SDCC 2018: Jack Ryan at SDCC

In his new show, we find John Krasinski in a familiar place: an office with a woman crushing on him. But his current role isn’t in Dunder Mifflin Paper Company filmed during a pseudo-documentary. Krasinki has doffed the drudgery of Jim Halpert and exchanged for it for federal-grade security as a CIA analyst in “Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan,” an Amazon Prime Video series that begins streaming 31 August 2018, but the Ballroom 20 audience at San Diego Comic-Con on Friday got a sneak peak of the first episode.

Passholders weren’t the only ones in the San Diego Gaslamp District getting a preview. Enclosed by a fence, but with temporary buildings that rose as high three stories high with a partially exposed metal staircase topped by a helicopter, the Jack Ryan activation brought the Middle East and adventure to SDCC. The variety of activities gave audience members a chance to act out scenes from the first episode by putting on a harness, tracking gloves and tracking shoe covers and virtual reality goggles or by undertaking other missions. For the VR experience, you suit up, climb three stories of stairs to enter a helicopter. From there, with VR glasses on, you jump down into another country, go into a building by walking across a shaky plank and provide cover while your fellow operative finds the intel, ride a zip line down to a jeep where you drive (or crash and run) to a safe house. 

The VR has some glitches and might have to play catch up (my hands temporarily “disappeared”) and driving requires a lighter touch than you’d use down the streets and freeways of Los Angeles or almost anywhere in the USA (else I would never have made it through decades of driving the 110 and 405). A part of the adrenaline rush is not knowing where you actually are and one participant said his knees were shaking walking the plank that in the VR experience is the shaky bridge several stories up between two buildings. Having experience on the balance beam and possessing small feet helped me here where my small hands were a deficit on the zip line down.

The Jack Ryan activation inspired long lines. For the last day, Sunday, one person lined up at 10 p.m. the night before (This activation opens at 9 a.m.).

In the preview of the episode at the SDCC panel, we see that this Jack Ryan is young, tall and the only surviving veteran of his crew. He’s good at numbers and sees something that suggests terrorists about to strike in a manner equal or worse than 9/11. He makes an impulsive action, going around his boss, James Greer (Wendell Pierce), who has only just taken up this position as a demotion after some disastrous operation.

After being harshly reprimanded by Greer,  Ryan makes a poor entry to a very big splashy party amongst the moneyed on the East Coast, but he certainly knows how to make a grand exit. A government helicopter comes for him to take him quickly to the scene of an operation based on his observations now already set in motion. He protests, ““I can’t go to Yemen, I’m an analyst.”

There he’ll come face-to-face with an Islamic activist, Suleiman (Ali Suliman), and Ryan is expected to help advise the interrogators, but something goes wrong, drawing our hero deeper into the plot and the action.

Krasinski wasn’t at SDCC to be grilled about how he feels taking over a character that has been played by Alec Baldwin in “The Hunt for Red October” (1990), Harrison Ford in “Patriot Games” (1992) and “Clear and Present Danger” (1994), Ben Affleck in “The Sum of All Fears” (2002) and Chris Pine in “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit” (2014) but producer Carlton Cuse was one of six panelists for Amazon Prime Video on the Friday panel where he noted  that Season 2 is already shooting in Bogota. This version of Jack Ryan is a prequel to the books as it “starts with him just having worked in the CIA for four years.”

This highly visible activation inspired returnees despite the long wait and a prominent scoreboard showed the points accumulated by the participants, spurring some participants to become more immersed in the Jack Ryan world. A Twitch celebrity became part of the “embedded” press corp to put the activation further out on to social media. The swag was also plentiful, most of it in elegant black. Jack Ryan may have only been part of a panel, but he hit the ground running at SDCC, making a big impression amongst attendees.

–Originally published in RogerEbert.com

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