Little Man, Big Role

It’s an age-old complaint of readers that movies rarely live up to the books that inspired them.  The recent outcry online when they cast Katherine Heigl as Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum is a case in point.  It’s nearly impossible to please thousands of readers with solid visual images formed through years of familiarity with their beloved characters.

I’m having a Stephanie Plum moment myself.  Because they’re *finally* bringing Jack Reacher to the big screen.

For those of you unfamiliar with Reacher, thriller writer Lee Child’s recurring character, let me explain.   He’s an ex-military cop, with a sort of emotional detachment that began in childhood.  He’s the ultimate lone wolf, who shuns possessions and the trappings of the modern world.  Jack Reacher is a drifter, moving from town to town finding jobs that will pay him enough to buy the little he needs in this world.  And wherever he travels, trouble has a habit of finding him.  Reacher has a hard time walking away from trouble.  Before he leaves towns, things blow up, bad people die and the downtrodden are given back their dignity.  He’s the righter of wrongs, the vindicator of the powerless, bigger than life.

In addition to his intriguing personality, Reacher himself is a physically powerful man.  He’s 6’5″, broad and strong, and draws the eye wherever he goes.  A stranger immediately knows he’s a man  to be trusted, one who can do the impossible.  His physical stature reflects his inner fortitude.  So who did Hollywood get to play the indomitable Reacher?

Tom Cruise.

I’m still not quite over my ‘are-you-freaking-kidding-me’ response to that bit of news.  Not only is Cruise not physically dominating at a full foot shorter than the character he’s playing; he doesn’t exactly reek of inner fortitude.  I’ve never gotten over his crazed couch jumping on Oprah.  Not to mention his spouting off about Brooke Shield’s postpartum depression.  Add a steady dose of news about his heavy handedness in his marriage and you have the reason I’ve steered clear of Cruise movies for the last few years.

Cruise can never do justice to my beloved Reacher.

Which leaves me with an unenviable decision: hold fast to the purity of my Reacher vision by avoiding the movie or hold my nose and watch it, trying to squelch snarky comments all the while.

I’ll probably see the movie.  I won’t be able to help myself.  After all, the story line originated with Lee Child, the master of suspense.  I’ll be bemoaning all the while how Cruise has ruined it.  And then I’ll rush home and re-read all my Child books to shake the tainted image from my head.

Have you ever seen a movie that did justice to a favorite book?  Or winced through one that failed to do justice to a much loved story or character?

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43 Responses to Little Man, Big Role

  1. loisgreiman says:

    🙂 It is a problem, isn’t it. I remember seeing the Lord of the Rings series for the first time. I was holding my breath, but in the end I was thrilled. That rarely happens, though. It’s almost impossible for a movie to encompass what a book does. I even had trouble with Michael Douglas in Romancing the Stone. Though he did a good job, he just wasn’t what I had envisioned.

    • Kylie Brant says:

      Lois, I loved the Lord of the Rings series on the big screen, too. Maybe because it was fantasy and I didn’t have characters as well envisioned. But I thought it was marvelously done. Most of the time though I avoid the movie adaptations.

  2. DeniseB says:

    I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a Lee Child book, but this sounds good. Might have to pick it up. Although to be honest, I haven’t watched a Tom Cruise movie in years. I just can’t stand him. Not sure when it started, but he just turns me off. The movie he is in will sound good but I just can’t make myself go to it with him in it. Although I do think movies tend to do that a lot and not match the actor to what the author describes the character as. I know there was a TV movie out there of a book I read, can’t remember the name, but it had Justine Bateman as the lead character. The book character was someone who was very promiscuous and I just couldn’t see Bateman’s character as that person. Plus in the book the character was a blonde and Justine was a brunette.

    • Kylie Brant says:

      Denise, that’s sort of where all the disagreement comes in with casting Heigl as Stephanie Plum. Different hair color, different personality types. I know they’re actors and can be any body they play but…we come in seeing them differently, I think. I did like Cruise in Collateral but that hadn’t been a book and I really have to shove aside my distaste for the man personally!

  3. Terry Odell says:

    I prefer to see the movie, then read the book. Witness worked well for me that way (although I can’t remember if the book came out after the movies). Confession: we usually wait and get our movies via Netflix. The theater experience has degenerated into massive commercials and previews. Not to mention that where we live now, there’s only 1 theater and movies come and go faster than we can keep track of them. Driving 14 miles each way is another factor.

