The Good Dinosaur (2015)

The Good Dinosaur66 million years ago an asteroid missed the earth, and its dinosaur inhabitants lived happily ever after. The End. Some time later, on an a remote outpost somewhere in America, three Apatosaurus are born to a family of farmers. The youngest, named Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), is smaller than his siblings, and struggles with his assorted duties, the most recent of which involves guarding the family’s food stores from a pesky hominid (Jack Bright) who keeps helping himself to their corn. When Arlo and Spot (as the former comes to call him) are washed hundreds of miles downriver by floodwater, they must join forces if they are going to make their way back home in time for first snow, and survive encounters with various other dinosaurs looking to fill their stomachs before winter sets in.

Pixar have, by and large, always known which questions to ask of their audience. What do your toys get up to when you’re not around? Why are there monsters under your bed? What exactly is going on inside your head? Obviously, these creative quandaries feed the imagination of young children who don’t know any better, but they are also intuitive and insightful enough to inspire those who really should. At their simplest, the premise of every Pixar film makes sense to children young and old on a level unspoiled by sense or reason. For these are questions that have been asked by all, at one point or another in their lives, whether yesterday or yesteryear. Their latest, The Good Dinosaur, has such a hook — What if the dinosaurs didn’t die out? — but unlike the rest of their set-ups, this one lacks a satisfying answer. Worse than that, it’s not even coherent.

Like the asteroid seen bypassing the planet in its opening moments, The Good Dinosaur is pretty wide of the mark. When you consider the success Pixar has had spit-balling ideas about fish, rats and old people it is quite simply inconceivable that they’d hit a creative wall here, with dinosaurs, and think of nothing better to do than cast them in a western…for some reason. There was that scene in The Lost World: Jurassic Park that saw a pack of velociraptors chase Jeff Goldblum through a cornfield, but generally speaking dinosaurs and farming don’t exactly go hand in hand. That the film conspires to have sauropods plough fields to collect corn, which is then stored in a totemic silo that could not possibly have been built by quadrupeds is just the first in a long line of creative decisions that leave you wondering if you’re watching the latest Blue Sky animation by mistake, or maybe a prehistoric prequel to the studio’s much-maligned Cars series. After all, if dinosaurs can learn to sow and harvest crops, then what’s stopping them from evolving wheels and a thresher? Heck, Tyrannosaur’s can even gallop now.

Director Peter Sohn has clearly gone to great pains to replicate the American northwest setting, to the point that the animation borders on being photorealistic, but rather than show his characters the same reverence he has gone in the opposite direction. Arlo is unmistakably a dinosaur, but the resemblance isn’t much stronger than that of a balloon animal to an actual animal. It’s not just that he’s not particularly visually interesting either; scratch beneath the surface and the whole character just deflates into nothing. Has Pixar ever produced a less compelling protagonist? Not since A Bug’s Life has a main character appeared so anonymous — and that was a film about ants! This is all the more remarkable given how many traits Arlo has in common with Rex, the studio’s only other dinosaur character to date, and one of its best loved. It’s hard to remain focused on someone so plain when there is such depth and detail in the background, and Arlo’s motivations (he wants to put his stamp on the aforementioned silo, but first he has to earn it) are so completely uninvolving that you really do find yourself admiring the river’s keenly observed currents instead.

The Good Dinosaur is not without its moments, most of which can be attributed to the character of Spot (or traced back to an all too fleeting appearance from Forrest Woodbush, a Styracosaurus with serious squad goalsvoiced by Sohn himself), but for the most part it fails even to register as entertainment — more a handsome screensaver with a crude cartoon photoshopped onto it. It might not be Pixar’s worst film, but it is certainly their least enjoyable, and not just for the adult contingent left feeling betrayed by a studio that usually caters to all; after the multi-monster melee that closed Jurassic World it’s hard to imagine anyone but the youngest, most unassuming children getting excited about a C-list dinosaur who’s afraid of bloody birds. Even the name is underwhelming: since when did Pixar settle for good?

2-stars

 

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Inside Out (EIFF, 2015)

Inside OutWith Joy (Amy Poehler) at the controls, and Sadness (Bill Hader), Fear (Phyllis Smith), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Anger (Lewis Black) in check, Riley (Kaitlyn Dias) is loving life in Minnesota. That is, until a move to San Francisco jeopradises everything, from her happy family life to her cherished friendships and beloved hobbies. To make matters worse, Joy and Sadness become stranded in Riley’s labyrinthine long-term memory, separated from Headquarters by The Void, a bona fide memory dump, leaving Fear, Disgust and Anger at the helm for her first day at a scary new school. Despite their best intentions, none of the three are able to restore the status quo and re-establish a healthy balance of emotion — and as Riley isolates herself from those around her she risks no longer being able to feel anything at all.

