Warning! This post will deal with spoilers regarding Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation. Please be advised and read responsibly.
When I came out of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, one of my first thoughts was, “that was an awful lot like Skyfall.” Now to be fair, saying MI is like Bond is like saying Nestle Smarties are like M&Ms, both doing exactly the same thing, with their own unique spin and anywhere one can go, the other can easily go too.. However in this instance I’m not just thinking about the franchises as a whole, but specifically why MI:RN felt very much like Skyfall, and how that opinion while justified is ultimately short sighted.
Full disclosure: I am by no means an expert on either the Bond or MI franchises, having only seen maybe 5 Bond films fully and only the latest 2 MI films. As such my experience and knowledge of both is limited, though I doubt this should bear much upon this article’s arguments.
In both MI:RN and Skyfall, both Hunt and Bond are forced to relocate and eventually rebuild themselves back from ballistic injuries. In both cases it is a sort of restart, a retraining program that allows them as heroes to be put back down to a more human level, before being allowed to rise up back to hero status. Its a simple trick, but even the distinct image of both Hunt and Bond with scruffy beards is enough to show that both Agents have let the world catch up to them. They haven’t been the same men we knew them as for months, and for both of these Agents, the story then becomes one of redemption and reclamation.
Another curious similarity between the two movies is their setup of both MI6’s new M and the IMF’s new Secretary. Both of whom, earlier in their respective movie are critical of the current state of their respective movie’s Agency, and yet by the end are firmly and happily seated in the top of the Agency’s hierarchy themselves. Thus making both films in the end in part a resetting of the board for the Agency’s, allowing for a new regime under which more adventures can easily take place.
Both Skyfall and Rogue Nation’s main antagonists also seem to be cut from very similar cloth, both Ex-MI6 Agents, both with vendettas against their superiors, both using the human weaknesses of our heroes to achieve their ultimate ends. In both cases this is a case of the traitor archetype, but the specifics fly so close that I cannot help but realise that they are this way because their story demands it. Both Rogue Nation and Skyfall are two different explorations on the monsters the system creates, and what the kind of men we need to stop them are like.
So while I still feel strongly that these two films share some very strong ties the final feel of both films is actually quite different, so here i will try to explain those reasons that makes Rogue Nation’s Black forest trifle different from Skyfall’s Black forest cake, even if they share most of the same ingredients.
Action VS Introspection, this is the biggest distinction between the two movies. Skyfall for all its action, is not about Bond fighting, its about Bond facing himself, about realising that he can and must take back the mantle of the 00 Agent Hero. Hunt on the other hand, never loses his sense of purpose or drive, and while others may not realise his relevance, he is still the Hero at heart, it is not an introspective battle but rather one external to his sense of personhood. Bond fights his way back, Hunt fights to show the world he’s still on top.
As an extension therefore the true conflicts of our heroes are very different: Bond is fighting irrelevancy, while Hunt is fighting skepticism. Bond’s world is one where the 00 system is becoming outdated, a relic of the past, becoming less and less viable as a mainstay of the secret service. The IMF on the other hand still holds its value, but the distrust of others is the heart of the opposition to the IMF.
Another main issue is one of the antagonists main goals. Skyfall’s Silva has a personal vendetta against M which drives his plot of revenge and retaliation. In Rogue Nation Solomon Lane’s grudge is not against a person, but against the system, he hates all parts equally, and his plan is not so much a revenge plot, but a crusade against a corrupt system. In this way he is less personal and more villainous, even though he is even more of a threat then Silva ever was.
Most importantly though the Film’s themselves are quite distinct in the vibes they give off. Rogue Nation is a standard action film, a film where good triumphs in a world that is forgetting its need for heroes, a simple tale that has been told countless times. Skyfall on the other hand was much more artistic in vision, but also bleaker and more muddled in its themes. Rogue Nation was a film I came out with a smile, whilst the one I had at the end of Skyfall later was tinged with a greater sense of doubt then I at first realised.
Really though perhaps the difference can be best shown through how each film handels its statements on heroes, with Skyfall’s M recounting from Tennyson’s Ulysses, “We are not now that strength which in old days Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are; One equal temper of heroic hearts, Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will.To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” whilst Hunt, in the face of his captured foe simply recites “We are the IMF” as a statement, a promise.
For all this talk I’ve done comparing these movies, does it really matter if or if not these movies are similar? I mean half the anime, and teen focused fiction these days have incredibly similar plots. Does George Campbell make the hero’s journey irrelevant, or does Hamlet’s existence make The Lion King not a good movie? Of course not. and therefore all this talk I’ve done, while interesting, has actually nothing to do with their merits as films. But that’s a discussion for another time...
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