Let’s be honest – at this point, the next entry in the Jack Ryan franchise is strictly hypothetical. Despite having a star (Chris Pine), a new re-write from David Koepp (on a script that has passed from Adam Cozen to Anthony Peckham then back to Cozen then to Steve Zaillian, who then dropped it, leaving it to Koepp), and a possible new director, this project has been talked about (with Pine attached) since 2009. Combine that with reported financial cutbacks and an apparent disconnect between what everyone wanted from the script, it’s a miracle we’re even still talking about this film.

But perhaps Kenneth Branagh is a miracle man. Vulture reports that Paramount is looking to Branagh to helm the feature, just a week after Jack Bender (who had been attached to direct the film for many months) kicked the bucket on the project and dropped out. While the official position was that he had to do it because of scheduling conflicts with a SyFy project, we can put two and two together – if a SyFy project looks better than the rebirth of a former blockbuster franchise, yeah, your franchise probably has some serious issues.

Vulture backs that up, saying that they “hear that Bender had tired of the endless development born of creative loggerheads over the direction of the film. Pine wanted to make a character-driven espionage movie. The producer, Lorenzo di Bonaventura, wanted to make Jack Ryan into an action movie. Paramount executives wanted to make it a thriller.” Yeah, that’s not going to work out.

At the center of that? The many-hands-in-the-pot script, last worked on by Koepp. However, despite all those demands, Vulture also says that they were “told that just this week, a few days after Bender’s departure to work on his SyFy pilot Rewind, Koepp turned in a draft that attempts to synthesize everyone’s demands. Unlike previous films like The Hunt for Red October and Clear and Present Danger, which were adaptations of actual, Tom Clancy novels, the new story of Jack Ryan, we’re told, is not. Instead, it’s a prequel that shows Ryan’s beginnings, but is hardly canonical. It is set in the present day, without the dated Cold War geopolitics.” We’ve long known that the film would not be based on an existing Clancy novel, and obviously the casting of Pine points to a young Ryan, but at least everyone still seems clear on those points? That has to count for something?

Branagh recently worked some magic with Thor, so perhaps the director, still best known for his many Shakespearean adaptations, can do something similar with this beleaguered property. I’m not holding my breath, but I’ve been wrong before.

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