As commercial cinema goes, animation and live action are seen as divergent modes of filmmaking sharing the mutual goal of aesthetic cohesiveness; they only achieve it by different means. While Avatar and The Adventures of Tintin achieve a melding of live-action and animation techniques, other examples suggest that the sensibilities of animation and live action are more disparate and incompatible. If the static shots and deadened rhythms of the big-budget fantasy films John Carter and the first two Chronicles of Narnia entries are any indication, the qualities of animation may not so easily translate to live action. These films were directed by animation veterans—Andrew Stanton and Andrew Adamson, respectively—whose authorial voices evaporated under the conditions of live-action filmmaking.
Given the standing casualties, it would be reasonable to expect that Brad Bird, the venerable and considerably gifted director of Pixar greats Ratatouille and The Incredibles, would encounter similar difficulties working in live action as did Adamson and Stanton. Bird's first project in the non-animated realm would pose a more considerable test than those of his predecessors, both of whom were essentially handed the reins of a new film franchise. If the translation from animation to live action weren't already revealed as problematic by the previous examples, the challenge of making a fourth entry in the moribund Mission: Impossible franchise would be potentially as significant. Yet, despite these (and forgive me for saying) impossible conditions, Bird makes Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol work. It succeeds not only as the resurrection of a franchise but also as an exercise in the rarified practice of artful action filmmaking. Whether the story makes a bit of sense is hard for me to say, as I certainly can't recount it very well. More importantly, this fourth Mission: Impossible makes visual sense.
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