Right now, a lot of posts are popping up online about Jack Reacher because of the success of the recent streaming series starring Alan Ritchson. AS HAPPY fans of the adaption point out- this time they got the casting right.
Many people are confused because of the two Tom Cruise movies, as most of the people who have seen those, never read the original novels by Lee Child.
Basically, Jack Reacher the fictional hero suffers from what I call Weismueller Syndrome. That’s where a fictional character is mistaken for the portrayal of themselves by the movie or TV version.
In Edgar Rice Burroughs original 24 Tarzan novels, the Lord of the Jungle is an intelligent, eloquent man who speaks multiple languages including, French, English, German, Latin, and several dead languages (a polyglot, learning languages is Tarzan’s hobby,) as well as Ape.
In the popular movies of the 1930s, Tarzan, portrayed by Johnny Weissmuller, speaks crude pidgen English and is childlike. Unfortunately for Burroughs, that’s the version of Tarzan that the general public was familiar with.
At first Burroughs was happy to cash those big royalty checks from MGM and to see his book sales and merchandise sales skyrocket! In time, it irked Burroughs that the public thought of the Weismueller version, not the original to the point where he wrote the script for an original Tarzan movie that he helped produce and he cast Herman Brix as Tarzan.
Not only did Brix look more like Tarzan than Weismueller — his physique was sinewy and ripped, unlike the swimming champion’s soft body — he talked like Tarzan from the books too. In fact, Herman Brix strongly resembled the Hal Foster comic strip drawings as well!
This was the real Tarzan — the closest adaption to date since the silent era.
But as the public was used to Weismueller’s crude talking version, not Burroughs’, when Weismueller eventually lost the part to Lex Barker, the new movie Tarzan still used the crude pidgen English made famous by Weismueller.
Right up to the Wolf Larson version of Tarzan in the 90s, actors like Glen Morris, Denny Miller, Gordon Scott, and others’ portrayals of Tarzan were based on Weismueller’s original version not Burroughs’. Scott di play Tarzan both ways. Finally Mike Henry and Ron Ely were allowed to portray Tarzan closer to Burroughs’ version than Weismueller’s.
At one point in the 80s, Saturday Night Live had a recurring skit of Tarzan, Tonto, and Frankenstein with all three speaking crude pidgen English.
Poetic Irony! Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein monster spoke in perfect poetic English rivaling Lord Byron himself! But the Boris Karloff movie version had an even more limited vocabulary than Weismueller’s version of Tarzan! And that’s the version the public became familiar with.
Apparently author Lee Child didn’t learn a damn thing from any of this. A few years back, when Hollywood made a Jack Reacher movie, Tom Cruise was miscast in the part! Short, dark, and of average build, Cruise bears ABSOLUTELY NO RESEMBLANCE to Jack Reacher in Lee Child’s books.
In the books, Reacher is 6’5 and 240 lbs of solid muscle. His brute strength plays a pivotal role in the books as Reacher goes thru stuff that’d put an ordinary man in the hospital. His Herculean physique IS Jack Reacher’s weapon. He doesn’t own a gun, but he usually gets one when needed by disarming the bad guys.
The Jack Reacher novels are entertaining and enjoyable, but if it’s realism you’re after, you’re barking up the wrong tree. The author’s whole intent with Jack Reacher IS pulp fiction. It’s his take on what Conan the Barbarian would be like in the modern world.
A professional fighting man with no fixed address, who travels around and gets into trouble and misadventures. I saw the novels everywhere but thought nothing of it. To me, they looked like generic thrillers. Then I read an interview where it was explained the idea was to create a modern day Conan, and I decided to check it out. I was glad I did.
In Lee Child’s novels, Jack Reacher is described as basically looking like Dolph Lundgren from his Rocky 4 and Masters of the Universe days. He has that physique despite never working out or taking nutritional supplements.
Reacher doesn’t do laundry. When his clothes become worn or dirty he discards them and buys new ones. He travels around the country, often by bus, gets into trouble and has misadventures because of his stubborn, rebellious attitude.
The books are awfully fun, well written in their way, but it ain’t James Lee Burke. Reading them entertains you immensely, but it doesn’t make you a better human being.. The spin offs are even better.
My only complaint with Lee Childs is he doesn’t know much about firearms and it shows. He arms Reacher with a Desert Eagle with a 14 inch barrel in one book, and he conceals it in the liner pocket of his denim jacket. The butt of that 4.5 pound gun would be sticking out the top of his coat.
It’s great pulp fiction but it couldn’t be any less ‘realistic’ if Reacher rode a Unicorn and had a magic sword strapped to his back. If you like larger than life superheroes like Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage or James Bond, Jack Reacher is your man.
It’s a shame the role wasn’t offered to Dolph Lundgren back in the 90s — he’d have given an accurate interpretation of the character, unlike Tom Cruise. Dolph Lundgren would have been Lee Child’s brawny misadventurer incarnate. If you’ve ever seen the 90s action movie Jericho Tree it’s very much like a Jack Reacher adventure.
I have read that the first movie “would not have been made if it weren’t for Cruise.” Well if Tom Cruise really cared about Jack Reacher he either would not have played him, or he’d have changed the character’s name to Jack Fletcher as to not confuse the public as to what Reacher is about.
When Alan Ritchson was finally cast for the part (most perfectly, I might add, ) the producers made sure he was tall enough and muscular enough to win over fans of the books. That tells me someone involved in the streaming series’ production DID care about getting it right.
What do you make of Ritchson’s casting as Jack Reacher?