Why I won’t be in the audience of the new Jack Reacher film

I’ve read a lot of great literature in my time.

I say that to preface the fact that I’ve also read a lot of Lee Child in my time.

There are occasions where I simply need to get a fix of good old blockbuster action, from predictable characters who I adore and who I know won’t let me down.

Lee Child’s outstanding Jack Reacher character has rarely let me down.

No matter where this hitchhiking, nomadic ex-military police major finds himself – he finds himself in trouble. Or helping somebody else get out of trouble.

“Reacher smiled. He had been raised on military bases all around the world, battling hardcore Marine progeny, honing his skills against gangs of resentful native youths in dusty Pacific streets and damp European alleys. Whatever hardscrabble town in Texas or Arkansas or Nebraska these guys had come up in had been a feather bed by comparison. And while they had been studying the playbook and learning to run and jump and catch, he had been broken down and built back up by the kind of experts who could snap your neck so fast you never knew it had happened until you went to nod your head and it rolled away down the street without you.” [Worth Dying For, Lee Child 2010]

Reacher always gets his girl.

Reacher always wins the fight.

And Reacher always puts a smile on my face.

I’ve spoken to other female fans of Reacher, and despite the predictability and far-fetched nature of the Jack Reacher genre (now with 17 books published), we enjoy Reacher. Because we’ve got a crush on him.

I’ll tell you who I don’t have a crush on.

Tom Cruise.

I’m not the first to write and vent that the casting of Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher was a terrible decision. And I wasn’t going to write about this at all. But I simply have to get a few things off my chest about why Cruise is so wrong. So stick with me here.

Lee Child himself has had to come out and defend the choice of Cruise. He’s had friends like Michael Connelly (another great author, creator of Harry Bosch who I adore) come out and defend the casting of Cruise (albeit rather weakly). But their arguments have not swayed me.

The ongoing angst and anger from fans (which I’ve followed on Facebook and Twitter) hasn’t dissipated. Ever since Cruise was announced as the star, fans have vented. For almost any story that is posted on author Lee Child’s Facebook page there will be comments rallying against Cruise. (An ongoing nightmare for the page admins, no doubt).

Cruise is so wrong for the role that this forthcoming movie simply isn’t a Reacher movie, to me. (Also… what’s with calling the movie Jack Reacher? It’s like calling an Ian Fleming movie  James Bond).

Why?

“Reacher is 6′ 5″ tall (1.96m) with a 50-inch chest, and weighing between 210 and 250 pounds (100–115 kg). He has ice-blue eyes and dirty blond hair” from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_reacher

Yes, it’s a size thing. And it’s a voice thing. It’s also a menace thing. I don’t care how experienced and how absolutely dedicated to the role Tom Cruise is, he doesn’t have any of the necessary Reacher elements.

One Facebook comment I read last year (defending Cruise) went something like this: If the Jack Reacher character revolves around his height so much, then he’s not a very good character. If that’s all he is, he’s not worth fussing over.

I beg to differ.

To borrow a cliché, size does matter.

Your size – your physical appearance – has a bearing on your life, and ergo on your character and motivations and what happens to you in life. It’s not everything but – let me emphasise – it does indeed matter.

My 13 year old son knows that size matters.

He’s a big lad. He’s the tallest child at his school. He’s taller than most of the teachers.

When teachers want something lifted and moved at the school, they ask my son to help them.

When people meet him and learn his age, they say “you’re big!”

When family catch up with him, they say “wow, you’re still growing”.

When he visits the orthodontist, the orthodontist remarks on how his legs are nearly too long for the chair.

When strangers meet him they want to know if he plays basketball or AFL. Because that’s what you do when you’re big, right?

Heck, I’ve posted many status updates and photos relating to his size.

Let me leap back to Reacher.

When Reacher walks into a room, people look him up and down and consider his size and threat potential. They start to make judgements about his character. That effects the storyline.

