Waiting a while to push out another Tom Clancy/Jack Ryan escapade after Clear and Present Danger led to a few problems. The jolt of a mis-cast Ben Affleck is problem one; continuity is unexplained even though this was the first book in the series makes for number two; and an awful payoff for the story set-up makes for three critical strikes against this nuclear bomb dud.
Jack Ryan is obviously a rookie in The Sum of All Fears, so why there was a need to set the film in the modern age (as made obvious by the various technologies) butchers the film timeline. If you’re unaware of the series, this isn’t a problem, but Ryan is a popular character and fans are left out.
The politics in the first hour don’t carry the weight of the previous films. Build up is slow, dull, and lacking intensity. Patriot Games and The Hunt for Red October did this amazingly well, along with offering a spectacular payoff.
In The Sum of All Fears, that payoff is a nuke going off inside a contrived and convenient Baltimore where by sheer coincidence (or lazy scripting) Jack Ryan lives with his girlfriend. The explosion is mere seconds, likely played down due to being post-9/11 and audience sensitivity. It’s a half-hearted Hollywood disaster.
On top of that, we’re supposed to accept that someone can be close enough to the blast, be blown backwards at impossible speeds, and then be up and walking without a scratch a few scenes later. Out goes credibility, and out goes all the drama in the second half as the US and Russia begin arming for war.
The premise is intriguing, and the novel should have been perfect film material. Unfortunately, the lackluster casting of out of place Affleck, implausibility, and extensively boring first hour doesn’t raise this above mediocrity.
Being the most modern of the franchise, Sum of All Fears looks the best out of the four films on Blu-ray. Detail is exceptionally high, and the strong contrast gives everything a 3-D look. Great color throughout along with a nice level of sharpness overall doesn’t hurt. The slight edge enhancement does drag down this transfer, especially in long shots.
What this TrueHD track lacks in the first half in terms of subtle surround use, it makes up for with a booming second half. Jets taking off, dropping explosives, attacking aircraft carriers, and of course the nuke itself blowing up push the limits of any sound hardware. This is where the rear channels can finally catch on as well, with debris and tracking accurately moving around the sound field.
Two commentaries, both of which offer director Phil Alden Robinson’s thoughts, begin the extras. Robinson is joined by his cinematographer on the first track, and Tom Clancy on the second. A two-part making of runs about a half hour and delves into all aspects of the production without sounding overly congratulatory. Creating Reality is another half hour documentary, this one focusing on the visual effects in grand detail.