    The best movie from a book, IMHO, is The Hunt for Red October. They simplified it, and it works.

    However, for the most part, movies from books are titles only. Lee Child will make his money, and the studios are looking to make theirs. If Tom Cruise is a box-office draw, then they don’t care about anything else. Robert Crais spoke about the movie they made from one of his books….”it sucked” was his comment. He tried to maintain some control, but the studios kept changing things.

    And there are probably a kazillion moviegoers who have never read a Reacher novel and won’t know or care.

    Terry’s Place

    • Kylie Brant says:

      You’re probably right, Terry. Most of the people who see the movie won’t know who Lee Child is. Maybe this will introduce him to a larger audience; I hope so because he rocks!

      Usually I haven’t read the book before I see the movie so it works better for me. As for Crais, I glommed his books several years ago. Love him as much as Child!

  4. I’m afraid I join you in the “Can’t Stand Tom Cruise” club. And yes, it’s all the reasons you mentioned. I did go see his latest movie MIF: Ghost Protocol (the first one of his I’ve paid to see in probably 6 or more years.) Totally ridiculous. Plot holes I could drive a semi through. The whole movie is built around making him an action star and for me, it didn’t work. In one scene I wondered how big the lifts in his shoes were as he was taller than the female in the movie!

    Now Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher make as much sense as casting my dog as the love interest. HORRIBLE. But Cruise has enough money to buy the rights to the film and put himself in as the star. No no no. He DOES NOT BEGIN to be Jack Reacher.

    As far as Stephanie Plum…I’m not crazy about the her casting but she fits better than the actors lined up for Morelli and Ranger. Those guys are supposed to be hunks…drool-worthy lady magnets. Afraid not.

    • Kylie Brant says:

      Cynthia, I’m afraid to ask who they have lined up as Morelli and Ranger. I trust Heigl to pull off something satisfactory but I happen to be a fan. Unless they’ve got Goran Visjnic (sp?) set up as a love interest, they’re way off!

  5. Cindy Gerard says:

    I’m so with you Kylie. You turned me on to Lee Child and the Reacher novels and no way on this earth can I see Cruise in the role. You summed it up perfectly – big role, little man. And not just physically. He just doesn’t have the cajones to pull it off.

    Cynthia – I agree with you on all fronts except Ranger. Have you SEEN Daniel Sunjata in anything? LOL He played Franco on Rescue Me (one of my all time fav TV shows and all time fav characters). IMO, he will totally rock the roll of Ranger and may be the only one who stands up to my image of who Ranger should look like. We’ll see how it plays out. LOL I may be totally disappointed – or pleasantly surprised by the rest of the cast.

    • Kylie Brant says:

      I’ll certainly be checking out the Plum movie, Cindy. But I’m not as invested in the Evanovich books. Only read a few of them. I just have more of an investment as a reader in Child’s Reacher so I’ll be tougher to please on that score!

  6. joannehuspek says:

    I was so angry after seeing “The Horse Whisperer” after reading it, that I couldn’t stand Robert Redford for years. I’m also feeling that way about “Water for Elephants.” The books were so much better! Not that they weren’t good movies, it’s just the let down I felt afterward, I wish I’d never seen the movies! The only movie that did the book justice (IMHO) was “Atlas Shrugged” but I think it’s because the book is a very difficult read at first, until you get into the way Rand writes.

    • Kylie Brant says:

      Sometimes that happens, too, Joanne. I remember thinking Jaws the movie was better than the book because Benchley had included this totally unnecessary plot about the sheriff’s wife’s infidelity. Didn’t belong in the book and thankfully they left it out of the movie.

  7. tresa says:

    you got it spot on !! i too will watch the movie but will moan and groan because tom is so not Jack !! maybe Liam could , (he would be my choice) .

    • Kylie Brant says:

      Ooh, Liam. Hmm. Maybe so. I’ll admit it, I have a difficult time ‘casting’ characters or matching them to real-life actors or personalities. Maybe because no one quite matches up with them. It’s not my forte, that’s for sure!

  8. Jen A says:

    I agree! In fairness there is hardly a movie made that lives up to the book, but really Tom Cruise??? I can’t imagine they will do much justice to the rest of the plot either. Think I will skip it.