Part of my Jack Reacher collection
Part of my Jack Reacher collection

When he’s about to be arrested or confronted, there’s a team of amped-up and anxious men surrounding him. They expect trouble. That effects the storyline.

When someone is in danger, they feel confident that Reacher may be able to help. They want to confide in him. They want to hide behind him. That effects the storyline.

Sometimes Reacher wants to stay out of trouble. He wants to put his fold-up toothbrush in his back pocket and leave town. But because he’s big and grizzled and war weary and patient and comfortable with himself and his size, he can’t.

And there, the drama begins.

And that’s why Jack Reacher’s size matters. And that’s the crux of fans’ disappointment.

“Reacher was a big man, six feet five inches tall, heavily built, and that night as always he looked a little ragged and unkempt. Lonely drivers wanted pleasant and unthreatening company, and Reacher knew from long experience that visually he was no one’s first choice of companion.” [A Wanted Man, Lee Child, 2012]

What did I want from the Jack Reacher movie?

I wanted an unknown in the role. I wanted to believe that somebody could be Reacher. I wanted a big man who looked like he’d been in too many bar brawls. Someone with a stony face, who could turn cold blue eyes onto the bad guys and make them quiver with fear, and who could also turn warm eyes onto a woman and make her quiver … you get the picture.

I didn’t want Jerry Maguire, Mr Mission Impossible, to pretend to be the big man.

So I’m sad.

I won’t be going to see the Jack Reacher movie. In fact, whenever a preview appears on TV, my younger son (not a big kid) puts his hands over my eyes and says “Don’t watch Mum!” because he thinks that’s funny.

I own every Reacher book. I’ve re-read one or two. They represent an escape which I cherish and I’ll always be grateful to Lee Child for the character.

I wish the movie studio, Lee Child, and whoever else was involved with the creation of the movie had been brave enough to have faith that the big man could carry the flick without having a Hollywood star’s name attached to it.

While I won’t be watching the film, I look forward to many more Reacher books. And there’s nothing that will ever stop me getting a shiver up my spine when I read:

“He put one foot on the shoulder and one in the traffic lane, and he stuck out his thumb, and he smiled and tried to look friendly.” [Lots of Lee Child books …]

16 Comments Add yours

  1. Karen says:

    I absolutely agree. I dithered. As a bookseller I had free tickets to a preview. I thought I couldn’t do it. I dithered some more. Decided professional knowledge demanded I do it, people are gonna ask me for sure. Gritted my teeth, drank some of the pre-screening champagne and manned up. And then I enjoyed it. GET. OUT. As a Reacher movie it’s a dud. At no stage did I ever think of Cruise as Reacher. Also, it’s loosely based on One Shot … very very loosely, the opening scenes had me clucking with disapproval. THIS WAS ALL WRONG. Anyhoo, 90 mins or so later I walked out smiling. As an action movie it’s pretty good, it’s no Skyfall … but … I agree with you Michelle, I would never pay to see this movie. It’s wrong on many levels if you’re a Reacher fan. My hope is that people who have never read a Lee Child will enjoy this as action movie (and as an action movie it’s worth seeing) and feel compelled to pick up a book or 2. We know once you do a Reacher you never go back, right? 🙂

    1. Prakky says:

      I’m thinking the same thing Karen: that as an action movie, it could be a hit and a crowdpleaser. And that for Reacher fans it would be a teeth-gritting experience. You’re so brave. Well, the champagne helped. 😉

  2. David Murrin says:

    I love your blog. Everything you write. So eloquent and accurate, and level-headed. I love it all!

    Except this.

    I honestly disagree with it. I can’t help it! I have read ten Reacher books, as I only discovered them this year but have powered through them, in that time. When I heard that Tom Cruise was cast as Reacher, I thought it was weird. It wasn’t who I had pictured. I read many pages online of people who was disappointed, or worse. I was disappointed!

