CATEGORIES Movies
This weekend, Paramount Pictures is releasing "Jack Reacher," the first in a proposed series of films starring Tom Cruise as the titular character. However, when talking about the movie, it's shocking to see how few people know who Jack Reacher is. In an effort to expand public awareness, we have decided to try and catch you up to speed on the character of Reacher and what you will need to know before heading into the film when it hits theaters on Friday.

Where Did Jack Reacher Come From? Jack Reacher is the invention of Lee Child, a British author and former television exec who, when he looked at the list of American bestsellers, saw that there were five authors that were consistently purchased every year. He made a pledge to be one of those authors, and now he is. Jack Reacher first appeared in "Killing Floor," released in 1997. Since then, there has been one Reacher novel released every year like clockwork (in 2010 there were two!).

Reacher is a former Military Police Major, who was part of a fictional division that handled especially difficult cases. Since leaving the army (under circumstances still shrouded in mystery), he has become a drifter, never possessing a house or a driver's license and carrying only a travel-sized toothbrush, ATM card and an expired passport. When a character in one of the novels asks him if he's homeless, he brings up the fact that homeless people usually carry an abundance of unnecessary junk with them. Reacher only brings with him what he needs -- he always buys new clothes and rarely stays in one place for more than it takes for him to figure out whatever mystery is presenting itself. Reacher is the very definition of "off the grid," something that seems very appealing in these technologically choked times when our every movement is photographed, documented and catalogued.

What Does Jack Reacher Look Like? When Tom Cruise was cast as Reacher, there was a minor uproar eerily reminiscent of the furor caused by Cruise's casting as Lestat in "Interview With a Vampire," an adaptation of the Ann Rice vampire novels. In the books, Reacher is described as having closely-cropped blonde hair, standing almost seven-feet tall (Cruise is five-foot-seven) and weighing well over 200 pounds. In short: he is a brute. In one of the stories, he crushes a dude's skull in his hands. Reacher's size and keen intellect make him fearsomely intimidating -- his brain and brawn are equally powerful and he is not afraid to get dirty.

But What Drives Jack Reacher? As much as he's defined physically, Jack Reacher is also driven by his unerring sense of right and wrong, instilled in him at a young age (he comes from a family with a military background and his brother was murdered while serving). This is why he gets into so many adventures when he could just as easily move along. If there's justice to be delivered, chances are Jack Reacher will deliver it in his trademark way. There's a great scene towards the end of the film where a character describes what drives Jack Reacher, and it's pretty rousing. By that point, Reacher has become your new favorite superhero, one who drives a stolen muscle car and shoots a bad guy because he doesn't want to have to deal with the police getting up in his business.

What Can We Expect From Future Jack Reacher Movies? If "Jack Reacher" is a success, you can expect Jack Reacher to aimlessly drift from one American town to the next, bringing justice and fisticuffs. (He can't travel overseas because his passport is defunct.) The series mimics the James Bond franchise in the sense that Reacher is always bedding a different lady in each adventure and that each chapter features a drastic change in locale. I'm under the impression that the Reacher character, who represents a lot of strong American ideals even though he's being written by an erudite Englishman, is better suited to rural or suburban landscapes. But one of the most compelling Reacher adventures is "Gone Tomorrow," which is set in New York City and features a breathless sequence where terrorist agents descend into Union Square (seriously). Thankfully, Tom Cruise turns out to be the perfect Jack Reacher, able to imitate him if, not in size and look, in his general persona and standing. This is a harder-edged Cruise than we've had in awhile.

What Books Should We Read In Order To Really Prep For "Jack Reacher?" That's a good question! All of the books are worth reading; as far as page-turners go, they're brilliantly written and plotted with a strong emphasis on characters and relationships. But if you're really interested in finding out more about the character, you can always read "One Shot," the book that "Jack Reacher" is based on. "The Enemy" and "The Affair" are novels that deal with Jack Reacher's past, and are both totally amazing. Then there's the aforementioned "Gone Tomorrow," which is fun for its New York setting. You can also check out "61 Hours" and "Worth Dying For," the two Reacher novels that were released in the same year. That's when you really goggle at Lee Child's amazing abilities -- the dude is a machine.