For 31 years, it’s been the screen franchise they've been struggling to get right.
But the Tom Clancy universe looks like it’s finally taking off thanks to the work of superstar actors John Krasinski and Michael B. Jordan.
The Office star Krasinski helped revive author Clancy’s lead character Jack Ryan for an acclaimed eponymous Amazon series. And now Creed hero Jordan is revving up the action by bringing the fictional world’s toughest hero John Clark to life in new movie Without Remorse, launching on Amazon Prime Video, 30 April.
Read more: Michael B. Jordan to make directorial debut
Clancy's huge legacy of espionage and military fiction has spawned a whole industry of films, TV series, comics, and video games, forming a tangled web of plots and storylines across all media.
Here we'll attempt to untangled the films and TV series from 1990's Hunt For The Red October, right up to Without Remorse.
The Hunt For Red October
Without Remorse is a long way from the Clancyverse's first film outing, with Alec Baldwin spearheading the franchise with the 1990 film adaptation of Clancy’s breakout debut novel The Hunt for Red October.
Read more: Every actor who has played Jack Ryan
Famous for Sean Connery’s Scottish-accented Lithuanian submarine commander, the movie was a huge hit, and saw Alec Baldwin playing Clancy's most famous creation Jack Ryan.
Contract disputes saw Baldwin depart the role for 1992 sequel Patriot Games, with Harrison Ford drafted in to play family man CIA analyst turned reluctant spy Ryan, this time taking on Sean Bean’s demented IRA splinter cell terrorist.
Clear and Present Danger
Ford continued in the role into 1994’s Clear and Present Danger – taking on Colombian drug lords, but it was after this entry that things got messy.
This first trilogy was very much the same universe, with James Earl Jones playing CIA boss Greer in all three films, and Anne Archer playing Ryan’s wife in Ford’s two films.
Clear and Present Danger also saw the first screen appearance of Ryan’s more shadowy ally: assassin and super spy John Clark, played by Willem Dafoe — the same role Michael B Jordan assumes in Without Remorse.
But the continuity ended with Ford’s departure from the role.
The Sum of All Fears
Six years later came the first reboot attempt, with Ben Affleck replacing Ford as a younger Jack Ryan.
Liev Schreiber came in to play John Clark, and Bridget Moynahan playing Ryan’s future wife. The 2002 film, about a neo-nazi Austrian trying to spark world war three, was met with mixed reviews and lukewarm box office.
Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit
The next relaunch was 2014’s Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, with Chris Pine in the analyst’s role, and the movie directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh who also starred as the villain. Not based on any book in particular, the film also featured Kevin Costner as Ryan’s CIA boss and Keira Knightley as future wife Cathy.
That was also seen as a potential jumping-off point for the franchise’s most under-used character, Clark. Costner’s shadowy superspy Harper was due to be the mentor role for Tom Hardy playing a new version of Clark in an adaptation of his origin novel Without Remorse, with suggestions of a MCU-style Ryan-verse developing. Keanu Reeves had earlier been linked with the role, but nothing ever came together.
The lack of success for Shadow Recruit saw the plan falter and the Clancy-verse went back to the drawing board.
In 2018, John Krasinski brought an all new approach to the character for the big budget Amazon series Jack Ryan. More influenced by the books, and featuring updated takes on the original Clancy stories, the series has enjoyed two wildly successful seasons, with more to come. The Wire’s Wendell Pierce plays Ryan’s boss Jim Greer – and could prove the link to the eagerly awaited new movie Without Remorse.
While Michael B Jordan plays the lead role of a Navy Seal on a mission of revenge after an operation goes wrong and he loses everything, the stand out support star is English actor Jodie Turner-Smith. Last seen in Queen & Slim, Smith plays Karen Greer, niece of Ryan’s CIA boss. Jamie Bell is CIA spook Bob Ritter, a regular nemesis of Ryan in the books and the villain in Clear and Present Danger.
With Clark’s special ops unit Rainbow featured heavily in the books, there is clear potential for sequels, especially with a massive fanbase emerging over 20 years of a loyal video game audience, with the Clark-starring Rainbow Six titles setting the standard for tactical shooter gaming.
Ryan Reynolds had been attached to star as Clark in a Rainbow Six movie, from Without Remorse producer Akiva Goldsman, so it seems that could be back on the cards, albeit with Jordan instead of Reynolds.
It might have taken more than 30 years and four different attempts – but is the Ryan-verse finally taking shape?
The American author’s millions of fans still enjoy his characters well beyond his own death in 2013. New writers have been brought in to create entirely now novels featuring the adventures of Ryan, Clark, and even Jack Ryan Jr, so it’s always been a franchise with a huge potential audience.
WATCH: Michael B Jordan launches his mission of revenge.