I have often wondered why Tom Cruise is so unlikeable. And yet most movie-goers flock to watch a new Tom Cruise release and pay homage to one of the highest-ranking and highest paid Hollywood actors today. And while he religiously performs most of his action sequence stunts himself, Tom Cruise appears to be one of the hardest-working actors in the business. I can think of no-one else more dedicated to his craft than Tom Cruise. Perhaps this has something to do with the media exposure, self-inflicted or sought after, that he enjoys.
Cruise has made over thirty films. Still counting new productions, it is hard to believe that he has made only a handful of science fiction movies. It’s curious, because this genre surely forms part of his mission to spread the gospel of L Ron Hubbard, who in his day was a prolific science fiction author far removed from Asimov and Clarke. Hubbard is the creator of Scientology which is still a new and mysterious religion to the rest of the world. The very name given to this cult makes me blink with disbelief. Long after Hubbard’s death, Scientology has never achieved the status of other more commonly known religions when measured against the number of devout followers or confirmed believers. There are probably more devout Satanists than there are die-hard Scientologists. Truth be told, many have left this strange cult with a vengeance.
Tom Cruise is not publicity shy. Whether this has something to do with his training as an actor or something he learned during his devotional readings of Hubbard’s texts remains to be seen. But given his involvement in this movement, we could regard Cruise as the most devout Scientologist of them all. Well, he’s the best-known anyway. But the god-like status that Hubbard’s successor, Dave Miscavige has thrust upon Cruise’s shoulders has done little to endear the rest of the world to this strangely shallow environment of deception and class rule. Miscavige excuses Scientology’s lack of popularity by suggesting that if it were not for Cruise’s acting work, he would certainly be Scientology’s Number Two. Why not number one? In view of his bond and popularity (or notoriety) with the rest of the living and breathing world, this suggestion may not seem as ridiculous as it sounds.
Tom Cruise, as a young man, did not have the best of worlds. He escaped from a broken, Catholic home and entered the perceptive enclave of Scientology at the age of twenty-four. It seems to have suited his own empty and shallow personality which remains bereft of the well-rounded personage of an exceptionally good actor, or the balanced psychological structure of a thoughtful all-American. There can be no doubt that he is devoted to hypocrisy, He is devoted to a world which shuns psychology as a remedy to solve problems of the heart and mind. Observers have remarked that Cruise is an ever-present feature of the mysterious but elaborately appointed centres of study and devotion to L Ron Hubbard’s alleged discoveries.
Outside the not so secretive world of Scientology, Tom Cruise has his critics. Within those high walls, thanks to the misogynistic and dictatorial rule of Miscavige, Cruise has his detractors too. The cruel, hierarchical rules of co-habitation do not apply to Mr Cruise, but did apply to many of the escaped members, ordinary men and women, who were subjected to cruel and humiliating tasks to keep them subserviently in line and bound to secrecy.
Tom Cruise’s failed, but highly publicised marriages to Australian actress, Nicole Kidman, and fellow-American, Katie Holmes, helped in lifting the veils of secrecy of the goings on in and around the temples of falseness. Cruise’s attempts at matrimonial bliss were a one-sided affair, designed with the help of his boss, Miscavige, to serve Scientology’s most famous idol, sexually or otherwise. Like a spoilt Buddha, Cruise could do what he pleased. Invariably, his ego and vanity would be over-fed. A striking aspect of the unusual relationships that Cruise had with his wives were the way in which their children were treated and taught to behave. Kidman, for one, was condemned as an S.P., a Subjective Person, If there was any disagreement with Mommy’s attempts to chastise or discipline you, all you needed to do was call your daddy, or better still, your Big Brother and point your small finger at Mommy and accuse her. That Miscavige and Cruise would ultimately fail to suppress and enslave Kidman is now a matter of Hollywood history. Kidman escaped. So too, Katie Holmes. But she was also a step ahead. She took her children with. Divorce settlements and child maintenance issues are an ongoing saga of the Cruise family households.
Given Tom Cruise’s own traumatised Catholic family background, slipping into this nefarious family of Scientologists was as easy as slipping into his next method-acting, make that, wooden-acting role. One of the unusual practices within the Scientology temple is a process of auditing. Vanity Fair remarked that this is an expensive version of the Roman Catholic sacrament of confession. An auditor asks the paying subject hundreds of questions. The subject holds on to two metal canisters wired to an E-Meter (Electropsychometer). This contraption measures the body’s reactions to the questions much like a lie detector does. Somehow I doubt whether Tom Cruise subjects himself to this process these days. But, then again, Cruise is rumoured to still be on a personal quest towards reaching the pinnacle of the Bridge to Total Freedom. Disturbing past memories are wiped out and the subject begins to shine.
These days, though, Cruise does audit himself. I wonder how this is possible. He has already reached O.T. III or the Wall of Fire. He has access to L Ron Hubbard’s secret writings which reveal this church’s most sacred beliefs. The mythical story goes that 75 million years ago a galactic emperor named Xenu sent millions of frozen souls in spaceships to the bottom of volcanoes on Planet Earth. The volcanoes were hydrogen-bombed. The reincarnated beings, known as thetans then sought human bodies as “containers” to inhabit. So, there you have it, Tom Cruise may not actually be human after all.
