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The Director Of Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher Nailed Why The Sequel Killed The $380M Franchise Early

Summary Director Christopher McQuarrie believes “Never Go Back” was the wrong story to use for the first sequel in the Jack Reacher franchise, as it subverted the loner persona of the title character too early in the series.
McQuarrie wanted to make a darker, R-rated sequel that delved deeper into the character, but he later stepped aside as director.
The lackluster response to “Never Go Back” underlined that audiences were not interested in further Reacher adventures starring Tom Cruise.
Jack Reacher director Christopher McQuarrie summed up why the sequel killed the franchise just as it was ramping up. Cruise has been on something of a hot streak with franchises. While he began his career jumping across different genres, from the 2000s onwards, the actor has been largely focused on action movies. Cruise’s biggest series by far is Mission: Impossible, which offers up escapist thrills while the star is famed for performing his own outrageous stunts. He also scored a gigantic hit with Top Gun: Maverick, which flew to $1.4 billion in 2022.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing in terms of developing franchises, though. Cruise’s remake of The Mummy was meant to kick off the Dark Universe, a planned series of films using classic Universal monsters. Instead, the poor reviews and lackluster box office killed this shared universe before it could really begin. Cruise also wanted the Jack Reacher movies to become a regular series and one he could dip into every few years. Controversy over Cruise’s casting as Jack Reacher aside, the original was a comfortable success.
Christopher McQuarrie Says Never Go Back Was The Wrong Book For Jack Reacher 2
Jack Reacher was directed by Christopher McQuarrie and adapted from Lee Child’s One Shot. The film has aged very well and would launch a fruitful actor/director relationship for McQuarrie and Cruise. The former was too busy to helm the sequel Jack Reacher: Never Go Back, with directorial duties handed to Ed Zwick. The resulting follow-up received decidedly muted reviews, and it only grossed $162 million worldwide. The response to Never Go Back killed the Cruise movies, and discussing the film with the Light the Fuse podcast, McQuarrie felt producers chose the wrong story for the first sequel.
Never Go Back is the 18th novel in Child’s book series and one that paired the ex-military police officer with a teen girl who may – or may not – be his daughter. In short, Never Go Back subverts Reacher’s whole loner persona, and McQuarrie thinks it was too early in the series to pull this move. The Reacher character hadn’t been firmly established in the minds of audiences either, so while this novel may have worked for a third or fourth entry, it fell flat for the first sequel.
Tom Cruise’s Jack Reacher Series Release Year Budget Box Office Gross Jack Reacher 2012 $60 Million $218,340,595 Million Jack Reacher: Never Go Back 2016 $96 Million $162,146,076 Million
As McQuarrie summarized, Never Go Back is a road trip and a family story, which is a departure from the typical Reacher adventure. The second film should gone deeper into the character and his psyche, which would have then allowed viewers to accept the story Never Go Back was telling in a future sequel. That groundwork simply hadn’t been laid yet, hence the film didn’t click.
McQuarrie’s Plans For Cruise’s Jack Reacher Could Have Kept The Series Alive
In the same podcast chat, McQuarrie talked about his original plan to make a darker sequel. He wanted to tackle a story Worth Dying For as Jack Reacher 2, which is one of the grittier novels. Cruise and McQuarrie very much wanted to take the series in an R-rated direction, having felt constrained by the PG-13 they had to deliver for the first movie. Making modestly budget, R-rated movies would have catered to a niche that few big budget franchises were targeting during this time, outside the likes of Deadpool.
Related Reacher Season 3: Cast, Story & Everything We Know Prime Video’s Reacher is coming back for a third season, and there are already a ton of exciting updates about the upcoming episodes.
Alas, McQuarrie exited the director’s seat and the sequel continued the PG-13 direction. While not a terrible film, Never Go Back feels too safe and predictable, and utterly lacks the harsh edge of Child’s work. The response to it was a sign audiences weren’t interested in further Jack Reacher adventures with Cruise. Given the positive reception to Amazon’s Reacher – starring Alan Ritchson in the title role – it appears everything worked out the way it was supposed to.
Source: Light the Fuse, Box Office Mojo, Film L.A. Feature Film Study 2016

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