After a string of sub-par sequels, punctuated by the beleaguered Brave, Pixar are finally back on form with their most original premise in years. Inside Out, like Toy Story or Monsters Inc, is one of those concepts that is so ingenious and intuitive that it’s incredible that nobody ever thought of it before. Aptly, there is such joy to be had with the visual gags and observational humour — Riley’s unconscious contains a literal Train Of Thought, a long-forgotten imaginary friend named Bing Bong (Richard Kind), and a studio lot where dreams are produced, scored with harp music and shot through a reality filter — that you forget you were ever concerned. Characteristically, these jokes work on a number of levels, from pratfalls and slapstick to subtler riffs on psychology. One scene sees Joy and Sadness infiltrate Riley’s subconscious, a prison containing all of Riley’s worst fears — to save Bing Bong, who must escape from a squeaky balloon cage without waking Jangles the Clown (Josh Cooley).

Furthermore, Inside Out is easily the studios most emotionally intelligent film since Toy Story 3. Joy and company may be by their very nature caricatures, oversimplified and one-note personifications of base emotions, but the human characters they comprise are unusually complex, even by Pixar’s typically high standards. Riley’s relationships are deep and dynamic, her emotions authentic and convoluted, and as a result of HQ battling it out behind the scenes you get a real and unrivalled insight into her thought processes and emotional responses. The stand-out sequence (apart from a credits montage that ends the film on an unparalleled high) has been heavily trailed, showing a family quarrel over dinner from the perspectives of Riley and her parents’ emotional centres. The writing is very perceptive, and it fleshes out the supporting cast beautifully, opening the film out in a way that only Pixar would really be capable of. The filmmakers could arguably have done more with this narrative device; as interesting a case study as Riley is she inevitably limits the scope of the film and prevents a novel narrative device from ever reaching its full potential.

For as strong as it is, particularly in comparison to the studio’s last few films, Inside Out isn’t quite top-tier Pixar. The characters are vividly drawn, the jokes are perfectly polished, and the animation is beautifully done, but the film is hamstrung by a rather less inspiring plot. The various aspects of Riley’s personality are represented by five floating islands in her mindscape: Family Land, Friendship Land, Hockey Island, Honesty Island, and Goofball Island, each of which is linked to Headquarters by a narrow platform. In their quest to return to the control room, Joy and Sadness visit each of these islands in turn, only for Riley’s real-world adventures to compromise each section’s structural integrity and delay their journey back — inevitably allowing them to put aside their differences and learn to work together. Given how imaginative the set-up is, and how well it works when opened out beyond Riley’s worldview, it’s a shame that Pixar default to the overused buddy-comedy formula and devote so much screen-time to such a predictable subplot.

Emotionally, and thematically, Inside Out is almost there — the ending is strong, if a little obvious, and there is plenty to keep your own driving emotions busy throughout. It’s just a shame that when the relationships between characters are so compelling Pixar chooses instead to dwell on the oversimplified conversations taking place within one little girl’s head. If only directors Pete Docter and Ronnie del Carmen had spent less time on Exposition Island, and preferably just stayed in Imagination Land.

4-Stars

Monsters University (2013)

Monsters UniversityMike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) has always wanted to be a Scarer, at least since he visited Monsters Incorporated on a school trip and met his idol, “Frightening” Frank McCay (John Krasinski). After years of studying, Mike finally enrolls at Monsters University, befriending new roommate Randal (Steve Buscemi) and butting horns with entitled class clown James P. Sullivan (John Goodman). When their rivalry leads to their expulsion by headmistress Dean Hardscrabble (Helen Mirren), however, they must join a fraternity — Oozma Kappa — and work together to win the Scare Games if they are to be allowed to rejoin the programme. Read more of this post

Brave (2012)

Having been gifted with a bow by her father on the very same day that he lost his leg to the demon bear Mor’du, Merida (Kelly Macdonald) has grown up to be a free-spirited and untraditional princess in the King’s image, much to her more conventional mother’s (Emma Thompson) chagrin. When it is announced that she is to be betrothed to one of the allied clans – either Dingwall (Robbie Coltrane), Macintosh (Craig Ferguson) or MacGuffin (Kevin McKidd) – she breaks with tradition in order to fight for her own hand in marriage, and her own freedom as a result. Resorting to magic in the hope of settling all differences with her unyielding mother, however, she is soon forced to grow up and see the world from an adult’s perspective.