I am less interested in what Tom Cruise did to reach the top of the Hollywood pile and the sordid gossip stories that trail this actor than I am in what Scientology actually is. And, given my own interest in the science-fiction genre, I am fascinated by the cult’s alien myths. Scientology’s own website offers little information and it is far removed from the density of Biblical and other religious texts. Nevertheless, the religion developed by Hubbard offers a precise path that leads to a complete understanding of spirituality and the human relationships whether with the self, family or other groups. And there is at the end of it all a Supreme Being. Xenu, Cruise, or Hubbard himself?
Shunning psycho-analysis, as pioneered by Freud and Jung, Scientology claims to hold knowledge derived from certain truths amongst which are man’s spiritual immortality and his unlimited capabilities. Ultimately, Scientology’s goal is “true spiritual enlightenment and freedom for all.” Given that, I imagine that it may be aeons before these ideals are realised.
Controversially, this new religion, borrowing the dogma from other religions stretching back thousands of years, has isolated “fundamental laws of life” and claims to have developed technology that can be applied to help people achieve happiness and spiritual clarity. Key to all that Scientology preaches is that the religion is based on what we do, and we can pretty much do as we please if we enjoy the god-like status that Cruise does, not on who we are. Pardon me for asking, but isn’t who we are based on what we do anyway? But, Scientology argues that our spiritual enlightenment will be improved by a rigorous process of auditing and “training.” And God is defined as the Eighth Dynamic.
If Cruise can be considered a faithful and devout disciple of Scientology through his words and actions and more specifically through his trade of acting, specifically within the genre of science-fiction, rather than merely a loyal subject, then I am persuaded to suggest that he has failed in his mission to convert new subjects. While his recent films, Minority Report, War of the Worlds, Oblivion and even Edge of Tomorrow, are reasonably good as science fiction movies go, the merits of these films have more to do with the skills of their developers, particularly director Steven Spielberg and novelist Hiroshi Sakurazaka. Is it any wonder then that no-one has pounced on any of Hubbard’s own texts to develop them into twenty-first century blockbusters with Cruise, as usual, in the leading role?
There is one aspect of Cruise’s work that I do enjoy, however. He tries very hard to please his directors and throws his muscles into the scripts which are tailor-made for Cruise’s sparseness with words. I have in mind the brilliant Stanley Kubrick and the every-man Oliver Stone. The plodding, mundane script of Eyes Wide Shut may even have been difficult for Mr and Mrs Cruise who replicate their failed marriage on-screen. All this was deliberate, of course, as Kubrick focussed his ears and eyes on the film’s musical score and standard use of primary colours to match the elegantly appointed opulence of the wealthy classes. Stone’s scripts are much wordier and requires complete involvement from the actor to reflect history and its nuances.
Cruise’s science-fiction roles, however, whether good or bad, are more fascinating, because it seems to replicate the actor’s attempt to propagate Scientological truths or refute the alien myths that continue to invade the Scientology cult. On the one hand, the myth goes that according to L Ron Hubbard, Xenu was a dicator when in his prime and it appears that he/it was every bit as deviant as the villainous aliens, seen or unseen, on the silver-screen. Through his method acting and accompanying bravado, Cruise either slays or averts these alien forces, showing once more how triumphant man is destined to become, much like the dictates of Scientology itself.
At best, Edge of Tomorrow is a tacky reinvention of World War Two’s D-Day and what may have been any easy adaptation of the Japanese writer Sakurazaka’s original novel, All You Need is Kill. Critic, Dave Edelstein says he gave up on the novel after page thirty. While the idea of travelling back and forth in time to alter man’s destiny is a good one, it does not fortify the viewer of Edge of Tomorrow. We are forced to endure scene after scene after scene of Cruise’s cowardly US Army Major Cage who is thrown into the line of fire against his will. Emily Blunt’s caricature of the film’s true hero is never allowed to shine, because, after all, Cruise must be the star attraction.
I missed Minority Report which I understand is very good. But I did see Oblivion. It looked like any easy pay day for experienced actor, Morgan Freeman who has a bit part as a renegade leader of earthly survivors. If you pardon the pun, the mimicry of Jack Harper (Tom Cruise) was mildly entertaining, but did little to endear this viewer. Rather, I enjoyed the inky comic book texture of the film’s cinematography which allows us to imagine a post-apocalyptic universe. Yes, the aliens do invade Earth, but it is the Earth’s inhabitants who are triumphant. Or are they?
One of my favourite science fiction films remains Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of HG Wells’ The War of the Worlds. And while Tom Cruise’s acting as the proverbial anti-hero, Ray Ferrier, was enjoyable, it was the alignment of HG Wells’ original story to twenty-first century USA at war against ancient aliens that intrigued me. The only similarity to the original story comes in the form of Morgan Freeman’s authoritative voice-over. One productive aspect of this film that director Steven Spielberg did not enjoy, combining elements of all his earlier action-packed films, was Tom Cruise’s blatant off-screen promotion of Scientology.