Clear and Present Stranger: The Hunt for Jack Ryan 4.0
Last summer when we were all swooning over Reboot Kirk, Hollywood types were riding elevators all over the world pitching Chris Pine as the savior of pretty much every derailed franchise up to and including Jack Ryan. Unlike Pierce Brosnan who was finally cast as Bond about a decade too late – NBC, I’m looking your punk asses – Pine is far too young to do anything interesting with everyone’s favorite Ghostland*, MD inhabitant John Patrick Ryan, PhD. In addition, for the most part, casting has not been the central element of franchise fail. Each Ryan has brought something desperately needed to the role, however, it would’ve been optimal if all those qualities were embodied by the SAME actor at the SAME time.
And unfortunately, they have in fact decided to cast Pine in the role with a film not even based on a CLANCY novel. Yeah, way to kick Ryan loyalists in the teeth! Thanks. Skewing younger makes absolutely NO sense given the average Ryan loyalist is about 288 years old, a retired Swivel Servant, and barbecues on the weekends. Despite not having any of the characteristics, these are my people. These are the folks I will actually talk to in long grocery lines, particularly if the subject of Ryan franchise fail, Clancy or even Robert Ludlum (Bourne Series) happen to come up.
In fact I had to break the sad news of Pine’s casting to a man standing in front of me at Barnes & Noble who had two Clancy novels tucked under his arm. He looked rather sheepish when I quipped, “Business or Pleasure.” while pointing to his novels. He said, “Pleasure.” and I said, “Hey nothing wrong with that.” then I broke both of our hearts by telling him about Pine, but made Barnes & Noble about $30 bucks richer by suggesting he pick up Debt of Honor and The Bear and The Dragon to “take away some of the sting”.
Key problems with the franchise:
- Some of the actors cast were far too attractive to play Ryan. Look, if any CIA analysts looked like Baldwin or Affleck, the CIA would not have any trouble attracting females to their ranks.
- Poor execution of source material. Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games – I’m not trying to pick on Ford who generally got it right – in my opinion, are pretty weak books in the series. The Hunt for Red October had potential but was helmed by the wrong director. John McTiernan, bless his heart, is great at what he does (Die Hard and such) but Clancy’s world is not necessarily one of action for action’s sake. Wolfgang Petersen (Das Boot, Air Force One, In the Line of Fire) or K-Big (Bigelow) would have been much more suited to the job. In fact I felt that K-Big did a bang up job with the sub movie nobody saw but me: K-19: The Widowmaker. Harrison Ford was quite excellent in that.
- Not thinking outside the acting box. Like why does Ryan need to be white? Seriously? It’s 2010, people. And heaven knows the franchise overlords have not be squeamish about casting POCs in the series. I’m pretty sure Ryan’s boss in all four film adaptations has been black (James Earl Jones, Morgan Freeman) and I don’t think the book was particularly prescriptive on this issue. Like the Military, Gov’t workers tend to be a pretty diverse bunch and discussions of why are intriguing to be sure, though not relevant to this discussion. Bottom line, try something different.
Problems with individual Ryans
- Alec Baldwin For starters, he wasn’t interested in continuing the role. In fact, that’s probably the single most troubling aspect of his involvement with the series. He had wonderful chemistry with both Connery and James Earl Jones. Actually, the casting was superb. I had high hopes for the next film, which were ultimately dashed.
- Harrison Ford Ford had the look of Ryan, particularly during that era of his career (both Ryan and Ford’s). He also had the wife and kids and just the right bit of insubordination. Ford’s acting strengths were well utilized in his two Ryan offerings (Patriot Games, Clear and Present Danger) but the scripts and direction were kind of stinky and the movies – particularly CaPD – were FAR TOO LONG. That said, he was a tad too earnest which tended to make him appear wooden and I found he had very little chemistry with Darth Vader – I mean James Earl Jones. Given that he was used to being bossed around by Vader this came as quite a surprise.
- Ben Affleck Oh Ben. You were so close. You had the right amount of cheek and courage. You got the tone bang on (in my opinion) but then you had to challenge your bff to a franchise smackdown. We all know how that worked out. Ryan 0 Bourne 3. The Sum of All Fears was so great! Morgan Freeman was fun. Cromwell is ALWAYS a treat and hell, the story was tightly executed. It was the first Ryan film I didn’t sleep through (cause they are too fucking long) in the theater! Which brings me to…
Who should have gotten the role.
- Liev Schreiber. I dropped the ball on this because I should have written this piece about nine months ago. That said, can someone give Schreiber a starring role in a franchise PLEASE!!! He is criminally underused it’s almost a trope to mention it. He would be an EXCELLENT Ryan. He is attractive without distracting matinée idol looks. He has gravitas. He has a great voice, similar to Baldwin and Ford and, oh yeah, he’s a powerhouse of an actor. He’s so damn good, even La Mommie KNOWS his name. That’s real effing good. And she’s generally not given to noting actors names.
- Don Cheadle. After having watched Volcano again (bad SFX, stellar cast/acting, cheesy script, good direction) I am reminded why the world needs Cheadle. Now, I realize I have stated that he was a tad too earnest in the role of Reese, but I stand corrected. He was bringing subtle lulz with his sweet face and deadpan. He made even the stinkiest lines, “Oh Snap, I wanna be like Mike!” brilliant. One thing I have noticed about his work is Cheadle is a team player. Whether the above title guy or the uncredited because he hated his British accent so much (Ocean’s 11, btw, I liked his accent.) he’s always has great chemistry with his co-stars.
*Ghostland is my nickname for any planned community near DC (but has to be in Maryland) where there is all kinds of diversity in a Spielberg sort of way – obvious but not too obvious – and no matter what flavor the people they all drive the same kind of cars, have the same amount of kids and despite all going to same places of employment, NOBODY carpools. Oh yeah, and they all work as “analysts” for various intel agencies. Why MD? VA would be far too obvious. I think some Ghostlands are popping up on the WVA border, but that might just be another wave of DC White Flight.