Why ‘Mission Impossible’ kicks James Bond’s ass

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Nobody does it better? I’m not so sure anymore.

The James Bond film series has, of late, grown more stale and less distinctive with every passing entry. “Quantum of Solace,” “Skyfall” and “Spectre” all had bland villains, the same un-sexy “Bond goes rogue” routine and a prevailing sense of aimlessness.

They’re just no fun.

Nothing makes the Bond franchise’s sad decline more abundantly clear than the latest, excellent “Mission: Impossible” movie, “Fallout.” Everything 007 used to have in a chokehold — European car chases, fearsome hand-to-hand combat sequences, awesome gadgets — “MI” now does bigger and better.

After 22 years, six movies and with a star who’s 56, Ethan Hunt has KO’d James Bond.

How does “MI” stay looking so fresh and young? Rejuvenating green juice shots? Turmeric scrubs? Infrared masks?

Try energetic and creative filmmaking, and a star who actually cares about his role.

“It really has been quite a ride. Very exciting,” Tom Cruise said in a 2015 interview to promote “Rogue Nation.” “To see how global audiences have embraced Ethan and the franchise.” Cruise also produces the films, and commits to a grueling training routine to do all of his own stunts. He’s not on cruise-control.

Compare that to what Daniel Craig told Time Out the same year when they asked the actor if he could imagine making another Bond film:

“Now? I’d rather break this glass and slash my wrists,” said the Octo-wussy. “No, not at the moment. Not at all. That’s fine. I’m over it at the moment. We’re done. All I want to do is move on.”

Of course, Mr. Live and Let Cry will be back for the 25th film in 2019.

Craig’s nose-up attitude toward the iconic series that made him a household name has always been apparent on-screen — it’s just been confused for manly brooding. However, like remaining in a toxic relationship for the perceived convenience of it, perhaps moving on would be best for everybody.

“MI” also has kept a firm sense of identity: End-of-the-world plotlines, insane and real stunts, fab femmes fatales and a light tone despite the danger. The filmmakers add clever touches to that formula, but for the most part they stick to it.

Like no franchise other than, perhaps, “Star Wars,” James Bond is beloved by fans for its nostalgia: the retro kitsch, the elegance, the womanizing, the Cold War crime solving. But in a tiresome effort to modernize 007, they’ve stripped away these distinguishing factors, making the character not all that distinct from Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne, or Liam Neeson in anything, really.

For James Bond to regain its quality — not to mention its place in pop culture — may be mission: impossible.

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