Tom Clancy, who created truckloads of novels filled with political and military fiction–as well as several video games that I know nothing about, died last week. He left behind a legacy of practically inventing a genre of fiction, or at least reinventing it. Adaptations of his work breathed new life into movies about espionage and government conspiracies. Like his books, the best and worst of these films often featured Jack Ryan.
Billed as the thinking man’s James Bond: the character of CIA analyst Jack Ryan, as portrayed by future comedian Alec Baldwin, first appears on screen in the submarine cold war epic The Hunt for Red October. The movie, about a Soviet defector played by Sean Connery (sounding quite Scottish rather than Russian) and his experimental submarine, finds Ryan a great negotiator and reluctant action hero.
Harrison Ford took Jack Ryan to the next level in Clear and Present Danger and Patriot Games. Adding his signature scowl, Ford’s Ryan gets quite a bit more physical while enhancing the cerebral nature of the character. This work in my opinion is completely undone by future Batman Ben Affleck.
In a reboot of the series, The Sum of All Fears shows Jack Ryan recruited to the CIA by Morgan Freeman. We see Affleck play Ryan as uncertain of himself and out of his element. The origin story, however, doesn’t seem to get off the ground. Preventing a terrorist attack on American soil while trying to understand the world of high stakes espionage and keeping the details from his new wife– it just seems like too much for Affleck to handle… because it is.
This week saw the release of the trailer for a new Jack Ryan reboot. Hot off of Star Trek: Into Darkness, Chris Pine has stepped into yet another role established by someone else. Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is more than a reboot, it is a wholly original script pulling little to nothing from the source material. The trailer suggests the departure from any existing Jack Ryan property and the conversion to full action film. Also it appears Jack Ryan gets younger with every reboot.
I will do my best to reserve judgment until I see the film, but it may have been better to let this character die with his creator.