Look, the last thing we want to do is to throw shade at Tom Cruise. He saved the theater industry, for god’s sake. Be that as it may, there was that wild period from 2012 to 2017 where he made some iffy choices.
Along with the Dark Universe-killing “The Mummy,” Cruise’s turn as Jack Reacher began with a mediocre intro in 2012 and ended in 2016 with the panned sequel, “Jack Reacher: Never Go Back.” It was a franchise that had every chance to flourish on the big screen, but it was hindered by its hero being a star who, for better or worse, had become a stereotype unto himself.
That’s because Cruise is — no matter the movie — Cruise. He doesn’t play characters anymore, just Cruise in different settings. Just like the line was burned away in a sparkly fashion between Ethan Hunt and Tom Cruise, the same thing happened when Cruise dared to go it alone as the wandering hero of a 28-book series. He’d shifted from one franchise where he could seemingly do anything to another where he could tell what time of day it was just by looking at the sun.
That’s not Jack Reacher. As creator Lee Child described on Studio 10, Reacher is supposed to be a messy character, not another crystal-cut Cruise action hero. “He’s got a lot of faults,” Child said, “and that’s the only way to do it. You’ve got to present him warts and all, then the audience can relate to him in a realistic way.”
Reacher doesn’t fit into the Cruise mold. Reacher’s a low-level hero, a subdued but powerful figure, solving small-time cases that shouldn’t be outshone by the star playing him. Above all, regardless of the writing, a proper Reacher has to be a character that fills the screen — and we mean that in a quite literal way.