Greetings from the Odinson,
For four decades Tom Cruise has been starring in some of the most beloved films of All-Time. From smash hits like Top Gun and Jerry Maguire, to cult classics like Legend and Tropic Thunder, to legit dramas like Rain Man and A Few Good Men, to even B-movies/guilty pleasures like Risky Business and Cocktail, Cruise has been entertaining audiences for decades. Few actors have the hit list of classics his filmography sports.
One of the aspects of his career I believe does not get enough love is how he helps bring so many works of literature to wider audiences through adaptations of short stories, novels, and even manga and graphic novels.
From Books to Film: Tom Cruise
Endless Love – In 1981, Tom Cruise’s very first appearance in a film was in an adaptation of Scott Spencer’s 1979 romantic drama, Endless Love, a novel about teen love that becomes an obsession and ultimately spirals into a terrible tragedy. Tom’s role in the story is small but pivotal.
The Outsiders – This 1983 classic film directed by the great Francis Ford Coppola (The Godfather, Bram Stoker’s Dracula) was based on the beloved 1967 novel by S.E. Hinton. It featured a legendary cast of young actors all of who would go onto enormous careers. I’m not going to list them all here but seriously, look it up. It’s a Who’s Who of superstars. The Outsiders is a coming of age drama that explores the tragedies and triumphs of life with equal gravity. It has been touted as one of the most influential novels of All Time.
Interview with a Vampire – This 1994 Neil Jordan (The Company of Wolves, The Crying Game) film is an adaptation of Anne Rice’s 1974 novel. Cruise portrays Lestat the Brat Prince. It was the first novel in the Vampire Chronicles, a long running series of novels that continues to this day that explores a dark world inhabited by vampires, witches, and ghosts. It can be attributed that this novel redefined the vampire for modern pop culture. Before Interview, the undead were either grotesque monstrosities from beyond the grave, or evil super villains like Universal and Hammer’s Dracula. For better (and in some cases worse), this story set the template for the modern day brooding, romantic creatures of the night like seen in Angel, True Blood, Twilight, The Vampire Diaries, and more that we have come to cheer and jeer.
Minority Report – This 2002 high concept science fiction thriller helmed by the legendary Steven Spielberg (JAWs, Raiders of the Lost Ark, E.T., and too many classic to list them all here) is based on the short story by Philip K. Dick which first appeared in the pages of the January, 1956 issue of Fantastic Universe Science Fiction. The story is about a troika of clairvoyants known as precogs that can see the future and predict when someone is going to commit a crime before they commit it. It’s an interesting idea that examines the perceptions of free will vs. destiny.
War of the Worlds – This 2005 film, also helmed by the great Steven Spielberg, is based on the legendary 1897 sci-fi classic by the Father of Modern Day Science Fiction H.G. Wells. Over the century-plus since its debut, The War of the Worlds has been adapted into a 1938 radio broadcast (the story of the broadcast is astounding in its own right), a 1953 film, and even a 1988 TV series. One thing the Odinson always found interesting about the 2005 film is while the bigger ideas of mankind’s place in the universe and the actual war between the military and the Martians is explored in the book and other adaptations, this film is told from the point of view of an everyman and his family trying to survive as this epic, world-changing event escalates all around them.
Jack Reacher – This 2012 film is based on the 2005 novel One Shot by Lee Child. One Shot is actually the ninth book in a series of short stories and 25 novels that span from 1997 to present. Reacher is an investigator looking into a series of murders committed by a sniper who, despite the overwhelming evidence against him, declares he is innocent.
Oblivion – This highly underrated 2013 sci-fi gem originally started out as graphic novel for Radical Comics but it was never released. Co-creator Joseph Kosinski instead used it as a pitch and ended up making a film. It’s a post-Apocalyptic thriller which continuously surprises the audience, and the hero of the story, as one twist dominos into another twist that dominos into another twist. Seriously, by time the third act revelations begin to unfold, I couldn’t tell who was more surprised, me or the protagonist of the film.
Edge of Tomorrow – Based on the 2004 manga/novel All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka and Yoshitoshi Abe, 2014’s Edge of Tomorrow is, next to Blade Runner 2049, the best science fiction film of the last decade. Mankind is on the verge of being wiped out by a powerful alien force when the most unlikely man suddenly finds himself in a Groundhog Day-like time loop. He has to relive the same day over and over, dying again and again, until he gets it right and saves the world. Luckily, he meets Rita, a fellow soldier who was once caught in a similar loop and now she possesses the knowledge to help him navigate the ordeal.
Over the last four decades, Tom Cruise has certainly done his part in bring great literary characters like Lestat de Lioncourt, Keiji Kiriya (a.k.a. William Cage), and so many others to life on the Big Screen. Even the great Stanley Kubrick’s last film Eyes Wide Shut, in which Cruise starred, is based on the 1926 novella Traumnovelle (Dream Story) by Arthur Schnitzler.
As if it isn’t obvious, the Odinson is a fan. I always have been. A Few Good Men is a fantastic courtroom drama, Top Gun changed the lexicon of pop culture, and to this day, my friends and I can quote the entire script of Cocktail almost verbatim.
Love him or hate him, from obscure short stories to novels to graphic novels, Tom Cruise has done a lot to cast the spotlight on works of literature and championed their adaptations to the Big Screen.
And that deserves a Top Gun Five.
NOTE: A Top Gun Five is a high five followed by a reverse five, usually performed on a runway or volleyball sand court. Shirt optional.
This is Odinson bidding thee farewell
NOTE: For past entries of the So Sayeth the Odinson blog, over a decade’s worth of comic book and pop culture articles and reviews, click HERE. Also, be sure to check out my novels The Survivors and Autumn Dawn, which were inspired by 1980s horror – HERE and HERE