Jon Chu Talks ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’ Story & Reinventing Cobra Commander

Published 3 years ago by , Updated July 31st, 2013 at 9:55 am,

When movie fans first heard word that Justin Bieber: Never Say Never director Jon Chu would be heading-up G.I. Joe: Retaliation, the sequel to Stephen Sommers’ 2009 live-action G.I. Joe adaptation, the collective reaction online was pretty snarky – with even the most generous film-lovers being somewhat skeptical.

Then came word that Chu and the production team would be dramatically slashing the star-studded cast to streamline the sequel – with high profile actors and actresses, such as Rachel Nichols, Marlon Wayans, and Dennis Quaid, all finding themselves excised from the franchise (at least for now). However, much like the potential improvements headed to Michael Bay’s Transformers 4, Chu’s hybrid-sequel-reboot approach has begun to inspire a lot of confidence in the upcoming film (as evidenced by reactions to the official Retaliation trailer).

Chu is a big fan of the G.I. Joe franchise and while he enjoyed Sommers’ take on the characters, the director (along with producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura) definitely felt there were opportunities to bring his installment a bit closer to the gritty G.I. Joe film he’d want to see. Speaking with MTV, Chu elaborated on one especially important refinement – Cobra Commander:

“There are a couple things I really wanted to do in this movie. One of those things was reinvent Cobra Commander, to do it the way I remember him and take him to the next level. To me, Cobra is one of the most iconic villains of all time. I just wanted to know that was him. I wanted to make him more badass than ever.”

“We got to design him from the ground up. Creating the mask, we went through 35 revisions and how his voice was going to be, how reflective it was going to be. He’s definitely a huge presence, and I can’t wait. I’m sort of trying to hide a little bit, so people when they come don’t know what to expect from Cobra, which is sort of the fun part of it.”

- WARNING: SPOILERS for Stephen Sommers’ G.I. Joe below -



It’s easy to understand where Chu is coming from with regard to Cobra Commander – given the flat-out bizarre “origin story” the character was given in the first Joe film. While the introduction of the character certainly worked to tie-together all of the main players, there’s no doubt that for such a fan-favorite villain many moviegoers found Sommers’ Cobra Commander to be a letdown.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt faithfuls may have been disappointed to hear that the rising star wouldn’t be returning for the sequel, and fans remain split over whether or not his portrayal of “The Doctor” was a high or low mark in the film, but it’s easy to understand why Chu went for the traditional helmeted Commander – since the character has to be forboding enough to sell that Cobra, not just the man himself, is a ruthless terrorist organization.



END of SPOILERS for Stephen Sommers’ G.I. Joe.

gi joe retaliation image 570x371 Jon Chu Talks G.I. Joe: Retaliation Story & Reinventing Cobra Commander

Of course, with a revamped and dangerous new villain, Chu needed a few kick-butt heroes. Speaking about his favorite characters (one returning Joe, and another new recruit), it’s easy to see that Chu was the Hollywood equivalent of a kid in a candy store – of course it doesn’t hurt if you can enlist Dwayne “Rock” Johnson:

“I loved Snake Eyes, of course, and I love Road Block. Those two to me were the coolest duo out there. To me, it was Roadblock and Snake Eyes together that was the kickass team [...] It was a dream to be like, ‘All right, now we really get to make Roadblock the guy. Who would be the perfect Roadblock?’ Of course, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and being able to have Ray Park return as Snake Eyes and have them be on two different adventures all across the world is awesome.”

While some fans, who no doubt felt as though Sommers’ Joe was too spread out with too many locales, faces, and plot lines running at once, might be intimidated by Chu’s assertion that Retaliation will chronicle two separate adventures and span the globe – the director promises that, while there is a lot of jet setting, everything comes full-circle:

“As any ‘Joe’ adventure is, it spans the world, and it’s an adventure that ranges from you’re in Pakistan one second to Japan the next second and Korea another one, Washington, D.C. You’re definitely jumping around and it also collides at a certain point.”

Just so long as that “collision” translates into a better look at the showdown between Johnson’s Roadblock and Ray Stevenson’s Firefly – as teased in the international G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer.

G.I. Joe: Retaliation will be in theaters on June 29, 2012.


Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for further updates.

Source: MTV

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  1. I enjoyed the first film on a certain level, but still thought it was bad. This is looking more and more promising.

  2. I like the fact that the Joe’s will be “grittier” and that Cobra Commander gets a sweet “new” look. I am truly very excited for this movie!

    • So glad that they are going away from the stupid “kid friendly” garbage.

  3. Can’t wait for this trilla film.

    A$AP Mob

  4. I actually really enjoyed the first one despite it’s many faults. They did mess up Cobra Commander though. He looks great in this new one! I thought Snake eyes looked pretty much spot on in the first one too, apart from his mouth being molded into his suit!? That was weird.

    I’m really liking what I’m seeing on this new one sor far.

    • Haha, yeah. I was REALLY weirded out & confused about Snake Eye’s mouth being molded into the mask like that.

      • It’s exactly like that on the toy.

        • It worked as a toy, but still seemed weird in live action, especially as doesn’t speak.

          • Insert “he” in above sentence.

          • I agree, but when you have people constantly complain about how much studios deviate from the material, but still complain when they stick to some of the source. It just goes to show you that people will complain about adaptations now matter how accurate or inaccurate they are to the source material.

            • Blah blah blah. Actually I know all about the toys, it was still weird looking to have the mouth molded there in a live action film. I am not one to complain about deviation from or sticking to the source…if you read this site with any regularity you know that I’m always defending filmmaker’s creative choices in these matters. Take your self righteous indignation and shove it.

              • Lets all be pals guys. Keep it nice.

                I wasn’t complaining, I was defending a movie that had a lot of faults and many people were unhappy with. I think my above negatives were very minor.

                @ ghost, I’m positive somewhere on this site you have complained about a movie deviating from it’s source, just about everybody has at some point about something. It just depends on how over the top and irrational some peoples opinions on something are. Some people are very passionate about their favourite characters.

              • @”Take your self righteous indignation and shove it

                Same to you pal.

                • @Ken and Ghost – YOu’ve both had your say. Let’s drop this conversation before it gets out of hand.


                  Paul Young

  5. Cobra Commander was fine in the firsr film all the way up to the end when he put that weird mask on.Why did they change his voice so he sounded like destro from the old cartoon?The way he origanally sounded is what he should’ve sounded like.And im glad they brought back Storm Shadow even though it was clear he died in the first film.Better believe i’ll be waiting for that explanation when im watching this version in theatres.And finally i don’t mind about the different plot lines going on all over the world but it would be nice to see Snake Eyes and Roadblock get together at some point in the film & kick some ass.

  6. Cant wait to see snakeeyes kick some ass :)

  7. so u think cobra commander will be voiced by a famous actor, w/ a stunt guy dressing in the suit, and his voice is suppose to be a mockery of the 80s cartoon voice?

  8. I guess it would easy enough to revive Storm Shadow if they use the “Sleeping Phoenix” explanation, as previously done in the original Marvel comics.

    — spoilers (of sorts)

    In the comics, Storm Shadow was shot and killed by the Baroness after it had been revealed that he was never really a badguy, but had only joined Cobra to find his uncle’s murderer (i.e. Zartan, with the assistance of Firefly). A few episodes later, he was revived because he had entered a dormant state called the “Sleeping Phoenix”, which was explained as an old Arashikage method of slowing down your heart rate to appear as if dead.

    • Good information.But when he died snake eyes stabbed him and he fell deep in that water with nowhere to go or no one to save him,he should be dead as a doornob whatever that means lol.So maybe they will use that material you gave,it’s better then nothing.

      • I think Storm Shadow comes back alive due to the nanomites…

      • If that film could make ice sink to the sea bed, then reviving Storm Shadow is okay in my book.

  9. Never understood why they killed Storm Shadow.

    • I actually liked that. It was a true shocker. For a long while I couldn’t believe it. When it first happened, I think my mouth fell open.

      Despite the flaws of the first movie, there was a lot to enjoy, and it was a good summer popcorn flick.

      I liked that it had the guts to “kill” a popular character.

      • Hehe, my initial reaction when he fell into the water was “he’s definitely not dead” :) I just couldn’t see them offing Storm Shadow for good in the first movie. It wouldn’t make sense from a commercial point of view – i.e. if the franchise would be considering sequals. He’s just too big of a name (easily within top 5 G.I.Joe characters of all times?) to kill that early and too many missed opportunities for him to fight Snake Eyes on screen in sequals – not to mention the toy-angle :p

        I guess, it’s also fairly evident that everyone expected him to be back for sure, since he features heavily in the trailers for Retaliation. No point in hiding his inclusion till the movie hits the screen.

        For all the flaws the old one had, I still immensely enjoyed it simply because it was G.I.Joe brought to the big screen. Does that mean I wouldn’t have wanted it differently? No.. But I guess Retaliation looks to remedy some of the franchise’s previous short-comings (we can hope, can’t we :))


        • Well said… Tommy is the man.

  10. While the first one was indeed a bad movie, i still enjoyed it on some level; enough to see this one in theaters. It looks great and I’m thrilled they got a real Joe fan to direct.

  11. The first movie would have been better if it wasn’t GI Joe, because ,be real, there was nothing about that movie that was GI Joe

    • ^this

  12. G.I Joe 2 looks awesome, way better than the first movie.

    I was amazed by the trailer, I hope G.I Joe 2 turns out to be what Jon Chu promised it to be-gritty, hard and action packed movie.

    Adding The Rock and Bruce Willis in the movie, makes it more exicting for the fans.

  13. From what I’ve seen so far, this movie is far more worthy to be called G.I. Joe than the first one was, with it’s exo-skeleton enhancements.
    I did actually like the way Cobra Commander was eventually introduced though, with all his subtle machinations.

  14. I liked the first one to an extent, I really just hated JGL’s cobra commander and I thought that the cheap iron man knockoffs were a little gay. There is one thing I hope this sequel continues from the first one and that’s the fact that Zartan has taken over as president without anyone’s knowledge. I can’t wait to see this one either way and I’ll give you four reasons why; the real cobra commander, Bruce f’ing Willis, Dwayne ” the Rock” f’ing Johnson, and motherf’ing ninja cliff battle. Need I say more?

  15. ya know, maybe the first gi joe wasnt the most perfectly done movie. i think cobra commander did need a make over. what they did with that is perfect. now to what i disagree with hardcore…the cast. yes you bring back duke and the guy playing duke is awesome at it. in the same sense you take out the characters that i know myself now sees in a gi joe movie because they did work well together and it all flowed when they were together. marlon wayons for the type of actor he is (mostly comedy) pulled off something i never thought he could…being a bad ass. the rest of the cast just fit…but of course yet again dwayne johnson comes in and takes over in a movie…come on so sick of dwayne johnson hes not right for every part. gi joe would have been fine without him and keeping the originals to fit the story line. this is my opinion dont care who agrees with me or not but i think this movie is not even clsoe to what it could have been keeping the original cast. again they worked well together and casting dwayne johnson and bruce willis is just saying that those guys werent good enough even though they are all good actors. ive never known marlon wayans as a beefy guy but it looks like he busted his butt to get ripped for this movie just to be told oh sorry your not big enough in the acting world. anyways just my opinion

    • ^^^^^ YES thank you… I Dont know why the f**ck everyone is so liking this movie. i mean one of the most popular G.I. Joe character (Duke) dies and all the other character and everyone all like o my god Bruce Willis and the Rock, o my god this movie is going to be awesome,Cobra looks so cool.. Really really!!!! i dont know what sh*t you guys smoke but so far this movie almost looks worst then the first… and also where the f*** is Destro!!!!

  16. Joseph Gordon Levitt did a great cobra commander/doctor. Both the acting and the voice were about as spot on as you can get without making it too cartoon like. The mask was weird, but it did resemble some sort of snake like face. If they can transition the story from where they left off in the other one, this might turn out better with the new Cobra Commander looking like the classic cartoon. They should have included Tomax and Xamot, and included back Destro. And isn’t Roadblock supposed to be black?

  17. I Love The Movie Too Much.