Jack Reacher: Never Go Back was the second and final entry in the Tom Cruise movie franchise; here’s why it didn’t work. Reacher is a hulking avenger who made his literary debut with 1997’s The Killing Floor by author Lee Child. In the decades since, Reacher has fronted over 20 novels, with the series being an addictive combination of Murder, She Wrote-style mysteries with a protagonist who could be played by Dolph Lundgren.
Adapting the Reacher novels took a long time, with the casting process itself being surprisingly controversial. The inability to find an A-list actor with Reacher’s muscular physique – as described in the novels – was a major stumbling block. When it came time to adapt Child’s One Shot – with the movie later being retitled Jack Reacher – producers ditched the height/muscles criteria, leading to Tom Cruise being cast. While having one of the most popular movie stars on the plane would be a boon to most projects, fans were extremely unhappy with the decision.
While Cruise was able to convey the other qualities of Reacher, he didn’t fit anybody’s mental image of the character from the books. Child himself would defend the decision but later admitted that Reacher’s size was an important aspect of the character. Amazon’s Reacher later cast Alan Ritchson in the titular role, with the actor receiving praise for bringing the character to life. In the years since its 2012 release, the Christopher McQuarrie-helmed Jack Reacher has attracted a fanbase of its own for its crisp direction, snappy dialogue and great ensemble – especially Werner Herzog’s eerie villain. Sadly, Jack Reacher: Never Go Back got everything wrong that the original got right – and the lack of McQuarrie might explain why.
Never Go Back Needed Christopher McQuarrie To Work
The poorly reviewed Jack Reacher: Never Go Back adapted the 18th book, and saw Cruise’s Reacher exposing a military conspiracy while clearing a friend’s name; he also had to contend with a teenage girl who may be his daughter. McQuarrie was replaced in the director’s seat by Ed Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond), working from a screenplay he co-wrote with Richard Wenk and Marshall Herskovitz. Instead of feeling like a second entry that builds off what worked in the first film, Never Go Back instead resembles the tired fourth or fifth outing in a long-running franchise.
Jack Reacher: Never Goes Back looks like an expensive pilot for a CBS procedural than a feature film, while the action scenes are rote. There’s no real mystery to solve, there’s little romantic chemistry between Cruise – who has only died in a few movies – and co-star Cobie Smulders and the subplot involving Reacher’s “daughter” is a strained attempt to add dimension to the character. Never Go Back feels like a project where everyone involved had little genuine passion – and that energy pervades every frame. While McQuarrie is listed as producer on the sequel, he was too busy with Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation to return.
The partnership between Cruise and McQuarrie has brought the Mission: Impossible series to new heights – often literally – and the latter was also a huge creative influence on Top Gun: Maverick. His absence from Jack Reacher: Never Go Back can be keenly felt, with the film running through a parade of cliches and predictable twists with little cinematic flair. It also feels like it misunderstands the character of Reacher, which McQuarrie certainly did not with his film. McQuarrie later expressed interest in returning for a Jack Reacher 3, but the success of Amazon’s series makes that doubtful.