Reuters (of all places) has a suprisingly smart analysis of why MI3 isn't doing as well as expected at the box office: it has rejected its own mythology.
Though the analysis is smart, it is wrong; the entire Mission Impossible film franchise is an artistic failure because it rejects its own mythology. The box office failure cannot be attributed solely to that cause, otherwise the first two films would have lost money.
I haven't seen anything but the first one. It sucked rotten, sulfur-stinking eggs. Bad. I went in skeptical of the whole built-in-audience-from-a-TV-franchise marketing element, and ended the film wishing it had pandered more to the TV audience. Killing off the buddy-caper element at the outset of the first movie not only severed the film from its TV heritage, but it also created a situation that demanded some development of character or world.
No development was forthcoming, though. In fact, I submit to you that if you randomly selected scenes from action films and digitally inserted Tom Cruise's face onto the heads of the protagonists, you would end up with much of the same movie. Expecting explosions and car chases to save a bland movie is like expecting rainbow sprinkles to save a cheap vanilla ice cream cone.
It seems to me that the positive reviews of MI3 implicitly concede the artistic failure of the first two films. First, everyone talks about Philip Seymour Hoffman. Yes, I like Hoffman a lot, too, but as he was not in the previous films, that implies to me that no one is particularly looking forward to repeat performances by Cruise or anyone else. Second, we keep hearing about how in this film we get character development of Cruise's character. Ummm ... shouldn't we have gotten that, oh, I don't know, two films ago? Or perhaps inMI2? According to IMDb, the first film was 110 minutes long (I should sue for my time), and the second movie was 123 minutes long. So the franchise has used up 233 minutes of time, or 3 hours and 53 minutes for those of you playing at home, and hasn't bothered to develop the main character?
Plus, they named the protagonist "Ethan Hunt." They might as well have named him "Dirk Squarejaw."