    But the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t really mind, nor care. The books are the books. The movie is not “here is the exact copy of the book”. It’s a movie based on the book(s). History is littered with characters that have been changed/bastardised from their book versions. I hated the idea of Matt Damon playing Jason Bourne after reading all the Ludlum novels. The characters were so different! Yet, the movies pleased me. I was able to detach myself from what I had read and watch the movies as a new entity.

    If I love a book so much, and a movie is being made, then the simple fact of who is cast as the main character would never be enough to stop me seeing it. I might hate it afterwards. I might not like it much. I might think it’s OK. I might think it’s pretty good. I might really like it. I might love it.

    Who knows? Well, I will, because I would have seen it.

    Sure, Tom Cruise is an actor people love to hate, especially adding in all the off-screen stuff that seems to occur. But, he really is a good actor – and a character actor. He isn’t my absolute favourite by any stretch – but I respect his ability and craft enough to not let that influence me when seeing a movie.

    You’re a women. That’s where things can differ in this entire argument. Whilst we both have a “crush” on Reacher, mine has zero to do with his looks. I respect and understand why the appearance is great, and it works so well in the book. I just honestly fail to see how having someone shorter and looking different in the face than Child describes really matters enough for me to not see it.

    Do you know what I think will happen? I think more Lee Child fans will leave the movie talking more about how the character and story were translated onto the screen, than Tom Cruise. The screenplay is FAR more important in this one than Tom Cruise.

    I won’t say it’s narrow minded, as I really do understand why you have written what you write. I wish you would see it – with a FRESH mindset – and then write about not liking it. Maybe I just think it’s stubborn to not see the first movie of some of your favourite books because of who is playing the lead. Everyone is entitled to their opinion though.

    If you haven’t already, watch this 2 hour interview with Lee Child

    But for now (and if you haven’t) watch the question from the audience regarding Cruise as the choice for Reacher, which is at 1 hour, 11 minutes and 30 seconds. I think he goes a long way to talking about the issue.

    1. Prakky says:

      Hello David! Thank you so much for your considered comments; I so appreciate your feedback and input.

      I know what you’re saying, and typically I am a person to ‘give the benefit of the doubt’ and I have infinite patience.

      What I’ve outlined in my blog I think does in fact demonstrate why I think “having someone shorter and looking different in the face than Child describes really matters”. If you’ve taller and have a different physical persona, it does matter because it impacts how others react to you. I don’t think Cruise is credible for that, but I do hope the film creates more Reacher fans because I definitely want to read more Reacher books.

      I’m in awe that you discovered Reacher this year and have already read 10 books. I envy you, because you’ve discovered and enjoyed him in such a rush. It’s fantastic.

      Maybe it’s because I’m getting older .. but I don’t want to give time over to see Cruise attempt Reacher. I really don’t. I am focused on making judgement calls and choices right now, and I’m rather pleased with this one. I’m not changing the world, but I am drawing my own line.

      Thanks again for your fab contribution. x

      1. David Murrin says:

        It’s not so much that I disagree with you – more that I get disappointed when a Reacher fan doesn’t want to see the movie. And you’re quite within your rights to feel that way! Don’t get me wrong. I’m not trying to change your mind at all – I know that would be a fruitless exercise 😉

        I’m 372 pages into The Hard Way, and I started Killing Floor 3 1/2 months ago – so I’ve packed in the reading each morning on the O-Bahn, lunch time in the mall, and then the O-Bahn home.

        No need to defend what you wrote – you definitely put your thoughts forward and it made sense.

        I’ve known of Reacher for a while, my brother and best mate have read them all and it’s always been on my list – just never got around to it! But then I did – and wow! I felt like I did when I was 13 and discovered Dragonlance.

        Also, watch the video I posted – not for the section about Cruise – just for everything else. It’s an awesome interview/Q&A to watch with a glass of red.

