EXTRA: Don’t Go See ‘Mission: Impossible 2’

HOLLYWOOD, May 24, 2000 – If you’re planning on seeing “Mission: Impossible 2” today, you can forget it. There’s no such movie.

Say what? After all, aren’t there billboards all over North America officially proclaiming today — May 24 — as opening day for the new Tom Cruise movie?

Right, but those billboards are for “M:I-2,” or as it’s more properly identified, The Movie Formerly Known As “Mission: Impossible 2.”

Confused? Well, we were too. So, we called the folks at Paramount, who started the confusion by telling everyone that the flick’s title is “M:I-2.” That’s the way it’s listed in all the studio’s promotional materials, that’s what’s it’s called in all the trailers, and on all the posters. In other words, says Paramount, “M:I-2” supposedly isn’t an acronym for “Mission: Impossible 2,” but just a catchy title in its own right.

So, what led Paramount to drop complete words from the title? Were they all caught up in the mad rush to come up with the next hip-sounding Hollywood acronym (Let’s see, there was “T2,” “ID4,” “MiB” etc. Of course, each of those movies had real titles, too: “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.”

Paramount spokeswoman Susan Indri says the studio’s not trying to be trendy.

“That’s the name of the movie,” Indri tells Hollywood.com. “But people have referred to it both ways.”

OK, but are you trying to distance this flick from its 1996 predecessor? (“Mission,” er, “M:I-2” helmer John Woo’s a big-name director, and this film’s supposedly a world apart from Brian DePalma’s original.)

“Not at all,” Indri says. “It’s a sequel. Everyone knows that.” And then, apparently disinterested in this discussion topic, she placed the telephone on its receiver.

But that doesn’t exactly clarify matters. And adding to the confusion is this: At the beginning of “M:I-2,” the movie’s own main title card — the traditional arbiter for what a movie’s for-the-record-books title — reads, yes, “Mission: Impossible II.” And, yes, make note of the Roman numeral. Where did that come from? So, to sum up: A movie that should only have one name now has three: “M:I-2,” “Mission: Impossible 2” and “Mission: Impossible II.”

Just take a look at the news stand, and it’s apparent that everyone is befuddled as to what this film’s real name is. US magazine is calling the thing “Mission: Impossible 2,” People magazine and The Associated Press are siding with “M:I-2.” called it “M:I-2” in its latest issue; the Associated Press is calling it “M:I-2.” (As for Hollywood.com, we were calling it “Mission: Impossible 2” until Tuesday, when we were informed that it’s “M:I-2,” stupid, even on the first reference.)

Even Paramount can’t keep its story straight. On its Web site, the movie is, yes, referred to as “M:I-2,” except, um, for the part about a “Mission: Impossible 2” (sheesh) sweepstakes.

There are some, however, who believe all this confusion-making is a stroke of brilliance.

“If you look at it from a marketing perspective, you can see that it’s a nice angle,” BenDavid Grabinski, a filmmaker who runs an unofficial Web site (http://www.angelfire.com/az/ScarabNET/miindex.html) about “M:I-2” (or whatever it’s called), tells Hollywood.com.

“You have this nice small acronym that looks great on a poster. But also, Paramount wants this film to be looked at as a separate entity from the original. They don’t want you to look at this is a sequel to the Brian De Palma film, they want you to see this as a John frickin’ Woo film with all that that entails,” Grabinski adds.

“But then again, it might confuse some people.”

You can say that again.