Tom Cruise may not technically play a superhero as Ethan Hunt in the Mission: Impossible series but superhero movies definitely influence the character - and those who oppose him.
During a roundtable interview, ComicBook.com chatted with Mission: Impossible-Rouge Nation writer/director Christopher McQuarrie about his process, and discussed film's villain. In Rogue Nation, Hunt and the IMF go up against Lane (played by Sean Harris, pictured above) and the Syndicate, anti-versions of each. Doppelgängers are a popular trope in superhero adaptations (check out ComicBook.com this weekend for more on that), and one danced around, rather than deeply explored in the films. McQuarrie told us that he actually compared his villain to one comic readers are very familiar with: The Joker, when trying to figure out how to present Ethan Hunt's doppelgänger.
"Well, evil is a really tough concept for me," McQuarrie told ComicBook. "The idea of a villain that is bad for bad’s sake seems kind of absurd. Unless you have someone like Heath Ledger as the Joker who was really “I’m here for anarchy,” and you believed that his philosophy was that he had no philosophy. He got off on the creativity with which he created chaos, and he was kind of angry at the world."
The director went on to say how he took his usual process, and turned it on its head with the villain, while keeping The Dark Knight in mind.
"So when you have the anti-Ethan Hunt, what would make that? We really didn’t come by it naturally. Normally, I tend to be a very binary filmmaker. You give me a problem and a destination. If you want to get from here to here, there’s a series of if/thens that will get you there. If you have other stuff you want to do along the way, then I give you the if/thens that are caused by that. We really didn’t know who Lane was. We didn’t know Lane’s name! He was a mystery to us as much as he is in the narrative. For me, I didn’t think about [the doppelgänger concept] in terms of advantages and disadvantages. It’s a pain in the ass coming up with a villain that’s creating chaos in a satisfying way.
"The other problem with Lane, that you may have noticed, is there’s not a great deal of on screen chaos caused by him! That’s something I really struggled with throughout making the movie: is he doing enough that he is clearly doing? Anything you did to tell that story clearly on screen took time away from the main story that you’re telling. It also, if you look at The Dark Knight, it isn’t Batman’s movie, it’s The Joker’s movie. The more fleshed out your villain becomes, the darker the movie becomes. We didn’t want to go to a place where it was a dark and brooding thing about the villain, we wanted it to just be the villain creating a set of circumstances whereby the movie moved forward.
"That’s really where it became clear to us that Lane had a plan, and that Lane had the upper hand on Ethan almost throughout the entire movie."
Stay tuned for more from ComicBook.com with Christopher McQuarrie.
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation hits theaters on July 31.