    • Kylie Brant says:

      Yes, Jen, exactly. Tom Cruise brings a huge ICK factor for me 😦 Although to be fair, the fact they cast a Cruise and Heigl in the Reacher and Plum movies means they are going to get a big push and a wide audience. Maybe that will end up helping the book sales.

  9. Erika says:

    I liked the Swedish movie of Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I felt the movie went well with Stieg Larsson’s books. Haven’t seen the American version yet, but I love Daniel Craig so I hope its good. I’m not a fan of Tom Cruise!! Ever since i saw him in Interview With The Vampire I knew I couldn’t stomach a film with him in it. Loved the book but him as Lestat was awful!! Lee Child is great but if he’s in the movie, i will skip it.

    • Kylie Brant says:

      Erika, I haven’t read the Larsson books so I am looking forward to the movie. Maybe I’ll read the book after…somehow it works better that way. I’m not so disappointed!

  10. Linda says:

    I cannot believe that they would even think of casting Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher. Someone needs to help with casting of the books a little better. Too bad for Lee Child fans. I will not go see the movie with Tom Cruise in the lead.

  11. Kylie Brant says:

    Linda, I agree! I tend to avoid all his movies. The Mission Impossible ones are beyond ridiculous!

  12. I’m with you, Kylie. Tom Cruise does not draw me to the box office. I liked him very much in 2 movies–“Rainman”–admirably held his own with the always excellent Hoffman–and “Risky Business.” Otherwise, I can’t think of a role he’s wowed me in. I have fond memories of “Mission Impossible” as a TV show. It would be, well, impossible for Tommy to fill those shoes.

    It’s not the height. There are so many actors we think of as tall because they stand–or stood–tall. Paul Newman for one. But these days there’s such a big reality problem. I think actors are wise to keep their idiosyncrasies and personal laundry private. But good luck with that, especially if you’re bent on making a fool of yourself. You have to be a really good actor to overcome the image Cruise burned in our brains when he jumped up and down on Oprah’s couch. (And I don’t even watch talk shows!) Cruise isn’t that good.

    I haven’t read any Lee Child, but I’ve written characters similar to Reacher. They don’t jump up and down on the couch to get attention.

  13. As for actors who have overcome some of those images, I have the new Sherlock Holmes on my list. Robert Downey Jr. has had serious ups and downs and memorable mug shots, but he’s always been a wonderful actor.

  14. Leanne Banks says:

    I’m enjoying Robert Downey, Jr. in both the Sherlock Holmes and Iron Man movies. I like the way he has come back from his addiction problems and I hope he continues to do well. No longer a fan of Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt. Regarding books vs. movies, I try VERY hard to separate the two. They are, after all, two different mediums, so I keep telling myself, the movie won’t exactly match the book. Kylie, I’m sorry they messed up your guy Reacher.

    • Kylie Brant says:

      Leanne, I surprised myself years ago by very much enjoying Iron Man. It’s not my usual cup of tea but I think Downey brings a captivating humanity to all his roles that’s just riveting.

  15. Kylie Brant says:

    Excellent point, Kathy. Robert Downey Jr. has been through so much…a seriously flawed individual who still manages to be likable and and down-to-earth and much easier to connect with. Cruise has an arrogance and sense of entitlement about him that ruins his movies for me. I can’t disconnect my opinions about him as a person from the characters he plays.

    Stars are waaaaay too visible these days. I still think of Paul Newman and Gregory Peck as true stars who stood tall because of the way they conducted themselves.

  16. catslady says:

    I no longer watch Tom Cruise movies or Mel Gibson and he was my all time favorite. I think Kylie said it perfectly – it’s their arrogance. Robert Downey is not arrogant so I can still watch him. I rarely like movies after reading the books. LOTR was an exception. When actors behave badly, I just can’t separate from the acting. Luckily there’s still a lot of them out there that seem like nice people lol. Oh, and never change the ending of a story in the movie!

    • Kylie Brant says:

      Ohhh, Catslady, Mel Gibson. Sniff. I still miss the old–or shall we say my old perception–of Mel Gibson. Loved the guy in all his roles. I can’t think of any way he could redeem his damaged image.

