People have been complaining a lot about the recent action-movie titling trend that forgoes any sense of specific flavor and instead just presents the main character's full name. It's a curious marketing choice, to be sure, but there really aren't as many offenders as you might think. A lot of them do seem to start with the letter "J," though.
With the release of this week's Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (a title which is kind enough to tell us that he's a Shadow Recruit), the time has come to see which of these titular action heroes rules supreme. Let the Battle of the Titular Action Heroes begin.
We don't yet know how grand this film will be in the action department, but Jack Ryan is a character with a strong cinematic history thanks to Harrison Ford, Alec Baldwin,and Ben Affleck's takes on the role.
Jack Ryan has an automatic edge not just because he has a PhD, but because his adventures usually include serious, end-of-the-world stakes, so pressure is no problem for him. Ryan must also wear a myriad of hats to get the job done. Just being a competent fighter isn't good enough. He must also juggle proficient spying and statesmanship. Think James Bond, but with far more paperwork and less philandering.
On Mars, John Carter is something of a superhuman. He can run and jump faster than most inhabitants on the planet thanks to his acclimation to Earth's much stronger gravity. But that wouldn't mean much if he did not also possess bravery and an almost reckless adventurer's spirit.
Unfortunately, that spirit and bravery is one of the only things giving John Carter an edge here on Earth. Without Mars' gravitational boost, his physical talents diminish considerably. On the other hand, extensive Martian warfare endows John Carter with a bevy of otherworldly weaponry and the experience needed to use it to full effect. That's if his enthusiasm for adventure doesn't lead him straight into a well-placed trap.
There is little Jack Reacher cannot do. He has a photographic memory. He is a champion marksman. He can take on a group of opponents without raising his heartbeat. He can drive like Burt Reynolds. He spent years as a military crime investigator, and lives without history or home, completely unaffected by familial or emotional vulnerabilities. He once beat a guy to death with another guy's head.
Both a police lieutenant and a psychologist, Alex Cross has an encyclopedic knowledge of criminal pathology which he uses to hunt down some of the most sadistic and soulless murderers known to man. This means he faces both lethal danger and significantly brutal horrors on a daily basis. He can hold his own in both a gunfight and melee combat.
Alex Cross also has a big heart, however. Family is very important to him, but gives him strength as well, particular when they get murdered by the very psychos he's chasing. This happens with some frequency, making him increasingly dangerous as he gets older. Though soft on the inside, Alex Cross' exterior is hard as a rock.
Frances Ha is not actually Frances Ha's real name. She had it unofficially changed upon realizing that her mailbox identification panel was too short for "Halladay." This may seem like a throwaway detail, but it speaks volumes about her character.
Those who find Frances Ha somewhat clumsy and flighty upon first impression would be wise to reconsider their understanding of her strengths. The very traits that would disqualify Frances Ha from serious consideration become the key to her charm and irresistibility the more you spend time in her presence. In short, her scatterbrained giddiness and endless optimism make her impossible to dislike, and therefore very difficult to harm. She is also a dancer, which means she can kick.
How It Goes Down:
As Jack Ryan sizes up Jack Reacher, Jack Reacher sizes up everyone else. So they both kind of just stand around for awhile, thinking things over.
Unable to run or jump with his usual superhuman ability, John Carter uses this opportunity to go for the weakest threat: the older and mostly ab-free Alex Cross. Alex Cross already knows John Carter will do this, of course, and he raises a shotgun against the mostly naked barbarian running his way. The gun does not fire, however, because Frances Ha looked it over earlier and unknowingly switched on its safety mechanism. As he tries to figure this out, John Carter's space dog Woola zooms in out of nowhere and eats Cross up.
Meanwhile, Jack Ryan attempts to appease Jack Reacher with a diplomatic solution to fighting. Reacher responds by rolling his eyes and explaining Ryan's absolutely nil chances of surviving the next 90 seconds of his life. The two tussle momentarily. This gives Ryan hope, but Reacher is really just playing with him because he promised it would last a whole 90 seconds.
This leaves Jack Reacher, John Carter, John Carter's space dog and Frances Ha, who immediately tries to resuscitate the dead Jack Ryan with CPR she learned 10 years ago in a YMCA lifeguard training course.
John Carter knows he's outmatched. But the leader in him will not accept defeat. So he pulls out a Barsoom sword and approaches Reacher. He asks Frances Ha to hold Woola's leash, so he doesn't interfere and get himself hurt.
The fight between John Carter and Jack Reacher is much more evenly matched than expected, largely due to Reacher's underestimation of his opponent. Having trained in a swordplay style developed on a whole different planet, Carter's moves are too alien for Reacher to predict. So he focuses all his energy on disarming John Carter. This offers Carter many undefended openings.
Eventually, however, a tired and somewhat bloodied Jack Reacher manages to take the sword and deliver a Reacher-sized beating. John Carter surprises him with a hidden dagger to the foot. Unfortunately for Carter, Jack Reacher's wearing a brand new pair of steel-toed boots, and the blade does not penetrate.
While all this transpires, Frances Ha narrates the fight in a tone wavering between nervousness and amused disbelief. Jack Reacher tells her to be quiet but secretly admires how awesome he appears in her play-by-play. This distraction gives John Carter an opportunity to pat down Jack Ryan's body for guns. He finds one and shoots Jack Reacher in the hand. Jack Reacher has never been hurt before, so he cries like an infant and begs for clemency. He then comes to realize the spectacular emptiness of his existence and passes away from sadness.
Frances Ha doesn't have enough money for cab fare, so John Carter has Woola take her home. Then John Carter returns to Mars, which forfeits him from competition. Thus, Frances Ha wins the Battle of the Titular Action Hero Showdown. Unfortunately, she moved to a new apartment and forgot to officially change her address, so she never receives her congratulation letter.
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