      2. Prakky says:

        Thanks David, I’ll watch the vid. Happy New Year. 🙂

  3. drew says:

    If he’s done to this what he did to Mission:Impossible, it can’t be good.

  4. Kay says:

    I’m with you on this. I have never read a Lee Child novel (I might now, given your endorsement), but was surprised to read in a review of Jack Reacher that a character 6’5″ tall in the books was being played by 5’7″ Tom Cruise. Lee Child gave Jack Reacher a striking physique for all the reasons you mentioned. Presence. Menace. And he sounds like a man that girls taller than five foot five can have a crush on (hurrah for that).

    If you’ve ever seen the British and Swedish TV adaptations of Henning Mankell’s Wallander you’ll know the difference an actor’s appearance can make. The lead actors in both series are great – but even Kenneth Branagh’s superb acting in the English version can’t tell you the things about Wallander that his Swedish counterpart’s awkward, lumbering form does.

  5. RachyMaz says:

    I don’t know Jack Reacher…..and I’m definitely not a Tom Cruise fan……BUT I must admit, I was dead against him as Lestat in Interview with a Vampire and he surprised me and pulled it off…. mind you, he is more weird these days 🙂

    1. Prakky says:

      That’s a good point, RachyMaz. Some actors can surprise and he was also weirder! I just think he’s got such a body of blockbuster work behind him, I can’t see beyond Cruise anymore. I’ve seen previews too, and it doesn’t look like he’s pulled it off. I should also say, some of my favourite films are Cruise films (including Vanilla Sky, and not many people admit that).

  6. David Murrin says:

    Happy new year to you too 🙂

    For the record, if I had my way, then Ray Stevenson (Dexter, Rome, Punisher) would be Reacher – assuming he could pull off an American accent (which many people seem to do flawlessly).

    Light hair, blue eyes, solid and tall. Great user of dialog, and action alike.

    http://www.imdb.com/media/rm312444672/nm0829032

    1. Prakky says:

      I literally said OMG when I opened the image. He could be Reacher. He could!

  7. I’m a Reacher convert (thanks to Prakky putting me onto them) and I, too, have read at least 12 of the books in the last 6 months. I LOVE Reacher, I have a huge crush on him and I agree with everything Michelle says. And yeah, what are they going to call the next one? Jack Reacher II? Stupid.

    But, as she knows (because I told her!) I saw the movie and I really liked it. I was able to enjoy it without being a purist (something I failed to do with Harry Potter but that’s a whole other post). Essentially, I went into it hoping for a good action movie, and I got it. Although Tom Cruise was very non-Reachery in many parts/ways, he still pulled off a likable character and good story. Two of my companions (one who had read one book and another who had no idea who Jack Reacher was) also really enjoyed it.

    I’m also sad, though, because we could have been absolutely blown away. We could have loved the movies as much as the books, and loved the movie Reacher as much as we adore the book Reacher. But we never will 😦

    Anyway, it easily beat the pants of that yawn-fest “Skyfall” *dies of boredom*

  8. David says:

    I’ve seen little to none James Bond movies. But when I go to quiz nights (regularly) there is inevitabely a Bond question and I always have no idea.

    So, I thought “Why not go back and watch them all. In order”. I like a challenge! Since Skyfall came out recently I was invited along and went to see it. I had heard the phrases “best Bond ever!” and “Simply the best!” thrown around so I figured it would be good.

    Yuck.

    It looked good. Action-wise, definitely up there. But if the story-line is anything to go on, I don’t know if I’ll start my “every bond” venture.

    @Rebecca, I really enjoyed the movie too! Unfortunately I had just finished One Shot a week or two bnefore so the plot was FIRMLY in my mind so it was confusing at times, and I found myself comparing more than anything. Tom Cruise did a very good job. As I mentioned to Michelle, he was far from the most controversial part of the book-to-movie ordeal. They did struggle with how to put some Reacher aspects on the big screen (usually things he was thinking and the way he analysed situations) but they still did a great job.

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