Considering just how much publicity Brave has generated – about its directorial reshuffle, Caledonian setting and use of a female protagonist (a first for Pixar) – it is surprising just how little we actually know about the plot going in. All of the promotional material released focuses on the same jokes, spectacular CGI scenery and a slightly new edit of Merida’s angsty narration. It’s no wonder that many were beginning to have doubts. Did Pixar’s Brave really have nothing else to offer?

Thankfully, Brave is no disappointment, the film previously titled The Bear and the Bow duly delivering on both with some pulse-pounding action expertly complimenting the side-splitting cultural humour and well-handled mother-daughter relationship. The animation is amongst the best we’ve ever seen, Merida’s unruly red hair and penchant for daredevilry impressing equally as the studio once again strikes the perfect balance between spirit and spectacle.

The real star of Brave, however, is the smart script (co-written by original director Brenda Chapman, replacement director Mark Andrews, Steve Purcell and Irene Mecchi). While Chapman’s story proves engaging enough, the gags and personalities written into the screenplay take it to a whole other level. A product of the writers’ extensive research and naturalistic ad-libbing on behalf of the Scottish cast, Brave’s dialogue is a thing of beauty, only rarely falling back on the usual stock idioms as the creative team instead looks to loot the local dialect for even funnier phrasings.

Of the star-studded cast, Macdonald is absolutely wonderful in the lead role – the first teenage character she has played since Diane in 1996’s Trainspotting, proving at once strong-willed and sympathetic, while McKidd’s decision to base Young MacGuffin’s gibberish accent on his native Doric adds charm and authenticity to a character that could otherwise have been very one-note. Ferguson and Thompson also delight as Lord Macintosh and mother respectively, even if their voice-work is not quite as distinctive, while Julie Walters milks a cameo as the film’s witch for all it is worth. Nobody is master of the Scottish accent quite like Connoly, however, and he duly steals the show as the one-legged King Fergus.

Brave isn’t perfect, however, and suffers in comparison to rival DreamWorks’ own Celtic offering, How To Train Your Dragon. While consistently funny, thoroughly entertaining and utterly gorgeous to look at, the film isn’t as big a step forward for Pixar as previously suggested, The story just isn’t tight enough by the company’s usual standard, with a number of characters falling sadly by the wayside and the final act struggling to work the numerous threads into a genuinely satisfying climax. Worst of all, Patrick Doyle’s original score – a rousing smorgasboard of Scottish sounds – is periodically interrupted by jarringly artificial folk music, interrupting the film’s natural pace and rhythm.

These issues are far from disastrous, however, and for the most part Brave is a handsomely shot, enthusiastically voiced and welcomingly well-researched take on a nation’s ancient myths and legends. Whatever precedents Chapman and Andrews’ film might set for the studio, the themes of maternal misunderstanding and adolescent maturity that form Brave‘s core are strong enough in their own right to carry the film, with the usual outlandish characters keeping the jokes coming thick and fast. Just don’t let your expectations be coloured by the disappointingly substandard short – La Luna – which precedes it.

John Carter (2012)

In the process of mourning the death of his wife and child, the last thing John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) wants is to take sides in somebody else’s war. Caught in the crossfire of the American Civil War, he escapes to a marked cave rumoured to be lined with gold. Instead, Carter is transported to Mars (Barsoom to the natives) where he finds himself held captives by Tharks. Eager at first only to escape and return home, when he breaks free to save a falling woman – who turns out to be Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins), Princess of Helium – Carter becomes embroiled in a new war, one which looks set to engulf all of Barsoom. As Helium is forced to ally with the relentlessly deceiving city of Zodanga, Carter becomes aware of a race of shadowy puppetmasters (lead by Mark Strong) who could be the key not only to Mars’ problems, but his presence there in the first place.

