I hadn't been watching any new movies the past couple of weeks, so I decided to do a Jack Ryan run this week. I had never seen any of the films before and my only prior exposure to the so-called "Ryanverse" has been the John Krasinski starrer Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan on Amazon Prime (Talk about a clunky title!). Luckily Netflix + Prime Video had 4 out of the 5 films, but I could not find a copy of Sum of All Fears (2002), so this Jack Ryan week will have to go without Ben Affleck.
I watched the 4 films in release order: first was Alec Baldwin and Sean Connery's Hunt for Red October (1990), followed by Harrison Ford's Patriot Games (1992) and Clear and Present Danger (1994), and finally Chris Pine in the reboot Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2013).
Since the first three films crossed the boundary of the fall of the Soviet Union, the villains seemed to change appropriately: Red October pitted Jack Ryan against the Russians, while the two Ford films had non-state based villains, namely Irish separatists and drug lords. Unfortunately, I found it hard to take either Alec Baldwin or Harrison Ford in the role, because I was already so familiar with these actors and they seemed to mostly be playing some version of themselves. As contrasted with the Chris Pine film and the Amazon TV series, their Jack Ryan also spends majority of the movies away from the danger zone - dealing with intelligence and meeting with bureaucrats and such, since he is supposed to be primarily an analyst. This makes it a bit harder to suspend disbelief when he is surprisingly capable in the few action sequences the character gets into in the films.
Shadow Recruit brings us back to Russian adversaries, while the Amazon series brings more complicated geopolitical villains. Chris Pine I could take because I've seen him in less films I guess? I suppose the more modern takes have Jack Ryan being in the field more to bring more "excitement" that people expect from action films / TV series. Oh also, Jim Greer (portrayed by Wendell Pierce in the Amazon series) is played by James Earl Jones in the films! Sweet.
In spite of everything I said above I think as a thriller film, Red October is strictly the best one of the lot, though I wouldn't mind rewatching Shadow Recruit just for Keira Knightley. The Ford ones are ok, maybe a bit mediocre. All of them are decent popcorn action flicks to be watching in the background while doing something else (although Red October might require more focus).
Looking forward to where Jack Ryan goes next on Prime Video!