Tom Clancy wrote fourteen Jack Ryan novels, four of which have been adapted for the big screen, but the Amazon Prime series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan tells an original story. Showrunners Graham Roland and Carlton Cuse preserve the essence of Clancy’s Jack Ryan while creating an entirely new narrative around him. Attempts at adapting a Tom Clancy novel into an Amazon series were explored, but the development hit a roadblock that lead to embracing a similar strategy as the franchise’s 2014 film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan is a former Marine and current civilian professor turned CIA analyst who suddenly finds himself thrust into field work. Author Tom Clancy features the fictional character in fourteen Ryanverse novels, four of which have received feature film adaptations with Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck in the lead role respectively. Although a wealth of Tom Clancy source material remains untapped, the Amazon Prime series Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan plots its own course for John Krasinski’s portrayal of the CIA analyst turned field agent.
The Jack Ryan Show Works Better With Original Stories
Showrunner Graham Roland, along with co-show runner Carlton Cuse, intended to adapt his favorite Tom Clancy novel, Clear and Present Danger, for the Amazon Prime series before realizing the story needed to be more relevant. Roland describes an early roadblock during production (via Variety):
“One of Clancy’s staples that he did so well was write geopolitical thrillers that were of the moment. And we realized that we had to take the thing that people loved about the character and about the franchise but find our own geopolitical thriller that felt relevant today. So that’s why we decided to craft our own stories.”
Roland and Cuse endeavored to deliver what fans of the beloved Tom Clancy character would expect from the franchise by distilling the character down into two defining attributes—his super intelligence, and his vulnerable morality—both of which are carried over to the Amazon series. To ensure their depiction was as authentic as possible, Roland and Cuse consulted with the CIA. The result is an experience for Jack Ryan that, as Roland puts it (via PCMag.com), is “very emblematic of today’s CIA.”
Why The Jack Ryan Movies Also Didn’t Use Direct Clancy Adaptations
Amazon’s series isn’t the first time a Jack Ryan adaptation has told an original story. The 2014 movie Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, starring Chris Pine in the title role, similarly maintained the character’s defining characteristics while embracing a fresh narrative. Director Kenneth Branagh (via USA Today) describes Jack Ryan as “so much a product of the Cold War conflict.” Branagh adds, “But he can be a really interesting character in the 21st century, rather than just a dinosaur trying to find his way in a changing world.” Even the Jack Ryan movies that adapt a novel’s story leave out certain nuances that don’t fit into a movie’s restricted timeline.
Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan novels may be a little outdated for the modern world, but the defining attributes of the character remain a compelling avenue through which to explore the complexity of geopolitics. Amazon’s successful reworking of the source material in Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan proves the character can exist outside a post-Cold War landscape, something Kenneth Branagh’s 2014 film first explored. However, there still exists a number of interesting storylines from the Tom Clancy novels, including one in which Jack Ryan becomes president of the United States, should any future adaptations need a bit more inspiration.
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