John Carter (formerly of Mars), a film based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ 11-volume Barsoom series, marks the live action feature début of one of Pixar’s finest, Andrew Stanton (formerly of Finding Nemo and Wall.E). Costing somewhere in the region of $250 million, John Carter had the unenviable task of making a profit while following in the footsteps of its own extensive progeny to cinemas, with a number of the books’ themes and ideas having already been assimilated into the likes of Star Wars, Superman and Avatar while Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars lay largely forgotten. Lumbered with an increasingly unfashionable 3D conversion and lacking any real name-recognition, it was always going to be a tough sell.

There’s a part of me that wanted to dislike John Carter. After a spate of increasingly irksome interviews, it was becoming the case that, despite having potentially dreamt up the scene from Finding Nemo in which Dory attempts to speak whale, I had a bit of a problem with Andrew Stanton, and maybe even Pixar in general. With all their talk of an inclusive Dream Team and making only the movies that they would wish to see themselves (even Cars 2, apparently), I couldn’t help but feel that the company was a little too smug, self-congratulatory and – more recently, at least, in terms of Brave – blindly defensive to reconcile with my retiring view of them as infallible masters of children’s animation. You never should meet your heroes, I suppose, however indirectly.

Even excusing the burgeoning grudge of a disgruntled hair-splitter, John Carter is no classic: the film’s bloated plot, uninspired dialogue and wooden characters instantly setting it miles apart from the director’s previous animated works. Despite starring two glorified appliances, robbed of facial expressions and boasting a vocabulary of precisely one word apiece, Wall.E boasts more personality, more chemistry and ultimately more humanity (or even martianity) in its 98 minutes than John Carter‘s entire cast manage in well over two hours. An unfair comparison, perhaps, but given the size of the budget, the identity of the director and the influence of the source material, just about anything should have been possible.

Speaking of the source material, it appears that Stanton has (rightfully or not) taken little creative licence in adapting John Carter for the big screen. Thus, we are thrust into a mind-boggling world originally shaped over the course of eleven volumes and innumerable words with only a brief introduction to soften the blow. As you are left to grapple with the ever-expanding register of tongue-tying names, it quickly become clear why the likes of George Lucas and James Cameron harvested the elements that they did; in-so-doing leaving out the likes of Sab Than, Prince of Zodanga and Tardos Mors, Jeddak of Helium, who, in the end, are only distinguishable by the colour of their flags, which fly above their warring light-powered airships. Or something.

As if the on-Mars action wasn’t brain-scrambling enough, the filmmakers have opted to add to the story with a series of bookends which introduce the sagas’ author as a character in the film’s own narrative – as Carter’s nephew, no less. These sequences add less than zero to proceedings, instead drawing the audience’s out of the primary plot as they are left to grapple with the unnecessarily meta suggestion that Burrough’s was actually writing fact, as though he had just watched Eric Brevig’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth and wondered why those Vernians should have all of the fun. This proves even more problematic come the film’s stilted dénouement, which – without giving anything away – oversteps its natural conclusion in favour of what is either fiction’s least enticing cliff hanger or a point so ambiguous that, even in the face of the rest of the film, it seems positively absurd.

Ridiculous as it might sound, however, by no means did I actually hate Disney’s John Carter. Quite the contrary, in fact: I found its utter disregard for the deteriorating attention span of the MTV generation rather refreshing; commendable, even. While the aliens still look improbably humanoid (the ‘red’ humans thoroughly included), it was nice to see a good portion of the movie dedicated to the almighty culture clash that would follow transplantation to Mars. Carter’s adjustments to the decrease in gravity, the hand-acted greetings and initial interaction, and the fact that very little of the Martian science makes any sense whatsoever each placated me after years of diluted science fiction in which characters cross the universe with as little difficulty as one might cross the road.

Without a doubt the biggest success of John Carter is the film’s realisation of the Tharks: a race of primitive, four-armed green Martians who lay eggs, destroy those that haven’t hatched by some arbitrary date, and who maim and kill those who are weak or unruly; they are a complicated and diverse culture that – despite their unique anatomy – prove as emotive and sympathetic as any of the human characters. Across the board, John Carter is breath-takingly shot and jaw-droppingly rendered, its settings and set pieces stunning in much the same way that Avatar once achieved with its comparable race of Na’vi. Even when the creatures are communing with some higher power or pitting their captives against myriad monsters and beasts (the Thark arena bears a striking resemblance to that on Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones‘ Geonosis), they easily maintain their awe and splendour.

