The Jontruism – The Jack Ryan I know is not an Action Hero

So today I was randomly stumbling around the internet and eventually came across an article on The Atlantic that listed 18 Films to look forward to this year. A few I knew were being released (A Good Day To Die Hard, The Great Gatsby, and Man of Steel). A few I was completely unaware of but am really looking forward to (42, Side Effects, and Much Ado About Nothing). One though, really took me by surprise, and I’m not sure if I’m happy about it. The film Jack Ryan is set to be released on December 25th 2013.

Jack Ryan is a character from a prolific series of novels from American Writer Tom Clancy. A CIA analyst and former marine whose military career was cut short due to a back injury in a helicopter crash, Ryan was the subject of eight novels, four of which have already been adapted into films. The first was 1990’s The Hunt for Red October, which starred Alec Baldwin as Jack Ryan. The following two installments, Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), starred Harrison Ford. And in 2002 Ben Affleck starred in an attempted series reboot, The Sum of All Fears.

As a kid, I always knew about Tom Clancy because my dad was (and still, is) a huge fan of the novels. When I was 14 I finally picked up Patriot Games and I still think of it as one of my favourite novels. Although I’ve only read three of Clancy’s books, I’ve seen all four movies, and what I feel is important to recognize, is that Jack Ryan is not an action hero. The only film to portray Ryan in a way that matches the books was The Hunt for Red October. The character was an intellectual, an academic who was thrust into tense situations.

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The pictures from the new film, the IMDB description, and the genre tag on Wikipedia all have me worried. It’s described as an “Action Thriller” and has the description of “Jack Ryan, as a young covert CIA analyst, uncovers a Russian plot to crash the U.S. economy with a terrorist attack.” So they have the analyst part, but the picture seems a bit less than covert. I feel like the people who saw Quantum of Solace and went on a rampage about how James Bond is not Jason Bourne. While I disagree with their view of that film, I totally understand the sentiment because I feel that way about Jack.

I do have some hope. The fact that Kenneth Branagh is directing, and starring as the villain, is a good sign. Another good sign is that Kevin Costner is attached with a two picture deal, the second of which is Without Remorse, the first novel (chronologically) in the Jack Ryan Universe which deals with Jack Ryan’s father and stars one of his colleagues, Jack Kelley. Costner signing on for two pictures (hell, Paramount working on two pictures simultaneously) is a good sign that, rather than just shooting in the dark with a franchise reboot, they want to build an interesting story around a good set of characters.

Nevertheless, I hold to my desire that eventually, HBO takes a crack at doing a comprehensive adaptation of the Jack Ryan novels. A full narrative series is better suited to this story than a film franchise. However, the fact that there is interest at all makes me happy. The Jack Ryan series is a story worth telling. I just hope they do it well.

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