Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Why I should learn to keep my big mouth shut...

This won't be the usual kind of post, I'm going off-topic with this one. I'm planning to discuss movies. The inspiration came from perusing my game shelf trying to think of something that may be worth writing about, I spotted my old "Red Storm Rising" and "Hunt for Red October" games. This got me thinking about Tom Clancy and the ones that had been made into movies, and I came up with the idea of a post entitled:

Why There Won't Be Any More Jack Ryan Movies

Sadly it seems, hollywood has not read the script. I had an idea in mind for what to write about and just wanted to grab a couple of images off google to break the article up a bit, and lo and behold I find there actually will be another Jack Ryan movie. I will enter into the reasons for my despair later, but for now I'm going to start with the basis of my original thought, hastily rephrased to:

Why There Won't Be Any More Jack Ryan Movies That Are Even Remotely Connected to the Source Material

This title I have to admit, isn't quite as snappy... hence why I went with the one about learning to keep my mouth shut. Sure they've clearly been working on it a while, but equally I'd held this opinion for a while... I can't help but feel I've jinxed this into happening!

The Good

Ok, let's start off with the positive. Jack Ryan is the lead character in the majority of the books written by Tom Clancy. Readers follow his career (and that of his compatriots) through decades of espionage, government service, and eventually political life. The movies started off portraying some of these aspects quite well. Ok, they were condensed, as movies made from books always are to fit into a commercially viable running time, but generally they followed the basics of the plot quite well. Jack Ryan was first played by Alec Baldwin, and in the second and third movies by Harrison Ford. The movies saw the character older, and the actor was older too. This was acceptable. Admittedly, Patriot Games was chronologically set before Red October in the books, but not many people would have been aware of that, and it wasn't much difference in time anyway. I considered both actors to play the part of Jack Ryan well. Jack Ryan was in far more action than would normally be expected for an analyst while Harrison Ford played the part, but even then he portrayed a reluctant action star - not swaggering around perfectly at home, more someone who was caught in a bad situation and was merely trying to keep control of things. This suited the character well.

The Bad

We then move on to The Sum of All Fears. Hollywood decided to cast Ben Affleck as Jack Ryan. To cover the sudden youth of the character, they reset the Jack character to be far earlier in his career and love-life. As reboots go this was a poor move, as for one reason by putting him far earlier in his career he was a lowly analyst... and therefore hardly likely to be involved in decisions of magnitude or able to access the areas or speak with the Russian president with great trust. In the book, Jack Ryan used his wealth of experience and "enemy" contacts to save the day. In the book, it was the "dinosaur" Jack Ryan being marginalized and ignored by the hip young political elite who thought war would never threaten them. Suddenly, in the movie, it's the youthful Jack Ryan saving the world from the political dinosaurs who want to nuke everyone because they can't get past their paranoia about the bad old days.I suppose I can see why they swung it a little bit - movie audiences are far more likely to be the hip young people than the dinosaurs, so you want your audience to feel good about themselves. But of course just reinforcing the young audiences attitudes won't help them realise that experienced people have opinions of value, but I guess it's not a movies responsibility to teach appreciation for ones elders. Above all else though, I thought this was a bad time to reboot the franchise, because I didn't see where they'd go from here, as explained below.

The Ugly

In this post 9/11 world can you ever honestly see someone making a movie where someone makes a suicide dive with a fully fueled jet plane into a building wiping out most of the US government? Of course not, people would say it was too close to the mark. But the next book in line after The Sum Of All Fears is Debt of Honour, which ends with exactly that occurrence. This was written before 9/11 - in fact I have often wondered if Tom Clancy ever felt some remorse, that he may have given the terrorists ideas? Highly unlikely, any idea for destruction can be thought up by more than one person... but it did seem like the rate of book release dropped off after 9/11 as Tom Clancy started to be more of an umbrella release name for other authors carrying on his style of work.

Now with this book off the table and all other books following on from it kinda being nailed to the pivotal plot moment where the US government gets wiped out and Jack Ryan ascends to the presidency (albeit reluctantly) it does leave the question of where, if The Sum of All Fears was intended as a reboot, did they intend to go? They can't follow the next books, and the few former books that were skipped out were in a different world (usually related to the cold war, meaning Ben Affleck can't be involved there, as Sum of All Fears was set in the modern day.

So I really saw nowhere for them to go.

Which brings us to Jack Ryan, the movie, to be released in 2013.

From what I can understand, it includes Jack Ryan (funnily enough) against a terrorist plot by Russia to destroy the US economy. I guess they could be taking one of the plot strands from Executive Orders for this, but it seems more likely that there is no literary connection whatsoever. The new Jack Ryan is played by yet another actor, who seems even younger than Affleck.

Which begs the question, if it's not got the same actor, and it's not based on the novels, what exactly is the point of making that tenuous connection to the character? You may as well call the movie something else and give the guy an original name! I can't see many people who are fans of Tom Clancys Jack Ryan going, and if they aren't fans... then the name is meaningless!

It seems it is just there to annoy me... Studio, I give you the Ford finger. Leave Tom Clancy alone, you've done enough damage already...

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