Well before “Star Wars” or “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and much earlier than “Jurassic Park” or the comic-book universes, the Bond films invented franchise filmmaking. Still, as solid as 007 remains, “M:I” may be its equal in North America. “Mission: Impossible – Fallout” could be the final summer release to open to $75 million or more. That’s a bit over pre-release projections, but its reviews are the best of any studio release this summer — nearly as good as “Black Panther” earlier this year.
Lower estimates are based on the $62 million debut for “Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation” the same weekend three years ago (like all numbers here, adjusted to 2018 ticket prices). Paramount itself is low-balling expectations with a $50 million prediction, which can safely be ignored. That $65 million consensus is likely low, but perhaps more extraordinary is that Tom Cruise’s 22-year-old spy-thriller franchise may have more box-office clout than James Bond.
That may seem like heresy. The Bond films launched in 1962, hitting their peak of success in the mid-’60s with “Goldfinger” and “Thunderball,” both of which grossed over $600 million adjusted. At the time, most big hits were limited-run epics or musicals like “Ben-Hur” or “The Sound of Music.”
Bond became the prototype for modern blockbusters and inspired a spate of spy-themed movies and TV shows, including “Mission: Impossible.” For the feature adaptation, the story switched from an ensemble of agents to a Bond-like charismatic action hero. From the start, the franchise has openly worked to match the Bond films, though with a more American cast and feel.
The 56-year-old Cruise is older than most Bond incarnations, but he’s kept pace and then some. Roger Moore’s made his final effort at 58; Daniel Craig’s most recent was at 47; Sean Connery portrayed Bond seven times from ages 32-53. Cruise is four years younger than John Wayne was when he made “True Grit,” nine years senior to Brando when he made “The Godfather,” and 11 years older than George C. Scott’s “Patton.”
“Fallout” is one of the most expensive films of the summer (reported budget of $178 million). That falls shy of “Spectre” (around $250 million), but at that level it needs to gross Bondian numbers. This seems entirely possible, and then some; with “Fallout,” Ethan Hunt could prove to be Bond’s equal or better.
On Average, “M:I” Beats Bond
This is the least important statistic here, but even with Bond hitting its peak in the Sean Connery era, the 25 Bond films have averaged $242 million. The five “M:I” titles average $281 million. So on this basis, “M:I” bests Bond.
Since “M.I.” Started, It Has the Lead
The “M:I” films from 1996-2015 grossed $1.405 billion in North America, for the $281 million per-film average. There have been seven Bond films in this period, with a domestic gross of $1.753 billion and a per-film average of $250 million. Advantage, “M:I.”
Tom Cruise vs. Daniel Craig, Round 1
Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007 led to an uptick for the series, to the point where his presence is considered essential. But perhaps not as much as Cruise to “M:I”: Craig’s average across four “Bond” films is $251 million. Advantage, Ethan Hunt.
Tom Cruise vs. Daniel Craig, Round 2
There have been three “M.I.” titles in the 21st century, at an average of $218 million. Craig has made four Bond films in that period, averaging $251 million. (Credit goes to “Skyfall,” which overperformed at $351 million.)
“M.I.” Comes With Lower Budgets
“M:I” is an established franchise, but hardly Bondian in terms of built-in anticipation. The recent Bond films have been November openers, which means they had the benefit of Thanksgiving box office, and possibly even Christmas holdovers. The three most recent Bonds opened between $75 million and $102 million, with ultimate domestic totals 2.5-3.5 times those figures.
“M:I” titles are a little trickier. Of the three most recent, one (“Ghost Protocol”) had a limited IMAX-only initial week. But its first 10 days (all before Christmas) still led to a 3.4 multiple. “Rogue Nation” had a 3.5 multiple. Of the three, only the 2006 edition fell short at 2.8.
That increase suggests two things: Resistance to Tom Cruise (who has a history of generating some antipathy) and less audience commitment to the franchise. But audience response seems to overcome those drawbacks — and given the rapturous critical response, we could see “Fallout” propelled to new heights.
Cinemascores, Metacritic Give “M:I” the Edge
The last three “M:I” entries ranged from 73 to 86 in Metacritic scores. The last four Bonds ranged from 58 to 81. “M:I” gets the critics’ preference.
The four recent Bonds received Cinemascores of A, two A-, one B-. “M:I” received three at A-. Slight edge to “M:I.”
Bond Rules Overseas
No contest here. Each of the last four made between $500 million and 900 million in international grosses, with “Spectre” the highest share at 77 percent. The last two “M:I” films were over $500 million, with around a 70 percent share.
That alone is why Bond films cost roughly $100 million more than “M:I” films. Both series are very successful, but the extra overseas revenues along with expectations for series production value means more expense.