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'Jack Ryan' lays new foundation


Adaptation, or in the case of "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" re-adaptation, is a tricky business. It's like remodeling a building: Most of the framework stays the same, but the interior designs and the exterior presentation can be modernized, simplified or improved.

"Shadow Recruit" is the first Hollywood visit the Jack Ryan character has had in nearly 12 years. Chris Pine, from the most recent "Star Trek" movies, steps into the shoes of the titular Ryan and takes the franchise on its first foray without a Tom Clancy novel as a foundation.

From a remodel perspective, "Shadow Recruit" does a reasonable job at maintaining the franchise's thriller and espionage roots. Pine's Ryan comes off much more superhero-esque than previous iterations. The action, suspense and fictional technology occasionally boil over in the fashion of "Skyfall" and "Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol." Some sequences begin far-fetched and turn the heat so high some of the tension starts to evaporate. This is the same problem Superman faces in cinema. A hero who can't fail isn't a hero -- it's a machine, just lights and clockwork.

Pine is a favorite of mine and is well-chosen for this role. Pine has some wonderful qualities; particularly, his ability to convey action, tension and humor simultaneously -- much like a young Harrison Ford did as Indiana Jones. While Ryan is a more serious character than Indiana Jones or Captain Kirk, I think Pine could take the series in a great new direction.

Looked at individually, "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit" is a furious, if slightly mundane, game of checkers -- high-speed action and reaction. If the franchise continues into further installments, I hope this first chapter is the beginning of a great game of chess. First, you set the board, position the pieces, and when the timing is right, you strike. Even if a new Ryan franchise doesn't spin a brilliant coup, it still should be fun to watch.

* 4 of 6 stars

James Gerstner works at Fort Hays State University Foundation.