Jack Reacher Tom Cruise

There will almost certainly be a Jack Reacher sequel — the questions are “when,” and “by whom”? Notice that we don’t have to ask which of the many Lee Child novels the film will be based on, because Tom Cruise, Skydance Productions, and Paramount are now developing the most recent book, Never Go Back, as the sequel. (It’ll probably be titled Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, in the parlance of our times.)

Those who read all of Child’s novels will know that Never Go Back isn’t quite a standalone story; it is motivated by a phone call Jack Reacher had with the current commanding officer of his old military unit, and he’s spent a couple books trying to get to a base in Virginia to follow up on the call.

There’s something a lot more important in this book, however: a smart, super-precocious teen girl. She could easily end up taking a bigger role in the film than she does in the book, and in so doing make the movie attractive to audiences that didn’t even glance in Jack Reacher‘s direction.

Deadline says that there’s some question as to whether the new Jack Reacher film will shoot — before or after Mission: Impossible 5? — but that all involved are fast-tracking development. And as to the “who will direct?” question, the report says Cruise and Paramount want Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote and directed the first film and is set for M:I 5 as well, to return as director. A different writer will likely adapt the script.

This book does one thing that will go down well with some audiences: put Reacher in a place where he has to deal with the military, which is a good structure for the character. Other books have done that too, but as flashbacks that won’t work well with Cruise in the lead role. The guy can do many things, but get 20 years younger is not among them. Never Go Back is full of stuff that gets an easy audience response, like a pompous military official, and a lone-wolf hero entrapped by red-tape BS, as well as some good cross-country chase ideas that have the main characters scrambling to out-think the bad guys.

But there’s a role for a teen girl that could be the real selling point for this novel. She’s not a huge part of the book, but it’s easy to see the film script expanding that role, and in places swapping the girl out for another character. Adding a significant teen female character might do a lot to make this sequel attractive to crucial young audiences. That would also answer another obvious question: “who wants this movie?” It wouldn’t even have to be a seismic shift for the story, and it could be a way to alter the course of the film series going forward.

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