But perhaps I’m just a sucker for science fiction on an operatic scale. I loved Avatar, and I am routinely blown away by Star Wars (yes, even the prequels), and if you resolutely disagree then we will unlikely see eye to eye here either. I can forgive the wooden performances, the dispassionate air battles and the incomprehensible plot, because what they threaten to undermine so taps in to the childlike sense of wonder that is so key to my own cinematic enjoyment. I had no problem with Carter’s abilities being limited to a particular proclivity for jumping, or the fact that Mark Strong ultimately played a thinly-veiled angel by a different name. I didn’t mind that the names were unintelligible or that I had seen most of it before. I even enjoyed the central relationship, finding it easy enough to invest in Taylor Kitsch’s archetypal lead. I was entertained, and I asked of it nothing more.

Cripplingly overlong, inaccessibly convoluted and written by mahogany, on mahogany, with mahogany, John Carter is a film that will alienate more people than it will inspire. That said, it is also handsomely shot, beautifully rendered and, with a winningly old fashioned feel, this is science fiction writ large in both the best and worst senses. It may take a few viewings to really crack, but whether the general public embraces it or not this will be nevertheless an important release in the genre’s colourful history. I only wish I could give it 3.25 stars.

The Muppets (2012)

Walter (Peter Linz), the Muppet brother of the coincidentally human Gary (Jason Segel), has struggled to find a place in the world, preferring instead to watch The Muppet Show re-runs at home with his live-in sibling. Invited to Los Angeles by Gary, who has booked the holiday to mark the ten year anniversary of his relationship with unorthodox school teacher Mary (Amy Adams), Walter is disappointed to find the official tour of the old Muppet Theatre all-but disbanded and the building itself in ruin. Overhearing a plot by tycoon Tex Richman (Chris Cooper) to purchase the land harvest it for oil, Walter hijacks the romantic getaway in order to reunite the Muppets and save the theatre by way of a money raising telethon.

It does require somewhat of a suspension of disbelief to imagine a world in which the Muppets are out of fashion and long forgotten, particularly given the troupe’s recent runaway resurgence. Since the project was first announced, Disney’s marketing machine has been in overdrive as the brand began appearing everywhere from Children In Need to YouTube to your local cineplex courtesy of the requisite Orange Gold Spot. With a push for the Muppets to host the Oscars, and even an interview with Miss Piggy in The Sunday Times, the long-awaited movie ran the risk of missing its own bandwagon, and really had to deliver something special to justify the considerable hype.

Thankfully, Jason Segel’s script does just that, its alchemic mix of nostalgia and innovation ensuring that fans of the television show and extant franchise are duly honoured, while taking measures to charm newcomers and novices alike. The results are often laugh out loud funny as our heroes are forced to accept that the world has moved on and tastes have changed. From Kermit the Frog’s contact list of yesteryear’s celebrity (we’re looking at you, Molly Ringwald) to ’80s Robot’s reliance on a dial-up modem, the incongruity is played up to great effect. The film also has fun with certain well-worn cinematic shorthand, with montage and map travel both lampooned with a lovably self-aware wink to the audience.

As with his Dracula rock musical from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Segel shows a startling affinity for catchy show-tunes. Kick-starting proceedings with the delightfully upbeat Life’s a Happy Song, the wit and proficiency later exampled throughout subsequent hits Pictures in My Head and Man or Muppet will not only have you spouting half-remembered lyrics for weeks to come but living in wait of Segel’s next musical endeavour. The original music is complimented with a number of recycled hits that shall remain nameless so as not to spoil their impact, needless to say that a certain recent pop hit as interpreted by Camilla and the Chickens comes close to stealing the show.

Even onscreen, Segel (alongside Amy Adams and Peter Linz) cuts a likeable presence opposite the veritable institutions of Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and Gonzo. Their introduction is arguably the film’s biggest accomplishment, as the new characters and dynamics are established and we get to see the glowing effects of having a Muppet in your life. As the focus shifts, the trio is even missed, with their development and resolution having to contend with the film’s namesakes for screen time. Not that it’s not nice to have the Muppets back, the ensuing madness truly celebrating all that was great about the characters and franchise, but with a plot so slight it’s a shame that anyone had to lose out at all.

This is a problem, however, and unless you are willing to let the film slide on good will alone you are unlikely to be completely satisfied with the finished product. The careful balancing act of man and Muppet struggles to give each subplot its due; with so many supporting characters, it was always going to be a challenge doing each existing icon their due, even without adding new ones to the mix – however likeable they might be. The result is a movie which doesn’t quite hang together, a miss-mash of narrative threads and secondary characters that are rarely more than the sum of their parts.

