the most iconic and easily recognizable in the world—be overshadowed by not one but two films this summer, neither of which are a part of a franchise nor are they led by a superstar of his magnitude (one could make an argument for Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling, but c’mon, we’re talking about Tom Cruise here).

MI: Dead Reckoning Part One
Just Tom Cruise almost dying again, nothing to see here. Courtesy: Paramount

It’s possibly a sign that franchise fatigue has finally settled in amidst movie-goers. A small glimmer of hope that tells us that audiences may be less crazed to go watch the umpteenth installment of a Fast & Furious or Avengers, and would rather go see an A24 Talk to Me or an auteur work by a Nolan or Gerwig. This obviously doesn’t mean that we’re about to see an upcoming A24 feature cross a billion at the box-office, nor do I think Scorsese’s festival darling, Killers of the Flower Moon, is going to overtake Fast X when it comes to dollars made. But as I said in a piece I wrote a few weeks ago, the success of ‘Barbenheimer’ is good for the future of movies, because it tells production companies that audiences still have a yearning for original stories that aren’t part of some impenetrable cinematic universe. Tom Cruise himself has congratulated the double-feature, tweeting (or, err, X’ing?):

“This summer is full of amazing movies to see in theaters. Congratulations, Harrison Ford, on 40 years of Indy and one of the most iconic characters in history. I love a double feature, and it doesn’t get more explosive (or more pink) than one with Oppenheimer and Barbie.”

So the man’s love for the summer blockbuster is not only when it comes to his own films, which is great to see and something I hope other stars continue to advocate for.

Lastly, one aspect that I also think may be worth considering is the fact that this is “Part One” of a two-parter. Which, if history tells us anything, it’s that the first part of a (possible) series finale is usually less successful than the second. At the end of the day, all of this surmising might as well be for nought—Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One will still go down in history as a success. It may not be looked back upon as fondly as Barbie or Oppenheimer from a cultural impact sense, but still a solid predecessor both critically and commercially to its finale in “Part Two,” which I’m sure will have Mr. Cruise ride into the sunset with a happy billion at the box-office.

Shaz Mohsin

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments