In one of last week’s Trailer Park posts, E. said that he thought the new trailer for ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ makes the movie look like “another giant turd that will stink up the summer.” I guess I can understand that perspective on it. However, as a long-time G.I. Joe fan who hated, hated, hated Stephen Sommers’ execrable ‘Rise of Cobra’ movie, I don’t share that opinion. At least from what I see in this two-and-a-half-minute preview, the sequel already looks like a thousand-times improvement over the last movie. This may be the G.I. Joe movie that we should have gotten the first time around.
As anyone who’s read my review of ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ knows, I felt that the movie was a total betrayal of everything I’ve liked about the franchise since I was a kid. Almost none of the characters were recognizable, and the story and script were atrociously stupid. This was a movie made by people who knew nothing about G.I. Joe, and had active contempt for the franchise’s fans and the general intelligence of their audience. After watching it, I wanted to hunt down Stephen Sommers and punch him in the face.
I’ve been following development news of the sequel with a mixture of apprehension and cautious optimism. In the positive column, Sommers left the project, and the screenwriters of the very fun ‘Zombieland’ (Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick) were brought in to write the script. These could be good signs. But then it was confirmed that block-of-wood Channing Tatum would reprise his leading role as Duke. Bad sign. Very bad sign. And then Paramount hired as the new director a guy named Jon Chu, who’s best known for making a couple of the lame ‘Step Up’ dance movies (one starring Tatum, who no doubt got his friend the gig) and the recent Justin Bieber documentary. Uh oh.
After news of his hiring broke, Chu gave some interviews where he said some reassuring things to indicate that he recognized the failings of the first movie, and that he’s actually a G.I. Joe fan.
[G.I.] Joe, to me, is iconic. It is as American as Coke and the Boy Scouts. To have that kind of history in a brand is so rare these days. And that is so powerful. So you can’t treat Joe like it’s just another action movie. You can’t treat Joe as just another petty commercial movie. Joe has history. Joe has always been a part of what America is, and now the world. What it means to be a leader and a hero. For me, it is about the fun stuff like Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes, and all the gadgets. All of that stuff. But it has heart. Its heart is what America, and what heroes and leaders around the world, strive to be. I think that is what the brand needs. It needs the respect to be treated in that way.
That’s already a big improvement over Stephen Sommers, who has admitted that he wasn’t even aware that there had been a G.I. Joe toy line in the 1980s until he was hired to make his movie.
So, now the first trailer is out, and I’ve got to say that I think it looks kind of awesome. I ended my ‘Rise of Cobra review by saying: “Fortunately, the G.I. Joe mythos is so extensive that another movie could easily focus on an entirely different group of characters and completely ignore anything that happened in this one. I beg the studio to make that happen.” Well, I’ll be damned, but that’s pretty much what this looks like.
First, let’s take another look at that trailer:
It seems obvious to me that, unlike the last one, this movie was made by people who actually know something about G.I. Joe. In the biggest immediate improvement, I can recognize most of the characters and a lot of the vehicles and iconography of the franchise. Let me break this down a little in sequence as the trailer plays:
- 0:11 – Those are Rattler jets! Awesome!
- 0:13 – Ah crap, Channing Tatum is back. Well, that sucks, but what’re you gonna do?
- 0:16 – That’s Jinx!
- 0:19 – In the first shot of Snake Eyes, he’s wearing his iconic visor, but the bottom half of his face is obscured by a scarf. Is this meant to be a winking reference to how much fans hated the puffy lips on his mask in the first movie?
- 0:25 – And there we have it, the plot set-up. In one clean, efficient stroke, almost all of the characters from the first movie are killed off. I think this is absolutely perfect. This is exactly what I would have done to clean house after the debacle of ‘Rise of Cobra’.
- 0:32 – Adrianne Palicki probably wouldn’t be my first choice for Lady Jaye, but I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.
- 0:39 – Jonathan Pryce is back as the President. Or, as the last movie left it, Zartan in disguise as the President. That particular plot twist was one of the few things I thought was clever in ‘Rise of Cobra’. I notice that this time he’s making more of an effort to disguise his British accent. The fact that an obviously British man would be cast as the President of the United States (which would be a violation of our Constitution, in case you weren’t aware) was just one of the many idiocies of ‘Rise of Cobra’.
- 0:42 – Snake Eyes in chains, and his mask doesn’t have stupid puffy lips! Ha!
- 0:45 – Cobra Commander in his battle mask! Fantastic!
- 0:46 – Ray Stevenson from ‘Rome’ plays Firefly. I like this casting. While he’s not wearing a mask, if you pause the frame, you can see that his jacket has a subtle camo pattern that’s meant as homage to the original action figure. That’s a nice attention to detail.
- 0:47 – The gist of the plot, that the Joe team are declared fugitives and have to go on the run, is probably patterned after the recent ‘G.I. Joe: Renegades’ cartoon. It’s also pretty obviously reminiscent of ‘The A-Team’, but I can live with that.
- 0:52 – The trailer sets it up to look like Duke will be killed off, but I don’t believe that for a second. If we’re lucky, his part in the story may be minimized. A guy can hope, anyway. If Jon Chu wants my undying devotion, he’ll have Duke fall into a coma, be left out of the action for the bulk of the movie, and then at the very end, have another character announce from off-screen that Duke will pull through. That would be hilarious.
- 0:58 – I think that the guy saying “They’re all dead” is supposed to be Flint. I would have preferred a recognizable actor in an important part like this (not to mention someone a little older), but again I’ll give this the benefit of the doubt.
- 1:01 – Yay, Roadblock! His uniform is perfect. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has had a pretty dicey film career so far, but this movie and this role seem like a really good fit for him.
- 1:06 – I’m not a fan of the generic “dubstep” techno music over the rest of the soundtrack, but since this is just a trailer, we have no idea what the score in the actual movie will be like. For a trailer, it gets the job done.
- 1:10 – That clearly looks like the W.H.A.L.E. hovercraft, but why does it look like Storm Shadow, Cobra Commander and some Vipers are on it? Perhaps they raided the Joes’ motor pool after destroying their base. There could be a reasonable explanation for this.
- 1:11 – Oh yeah, Storm Shadow is back, despite the fact that he was seemingly killed at the end of the last movie. I suppose that the way that scene played left it open that he could survive. He’s an important character, and killing him off was a stupid move, so I can be OK with this if it’s explained well. Storm Shadow was revived from the dead a couple times in the comic book, after all.
- 1:14 – A Cobra flag and Cobra banners are unfurled over the White House. Epic!
- 1:25 – Snake Eyes rides a R.A.M. cycle! Nice!
- 1:32 – Jinx and Snake Eyes fighting? I assume that’s a training scene.
- 1:40 – Palicki is hot in that red dress, but why does Lady Jaye have red hair in this scene?
- 1:43 – There’s a very brief shot of a tank obscured by smoke and flames. A H.I.S.S. maybe?
- 1:49 – Red Ninjas! Snake Eyes and whomever that yellow ninja is supposed to be (Jinx in another uniform, perhaps to distinguish her visually from the Red Ninjas?) face off against a horde of evil Red Ninjas on the side of a mountain. This looks like an old-school Hong Kong-style action scene, which could be cool. But it does beg the question of why they don’t just cut each others’ ropes.
- 2:15 – Bruce Frickin’ Willis!! That alone raises my hopes for this movie enormously. Willis plays Joe Colton, the original “G.I. Joe.” I never really liked the conceit of introducing that character in the old comic book. It felt like a cheat that was mandated by Hasbro. I don’t really like the idea of it here either, but I’m willing to let it slide if it means getting Bruce Willis in the movie.
- 2:23 – And the trailer ends on a deliciously bad pun. Nobody can sell one of those like Bruce Willis. Lady Jaye rolling her eyes at him is a funny touch.
So, yeah, I’m digging it. The action scenes look like your typical over-the-top summer movie stuff, heavy on CGI but hopefully not as cartoony as the last movie. All in all, I think this is pretty promising, and I’m actually looking forward to the movie. I never would have expected that after watching ‘Rise of Cobra’.