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If I didn't know better, I'd say Tom Cruise is a nerd.
Sure, sure, he's been Captain Awesome since I was a young teenager, and he somehow looks better at his age than I've looked in my single best day ever, and he continues to somehow elude the same sort of career pitfalls that have sidelined even the most talented of his peers. So calling him a "nerd" may not be the traditional application of the word, but it seems to apply when you look at his taste in projects over the last few years.
It's one thing to do a couple of science-fiction movies in a row because Steven Spielberg calls, and "War Of The Worlds" and "Minority Report" are very different approaches to the same genre. With "Oblivion," "All You Need Is Kill," and the just-announced "Yukizake," Cruise seems to be almost single-handedly helping keep original science-fiction alive on the bigscreen. And, yes, I know he's not the filmmaker in each of these cases, but it's incredibly hard to get these films made, and when Cruise signs on, he can be the deciding factor for the financiers behind the films.
One of the things that intrigues me most in the study of the way the star system has evolved over the years is the way movie stars use their clout. I wrote about this a little bit in my piece about my interview with Harrison Ford, and he seems to me like a guy who tries to downplay the entire idea. It's an undeniable reality, though. There are films that only get made because a movie star says yes. And Cruise is a guy who seems like he has always spent that clout as well as possible, and in ways that have been hard to predict at times.
He must have had a good experience on "All You Need Is Kill" to have already signed on to develop another film with the same producers. I've never heard of "Yukikaze," but I'm not surprised. Anime in general is one of those things where there is so much of it that I don't wade in until something has been specifically recommended to me, and even then, there are only a few people I trust in that regard. This is actually a novel first, or a series of them, by Chohei Kambayashi, and they've also been adapted as an animated series. The descriptions I've read today basically sound like it's an alien invasion movie in which the main battle front is aerial. The "Top Gun" comparison sounds like a fair one, but I suppose that's all about how they adapt it.
The Playlist dug up all five of the "Yukikaze" episodes, dubbed into English, posted on DailyMotion, and if you're curious to see the starting point for what I assume will be a very different final product, check it out:
Yukikaze episode 1 by DivaXSaya53
"All You Need Is Kill" is still a full year away. The Doug Liman-directed film, also based on a Japanese novel, seems like a sort of a "Groundhog Day" spin on alien invasion, with Cruise living out one day in battle, over and over again, learning new skills with each day he lives. Just from the description, it makes it sounds like the ultimate comment on how we experience a video game, respawning and dying in a cycle until we master whatever it is that's going to get us through a level.
That means that "Oblivion," "All You Need Is Kill," and "Yukikaze" are all wildly different takes on the alien invasion film. I can't think of anyone else doing something so specific through so many different filters right now. We'll see when Cruise fits this in among his other obligations like a second "Jack Reacher" movie and a new "Mission Impossible."