Gregg Kilday's column in the The Hollywood Reporter about Mission: Impossible III argues that it's the lack of mythology -- "a growing catalog of hints, clues and underlying relationships, that enriches a tale" -- that's responsible for the movie's relative lackluster reception. He cites the Star Wars franchise and shows like The X-Files and Lost in building this mythology outside the movies or tv shows themselves with a host of tie-ins: books, games, Internet chat boards, etc.

Call it mythology or a proliferation of commercial tie-ins, but really Kilday is just talking about a good story in the end: interesting plots, character development, multilayered narratives and arcs. An ever-grinning star surrounded by endless explosions do not a hit make; but we knew that already. With all this attention lately on the strange imploding star that is Tom Cruise, I'm just waiting for some indie director to make Being Tom Cruise. Witness this excellent description of the actor in Anthony Lane's review of M:i:III in The New Yorker: "The stiff-necked jerk of his motions; the grit of his bared teeth; the eyes switched to perennial full beam but never quite blinking, even during tears; his ability to remain totally upright when sprinting, as if carrying an invisible egg and spoon -- what are these, if not the techniques of an alien life force who has just graduated summa cum laude in advanced human behavior? Just who was scared of whom, precisely, in last year's War of the Worlds?" Heh.