When last afternoon brought the news of a fourth Mission: Impossible film, I only felt a tepid sort of interest. I enjoyed the third one and all, but I'd be hard pressed to really remember anything about it other than Keri Russell's hideously brilliant death scene. For me, the answer is simple -- it's because Ethan Hunt is the most boring character to lead a franchise. The reason I remember Keri Russell's character is because I felt some level of empathy for her (and a "How did they do that to her eyes?"), but I can't really feel anything for Hunt. So why should I sit through the impressive action sequences? It doesn't really matter if he lives or dies, because he's not really there in any appreciable way.
By now, someone out there is violently disagreeing with me, and that's cool. But I ask those people to tell me something really significant about Ethan Hunt. I know he had a fiancee in Mission: Impossible 3, so that doesn't count. Tell me something else. His favorite weapon, perhaps, or his biggest fear. What does he do in his off time? What does he feel about his job, and the body count it requires? If you can answer any of these questions, I will give you a gold star. (Well, figuratively.)
But Ethan Hunt isn't the only tepid culprit. This decade seems to be the one full of the bland action heroes who are inexplicably given franchises when they don't have anything but a name. I feel the same way about John Connor in Terminator: Salvation (and, sadly, in its short-lived "companion" The Sarah Connor Chronicles). I can't remember one significant thing about Jack Ryan beyond that he was a nice guy, and had a "cover" as a historian (and that was only thanks to his last "reboot", The Sum of All Fears) so I can't understand why he's a viable property. The only thing all these guys have in common is that they have cool names.