When I want to just watch a movie, to be engaged by the twists and turns of a narrative without being concerned with literary quality or artistic merit I usually turn to a good action film. Within that genre, some of my favorites have been the adaptations of Tom Clancy’s books such as The Hunt for Red October, Sum of All Fears or Patriot Games. I disagree with Clancy’s politics most of the time, but his books have an engaging, cinematic quality that translate well to the screen.
Largely for this reason, I decided to watch Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, despite having heard how it is a bad film. And it is not a good film. Chris Pine takes up the mantle held by Ben Affleck, Harrison Ford, and Alec Baldwin, by playing Jack Ryan, a marine, PhD, and CIA analyst. All the hallmarks of the character remain intact: his doctor (soon-to-be) wife, his helicopter accident and subsequent fear of flying in them, his insistence that he is an analyst. villainous Russians. However, the entire setting has been moved into the contemporary moment, so the helicopter accident took place in Afghanistan, and Russia has joined the ranks of the capitalist nations. Not unlike the Bond franchise, Jack Ryan: Shadow Report takes the core elements for the character and then reboots the story in a contemporary setting without too much concern for continuity.
This brings my thought. JR:SR suffers from a large number of problems, including pacing and that, twenty three years after The Hunt for Red October, and several decades in the future, we now get to see the introduction of Jack Ryan’s relationship with his bride-to-be. The larger issue, to my mind, is that JR:SR fundamentally changes the type of movie these were. Instead of a film where much of the action is carried out by other characters and culminates in one action scene where Jack Ryan wields a gun, usually as a last resort when he himself is attacked, he spends a lot more time actually doing action-hero-y type of things in this film–despite the mandatory statement that he is “just an analyst.” Perhaps I should have expected this change based on the title, but it was an unwelcome change because that is emphatically not the type of character Jack Ryan was. At least Clancy was able to create a standardized background for Ryan and, as long as the movies were based on the books, that background loosely matched up.