We might have found the most impossible mission of Tom Cruise's career: Actually releasing the long-awaited sequels to his most beloved films.

Paramount announced Friday that the highly-anticipated seventh and eighth installments in the Mission: Impossible franchise have each been delayed a year until July 14, 2023, and June 28, 2024, respectively. And this is just the latest speed bump in the release of those two films and Cruise's other legacy pic, Top Gun: Maverick.

M:I7's new date comes after it was previously scheduled, on separate occasions, for July 23, 2021, Nov. 19, 2021, May 27, 2022, and Sept. 30, 2022. The spy film from returning writer-director Christopher McQuarrie lost its May 2022 spot back in September when Maverick flew into that position, with the follow-up to the 1986 classic having already been bounced from July 12, 2019, June 24, 2020, Dec. 23, 2020, July 2, 2021, and Nov. 19, 2021. As of now, Maverick, allegedly, will arrive in theaters in May. Or will it?

Top Gun Maverick; Mission Impossible Fallout
Tom Cruise in 'Top Gun: Maverick' and in 'Mission: Impossible - Fallout'
| Credit: Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures; David James/Paramount Pictures

Somehow I've gone this long without mentioning that we're still in the midst of a global pandemic that has thrown the entire film industry into turmoil as the future of the moviegoing experience becomes cloudier and cloudier. An important factor in this conversation is Paramount, the studio behind both of these franchises. Despite the relaunch of CBS Access as Paramount+, Paramount has stayed more committed to the theater business than most of its competitors — and found great success in doing so. While they've sold some of their smaller titles off to streamers (The Trial of the Chicago 7, The Tomorrow War), proven IP has been kept and released in theaters. Scream just topped last weekend's box office, and last summer, A Quiet Place Part II was the first hit of what we naively thought at the time was the beginning of the "post-pandemic" era (talk about risky business on our part!).

So, other than this whole pandemic thing and billions of dollars being at stake, why not give us these films that we've been anticipating almost as much as Ethan Hunt anticipates finally getting a good night's rest? A couple of theories here. Could Cruise be scarred from his infamous Tenet screening? Let's not forget that shortly after his Bane-like masked viewing, he not-so-politely scolded his M:I7 crew members over their alleged lax attitude towards the COVID guidelines. Yes, he did give Tenet the very controversial review, "I loved it," but did he really? For a guy who said how great it was to be back in a movie theater, he certainly isn't acting like it with all these release date shenanigans! Or maybe he truly did love Tenet, and now he's too busy researching if it's actually possible for him to become inverted and go backward? Not so crazy for the man preparing to literally film a movie in space. Not fake space, real space.

Which leads me to another theory: Top Gun: Maverick and Mission: Impossible 7 don't exist, and Cruise is only using the thought of them as a distraction as he makes his permanent Earth exit to set up camp in space. There have been crazier ideas. I mean, just look at Valkyrie. Or Rock of Ages. Or The Mummy.

Wait, that could be it! Cruise saw that the only thing people enjoyed about 2017's The Mummy was that trailer that accidentally had no audio except him screaming, and now he's recutting Top Gun and Mission: Impossible to be like that. Just imagine Tom Cruise screaming over a shirtless Miles Teller playing football on the beach. That's a truth we can all handle.

Time will tell come May 27, 2022. Or come 2023. Or, who knows, maybe come March 14, 2077 (that's for all you Oblivion heads out there).

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