      I hope nothing ever changes my perception of Matt Damon. He seems like a genuinely nice guy!

  17. Mariely says:

    Tom Cruise as Jack Reacher?! Nooooooooooooo. God who was the genius who made this decision? I love Lee Child and Reacher and have read almost every book. I think almost anyone in Hollywood would have been a better choice. Reacher is a serious man, a total badass that you better not mess with. Tom Cruise is not the person who comes to mind.

  18. C.J. Miller says:

    I loved the Harry Potter movies, though the books were better. For the amount of information the writers/actors/producers had to cram into a few hours, I think they did great!

  19. Forgot to mention one movie that was sooo much better than the book was “The Horse Whisperer.” The book started with a bang and then proceeded from the sublime to the ridiculous. Redford bought the rights, took out almost all the pitiful romance and the melodramatic death of the hero and then made a fine relationship story out of it. The book was written by committee, and it shows. Redford has a terrific feel for relationship stories.

  20. Oh, and a movie that does justice to an excellent book–this is my best answer to this question because it so rarely happens–is “Lonesome Dove.”

  21. Kylie Brant says:

    That was a book??? I really need to start reading outside my genre more!

  22. MaryC says:

    To Kill A Mockingbird – love both the book and movie.

    I have read all the Reacher books – when I heard Tom Cruise was cast as Reacher, I was stunned.
    I have no intention of seeing the movie.

    With the exception of the Harry Potter books, if I’ve read the book, I generally won’t see the movie.
    I find that my image of the character as written by the author don’t match the actor cast. In addition, changes made to the story line are extremely frustrating.

  23. Stephenia says:

    Tom Cruise – really? I’m not getting that one either – he was hot in Top Gun, but seriously – he doesn’t remind me of Reacher either.

  24. Kylie Brant says:

    MaryC, I totally agree on To Kill a Mockingbird and that is one of my all time favorite books. There couldn’t have been a better star to play Atticus Finch than Gregory Peck!

  25. Kylie Brant says:

    Stephenia, yep, it’s a hard one to understand. I never did get the appeal of Cruise even in his younger days, although I did enjoy Risky Business and A Few Good Men.

  26. bkrahn007 says:

    Say it ain’t sooooooo! Tom Cruise as Reacher? Sigh. I may have to see that one just to complain. I’ve read the Reacher books from the start and love him as a character– even though I’d like to get him on a couch and do some serious psych work on him. After –what?– 10 books he’s starting to seem more than a little cracked. He hasn’t changed a bit and I’d have liked to see some growth in him. Honestly, I liked him best in the first couple of books I read. He was more human there.

    As for Tom– He redeemed himself for me with the movie “Day and Knight”. I really love that movie. And i just saw Ghost Protocol last week and liked it– partly because they went back to the whole IM “team” concept and worked together. But, him as Jack Reacher? NEVER.

    And as for Stephanie Plum– Katherine Heigel looks good in the role to me. Maybe because I read the first couple or three books, but haven’t been much invested in the series since. Too much neuroticism for me along with the comedy. But I agree with everyone about the men cast as Morelli and the other hottie. Snooze. Why DO they do that?

    And as for movies that improved on the books– Jurassic Park is tops on my list. The book was terrible. Yes, I said TERRIBLE. Most of the movies made from Chrichton books have improved on the books. He had great ideas, but was not a storyteller in the traditional sense. He didn’t invest much in characters or make them too identification-worthy. Always a sticky point with me.

    Hey– heope everybody had a great Christmas and has a wonderful start to the New Year!

  27. Kylie Brant says:

    Betina, I’m hoping that Reacher is going to start showing some growth, too. I think Child believes that having him connect with a woman in nearly every book makes him human, but that just makes him a player 🙂 Not quite sure how to handle it without changing who he is at the core…but maybe start with a woman who can keep pulling him back home. Which in essence changes his no-ties, happy drifter-hood but doesn’t undermine his character. And the growth can happen over several books. But he can’t remain stagnant forever.

  28. Jaq says:

    “Have you ever seen a movie that did justice to a favorite book? Or winced through one that failed to do justice to a much loved story or character?”

    Michael Caine as Ted Lewis’ Jack Carter.
    Best book to movie adaptation ever!

  29. Pingback: “The Affair” Book Review | Green Carbon 2112

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