But this might be the first time that Cruise's ability to bend the blockbuster apparatus to his will has been completely overwhelmed by the grueling and increasingly globalized concerns of the market place. Director Alex Kurtzman, who co-wrote the first two Star Trek and Transformers movies, shoots the whole film in a gray haze that never allow the elaborate stunt scenes to pop. Judging from this movie, he doesn't have the eye for action that Transformers auteur Michael Bay brought to his scripts or Star Trek director J.J. Abrams's ease with character.
Similarly, the three credited screenwriters -- Christopher McQuarrie, David Koepp, and Dylan Kussman -- provide Cruise's protagonist with an enjoyable "scoundrel finds a heart" arc, but unlike the actor's 2014 vehicle Edge of Tomorrow, which followed a soldier on the path to self-awareness, the writers don't pair him off against a worthy adversary like Emily Blunt. He's adrift here. Digging for treasure that's not there.
But there's reason for hope. Even if Universal wants him to be the Iron Man of the Dark Universe, which seems unlikely given the film's tepid reception, there's still reason to believe that Cruise, one of our most hard-working movie stars, will rediscover his mojo. Later this year, he's starring in American Made, a drug-trafficking thriller that re-teams him with Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman. It might not lift the curse, or save the Dark Universe, but it should give him a chance to crawl out of the tomb-like hole he's currently in.