While James Bond gets a lot of attention on the big screen there’s another pseudo-spy that’s just as good in my opinion. I’m talking about Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan. Clancy’s novels have been the basis for four films to date with various actors taking on the Ryan role.
Way back in 1990 The Hunt for Red October started it all with Alec Baldwin as the first Jack Ryan. When Baldwin left, Harrison Ford took over for two films, Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger. The series faltered somewhat thereafter until Ben Affleck arrived in The Sum of all Fears.
As diverse as the actors have been the series overall has held together pretty well in my opinion. While Ford was probably the closest to what Ryan was like in the novels bringing Affleck in was necessary to reboot the franchise with a younger star. Sadly, that never seemed to work out.
Fortunately, producer Mace Neufeld, who has been with the series since the very beginning, is still planning a fresh start. Chris Pine (Star Trek) will take Affleck’s place as Jack Ryan and word is the fifth film may not be based on a Clancy novel as the other films have been:
“We ran out of books,” says Nuefeld. “Red Rabbit was the last one, and we just couldn’t seem to get a script out of it.” Red Rabbit is one of only two novels, alongside The Cardinal of the Kremlin, in which Ryan is young enough for Pine’s portrayal to be book-faithful.”
Some may have an issue with this but I feel it’s needed to get the franchise going again. Moreover, these films have spanned a number of years, nearly two decades, which means Ryan absolutely has to be re-introduced to the audience. Further, trying to shoehorn Ryan into an already established novel probably wouldn’t work too well.
In fact, Ryan’s origin story may actually take place prior to his career as an analyst with the CIA which is unexplored territory for the films:
“Neufeld says the film won’t be a further re-start contradicting [Sum of all Fears], but will pick Ryan up “when he’s on Wall Street”. In the books, Ryan works for Merrill Lynch after serving in the Marine Corps but before he’s recruited to the CIA.”
So, let the debate begin over whether or not doing a prequel of a prequel is a good idea. Considering the consistency of quality in these films, probably in no small part to Neufeld’s involvement, I’m pretty confident the fifth film will do the character justice. I also think Pine is a great actor for the role.
As for the story it remains to be seen what direction they take it. The best thing they can probably do at this point is use Clancy’s novels for a base and build a story from them. In short, take the entire Ryan lore (over the course of all the novels) and start from scratch.
The other thing to consider is the timeliness of the novel content itself. In Clear and Present Danger, for example, Ryan was up against a drug cartel. I’m not too sure how well that would play out on screen when we hear about terrorism every day. Jack Ryan has to be a contemporary hero or he immediately risks becoming irrelevant.
I have faith Neufeld can deliver another great Ryan film. He’s been in it for the long haul and the world needs more Jack Ryan. Besides, aren’t we all tired of a British spy saving the world for us? Time to let the American’s get a win again (and that’s a Canadian saying that). No other details at this point but we’ll be sure to keep you posted.