Earlier in the day we reported that the rumors were true — Tom Cruise and J.J. Abrams were teaming up to bring Ethan Hunt back to the big screen for a fourth installment. At the time, I rolled my eyes, but then after speaking with several friends who all seemed enthusiastic about it, I decided I have to make my voice heard.

They shouldn’t make Mission: Impossible 4, and here are three (semi-plausible) reasons why not:

1. It’s No Way to Celebrate a 15th Anniversary

That’s right, sports fans. With the schedule that this production is on, the film is looking at a probably 2011 release which would make it hit theaters on the 15th anniversary of the first film. Fifteen. Full. Years. Later. There’s a saying about a dead horse that comes to mind.

I realize that the last film in the series was only released 4 years ago (it’ll be 5 by 2011), but if we’ve learned anything from failed franchises and a study of threequels (that still applies with a fourth installment) there’s very little energy coming to the table after a character has been dormant that long. Ethan Hunt has been out of the cultural conversation for a long time, and resurrecting that character will be tough, and most likely meaningless, work.

Isn’t there another 1960s-era television show he can adapt? Like “The Andy Griffith Show?”

2. The Dumb Money Argument

I know this has nothing to do with the quality of the movie, but it does speak to the decision to produce. I’m sure they Cruise and Abrams have full faith in the flick, but Mission Impossible III didn’t even make its production budget back with domestic box office. However, the domestic box office was only 1/3rd of its take. It ended up with $397.8 million worldwide. Big numbers that made a decent bit of coin.

But the laws of diminishing returns was definitely in effect.

The first installment garnered $457.6 million, the second (the John Woo-directed one that Neil mocked in his news write-up) made $546.3 million. Clearly, it’s not the safest bet as far as return on investment.

3. Going Backwards

J.J. Abrams has already announced that he won’t directing it (which, interestingly enough, means that each installment will have a different director), but even as a producer with a rising star, it just seems like he’s headed backward with this decision. This completely subjective, gut feeling is what gives me the most pause. Abrams has a lot on his plate from helpings of “Lost” to steering Star Trek 2 on the right course. He’s just exploded last year with his second film as a director. One that will become its own franchise. Why head back in time?

That point leads to the much more real concern: is there really any more story to tell? Ethan Hunt was an interesting character for a bit, but he got tiresome with the emotional baggage of III (not to mention the story arch completion of it). Is this the direction we’re headed in? Where every story and franchise and character has to be squeezed bone dry before we hang it up (and then reboot it 4 years later)?

In Conclusion

We’re really talking about a film that came out when I was 12-years old, and a series that I have zero nostalgia for. I might be myopic here, but I don’t see the value in seeing more Hunt on screen. They’ve had a great ride, told an interesting story, but ultimately the series is fairly forgettable. They’re TBS movies. Something to watch on Saturday when there’s nothing else on, and you might as well. I don’t want to downplay the cool-factor of the first, or the incredible stunts, but what we’re really dealing with here is a tired franchise that’s going to be unearthed like Lazarus by an actor who hasn’t had success in a leading role since…well, since Mission Impossible III.

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