The problem with a lot of movie sequels is that they are too similar to the original films. Oftentimes, they'll copy the plot and style of the first installment so closely they feel more like remakes than standalone film. But that's never been the case with "Mission: Impossible."
Tom Cruise first turned the classic 1960s TV spy show into a big-screen blockbuster 15 years ago. And while a few key elements have shown up in each sequel -- Cruise, Ving Rhames, identity-concealing masks, and, of course, the theme song -- the subsequent movies have their own look and feel. Each movie had a different director (Brian De Palma, John Woo and J.J. Abrams, respectively) who put their own stamp on the material. And the sequels brought in new costars, exotic locales and hair-raising stunts to try to top the one that came before.
From the looks of the just-released trailer, the fourth film, "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol," could be the most radical departure yet. Cruise returns as IMF secret agent Ethan Hunt, but this time he's backed by a new team that includes the Oscar-nominated star of "The Hurt Locker," Jeremy Renner. The cast also includes Paula Patton ("Precious"), Josh Holloway (TV's "Lost"), and Simon Pegg (the first actor other than Cruise and Rhames to appear in two "M:I" movies).
The added stars mean that Cruise's character isn't doing all the action himself in this movie. The trailer shows Renner dropping down an airshaft on cables, much like Cruise did so memorably in the first movie. And Holloway can be seen running across a rooftop and plummeting to the ground. Even Pegg, who was stuck behind a computer in "Mission: Impossible 3," gets in on the fighting.
Still, Cruise isn't exactly sitting on the sidelines in "Ghost Protocol." The trailer has him running from massive explosions, getting tossed around inside a rolling car, and narrowly avoiding getting squished by another flipping vehicle. And in an already infamous stunt, Cruise can be seen hanging off Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest structure ever built. He really did dangle from wires outside of the building almost 1500 feet in the air.
Naturally, the movie crosses the globe, filming in the United Arab Emirates, Russia, India, and the Czech Republic. It has an international cast of villains as well, including Anil Kapoor ("Slumdog Millionaire"), Michael Nyqvist ("The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo") and Léa Seydoux ("Robin Hood"). Plus, some scenes in the movie were shot on IMAX cameras, so the big scenes will fill up the giant-sized screens like in "The Dark Knight."
"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" also breaks new ground by being the first live-action movie directed by Brad Bird. Formerly a director of animated films for Pixar, Bird won Academy Awards for his movies "The Incredibles" and "Ratatouille." It's very unusual for a "first-time" director to get the reins of a big-budget action spectacle like this, but it's not the first time. J.J. Abrams also hadn't directed a feature when he made "M:I3," and he went on to have hits with "Star Trek" and "Super 8."
"Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol" drops into theaters and IMAX on December 16. Watch the brand-new trailer for the movie below.