I hear it a lot. “Oh, no, Boom, we are not seeing a Tom Cruise movie” or “Tom Cruise is the worst actor ever”, and I wonder to myself, just how bad is my —clearly— impeccable taste in movies? Or more pertinently, how true can this be if Steven Spielberg keeps casting him? The funny thing about these people in my life who complain about seeing a Tom Cruise movie is that they will always watch Top Gun when it inevitably shows up on cable… but I’ll try not publicly point out that irony, for their sake.
Honestly, it just confuses me because Tom Cruise gives good sci-fi.
And that’s why I’m here today, because despite what I may think of his personal life, which is fed to me through a media filter and therefore I feel like I can’t really judge it, his science fiction films are incredible. If people didn’t dislike him so much, he could just be the next messiah of science fiction films that isn’t a reboot or a continuation of a former franchise. That’s how good his movies are.
I say that because in the last decade, Tom Cruise was a part of Vanilla Sky, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, and Oblivion, all of which are excellent pieces of sci-fi cinema.
So let’s start with his first stint into the world of tomorrow, shall we?
I know a lot of people are getting ready to pounce on me here because it looks like I’m about to say Vanilla Sky is a good movie. Well, pounce away. It was a good movie… at least, for the most part. Now, why someone like Cameron Crowe would direct something like Vanilla Sky is another question altogether. I mean, it’s hard to connect We Bought a Zoo, Say Anything, and Jerry Macguire to something as dark and macabre as Vanilla Sky (which, despite its horridly dark themes had incredibly bright and vivid imagery). Still, with its Inception-like qualities –such as questions like “What is a dream and what is reality?”– and 5+ legitimate interpretations of what the plot actually was about, the movie has and always will be a favorite of mine, and one of the highlights of science fiction film in the 00s.
If that doesn’t convince you, and I don’t blame you, the film, Open Your Eyes (Abre Los Ojos), which Vanilla Sky is based on, has far more positive reviews despite having an nearly identical premise and plot (and one actress in common). This leads me to conclude that Tom Cruise knew what the film was based off of, and took a leap of faith on the English remake, which makes me think he also has a fairly decent eye for scifi movies.
But let’s move on to Minority Report because I think Vanilla Sky was really the beginning for Tom Cruise; a timid first step towards sci-fi greatness. Minority Report, on the other hand, was one great leap in that direction.
I’ll never understand the purists who dislike this movie on the grounds of it not being true to the story. As someone who reads and is habitually bored by Philip K. Dick short stories, I feel the need to say that disliking Minority Report on those grounds is tantamount to hating Schwarzenegger’s Total Recall, and that is just patently ridiculous. Dick’s short stories should be treated like a movie pitch, something which can grow in a fuller and more cohesive world with the right writers. Put Spielberg at the helm of it, and it’s gold. That being said, the story and the plot of the movie and the short story are very similar, and both utilize the same moral principles that predicting future crime would bring about. So I dismiss purists here and say this movie is great. It has all the ethical dilemmas, predictions for the future, and literary devices a good sci-fi movie should have.
Thus, I can surmise that the most amount of flak that movie gets is from the simple fact that Tom Cruise is in it. Replace that role in your head with someone you actually like, and suddenly the movie is fantastic.
And so I move on to War of the Worlds, a movie I fully planned on not liking, and changed my mind about by the end of the film. In fact, I actually list it as one of my all time favorite movies. Why? Well, because it wasn’t about saving the world, though the world is saved in a haphazard way indepedent of the characters just like in the original book. Instead, it focuses on a family that has to deal with the horrible situation of aliens invading and using humans as… well, they never really explain. But it’s not pleasant.
That’s why the movie is so fantastic though. It is about as real of a portrayal of alien species we will ever get because it never once anthropomorphizes them. We don’t know their motives, history, or emotions (if they have any), and all the horror of the movie is trying to run away from something you don’t understand, which is what a true invasion like H.G. Wells envisioned would be like.
Again, Tom Cruise shows an incredible eye for good sci-fi (and I would say Steven Spielberg does too, if not for a few black marks on his record).
And so I come to Oblivion, a movie I was fully prepared to hate based on the first thirty minutes of blatant objectification, and boring exposition. After a half hour, however, I stopped remembering how badly I needed to pee and went from plot twist to plot twist in an fully immersive environment. Then I recognized all the qualities I sort have felt iffy about in the beginning was what classic sci-fi would have looked like had we had the special effects technology. The entire movie is an epic homage to the classic days of sci-fi, something which we sci-fi nerds seem to inexplicably pine for.
In short, despite being skeptical of another the-world-is-over-look-at-how-ruined-it-is sci-fi, I fell in love with the old school cheesy goodness of it all, all of which I would love to explain further but cannot as it hasn’t even been released on DVD yet. I will say this, it involves clones, evil robots, and memory loss, which sounds like a horrid movie from the early 70s, but add in Morgan Freeman and suddenly the plot has a legitimacy beyond homage.
The TLDR of this is that I’ll never understand why someone would choose not to see a sci-fi movie because it has Tom Cruise in it. I can understand it with some actors, as I’m loathe to go to anything with Vin Deisel in it, and I’m really timid about seeing something with Will Smith that is set in any timeline that isn’t the present. But with Tom Cruise and sci-fi? We should be flocking to those movies.
Tom Cruise knows good sci-fi.