With many of the skits involved in the marketing push proving so successful, and many of the gags in the film itself working so well, the film is often at its best during relatively standalone segments and self-contained sight-gags. As soon as director James Bobin attempts tie these segments together the movie starts to fall apart, the film’s punch compromised by a plot so cliché that you’re waiting for a send up that never comes. Although many of the characters are great fun and many of the ideas come together beautifully, there are moments that fall jarringly flat. Take the movie’s “celebrity cameos”: with many of Hollywood’s least funny contemporary performers cropping up in one way or another, the diversions from the already short-changed central relationships ultimately do more harm than good.

A hugely affable affair which confirms that the Muppets are back in a big way, The Muppets is an absolute joy from beginning to end. With Jason Segel gifting us with one of the most charming, witty and tongue in cheek scripts of the year so far, and a love and admiration for the franchise which goes beyond simple nostalgia, this is undoubtedly the comedy to beat in 2012. With one of the film’s key morals being that relevance is overrated, however, I just wish all involved hadn’t been so preoccupied with shoehorning in timely celebrity cameos.

Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (2011)

Freshly sprung from a high-security Russian prison, Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) is no sooner accepting impossible missions than he is once again running for his life. When a Kremlin-set mission goes explosively awry, Ethan and his makeshift team find themselves disavowed and alone in stopping a plot to begin nuclear war. With Benji (Simon Pegg) eager to prove himself in the field, Jane (Paula Patton) looking to settle an old score and Brandt (Jeremy Renner) harbouring agendas of his own, Cruise must learn unite his new team-mates if they are to stand any chance of preventing Kurt Hendricks (Michael Nyqvist) from effectively rebooting the human race. But only after he’s climbed the largest building in the world.

“Mission: Impossible 4”, I hear you ask, confused, “why the fuck would I want to watch Mission: Impossible 4?” Two reasons, actually, and they’re both rather convincing. Firstly, while it might once have been acceptable simply to dismiss the latest Ethan Hunt (come on, his surname doesn’t even begin with a B!) adventure out of hand, the franchise has since made quite a name for itself, with J. J. Abrams taking the series by the premise and shaking some good old-fashioned Philip Seymour Hoffman into it. Abrams’ third instalment was both anti-Bond and anti-Bourne, an action movie that was as fantastical as it was frenetic, and which introduced the cinemagoing world to the still-glorious sideways explosion.

Secondly, taking over the reins for M:I4 is none other than Brad Bird: Pixar extraordinaire. Having directed the likes of The Iron Giant, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, if the release of Bird’s first ever live-action movie isn’t enough to tempt bums onto seats then it is unlikely that anything ever will. With three arguable masterpieces to his name, it is not exactly inconceivable that he might produce a film every bit the match of Abrams’ own.

Alas, it was not to be. While I fervently argue that you see this movie – it is event cinema at its most eventful, after all – it is nevertheless one of the most disappointing cinematic experiences of 2011. Dropping everything that set Mission: Impossible 3 apart from the previous instalments – a handle on the zanier aspects, a winning group dynamic and the aforementioned sideways explosion – Bird takes an unfortunate step backwards by effectively resetting the story (Simon Pegg returns but everyone else is essentially written out of the film ) and returning it to its distractingly OTT roots.

That said, while Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is almost entirely unremarkable, it is at least entertaining. Bird, unsurprisingly, has a great proclivity for comedy, and makes full use of it throughout in a bid to laugh off the more unbelievable aspects of the plot. Pegg is an absolute joy as the film’s comic relief (Jeremy Renner less so in his misjudged attempts to play against type), the character responsible for a number of laugh out loud gags that ensure that while rarely amazed, you are constantly amused. Sadly, the rest of the cast fail to make much of an impression, with Paula Patton’s incidentally attractive special agent and Michael Nyqvist’s rent-a-villain treading water while Cruise disappears for a quick lengthy frolic in the sand. It is only in the few scenes utilising the desperately under-used Josh Holloway (in what essentially amounts to a cameo) that you are able to glimpse the movie that could have been.

Fun, loud, but ultimately forgettable, Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol is little more than the latest entry in the Mission: Impossible series. With my largest issue with Brad Bird’s fourth instalment addressed in the final few minutes, however, M:I4 is simply a harmless, a missed opportunity to pick up where Abrams’ left off, and a disappointingly imperfect live-action début from an otherwise acclaimed directorial talent.