For over twenty years, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura has been the man behind some of the biggest (and most controversial) film projects in Hollywood – many of which draw from geek-friendly source material: video games, comic books, and 1980s cartoon series. As a Warner Bros. executive, Bonaventura helped secure the rights to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as well as discovered fan-favorite filmmakers, The Wachowskis (actively working to get their first Matrix film off the ground). By 2005 Bonaventura was releasing his own films, through di Bonaventura Pictures, including Doom and Constantine – followed by the mega-profitable Transformers in 2007 (along with its two sequels).
Bonaventura is also the man behind G.I. Joe: Retaliation (read our review) – a reboot/sequel follow-up to the producer’s box office success but critical failure with G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra in 2009. As a result, it was only a matter of time before the producer was asked about a G.I. Joe + Transformers team-up film – since the pairing has been the subject of multiple comic book story lines.
If you’re interested in Bonaventura’s thoughts on semi-rebooting G.I. Joe in Retaliation, as well as other interesting behind-the-scenes details, check out our coverage from the film’s set. However, the G.I. Joe + Transformers team-up comment came from an interview with Cinemablend, where Bonaventura addressed the growing trend of “shared universes” in the film industry (a la The Avengers, X-Men: Days of Future Past, and possibly DC’s Justice League):
What’s your perspective on [shared universes] personally and is it something you could see being part of future projects you’re working on? For example like G.I. Joe and Transformers both happen to be Hasbro, Paramount and you.
Bonaventura: I guess it’s possible. I don’t know. I think I probably at this moment, I resist it. I don’t know necessarily why, but I just think there’s so much that’s so rich in the mythologies that I don’t think they need to draw from the other. I think, I didn’t rule it out for me and I think those things have somehow for me, sort of in the past, they made me feel like a little bit cynical exercises in just drawing money out of something. It’s not to say you couldn’t do it well, but both these properties have such rich mythologies with so many characters, that you could go a lot of movies before you start running out of ideas of what to do. But it’s not to say, if we found the right… I’d hate to set out to do that, but if I heard a story where we went, “Oh my God…,” I could see a story right now about machination, machination of war and that could lead you sort of intrinsically to a Transformer.
I think in general, Marvel is doing it within their own universe, right? And so it doesn’t feel gimmicky in that way. I think that’s what I would really try to resist.
As mentioned, G.I. Joe and Transformers do team-up in certain comic book story lines, so it’s not a total stretch for either movie franchise – especially given that despite aiming for “realism” both film series are still, on the surface, based in very cartoonish ideas. That said, the Hasbro mash-up would, as Bonaventura asserts, be a bit more “gimmicky” than Marvel’s Avengers or a DC Justice League film series. There is overlap, given that larger-than-life science fiction ideas (not to mention cool vehicles) serve as a foundation for G.I. Joe and Transformers but outside of a high-impact marketing idea, it’s hard to imagine a 2.5 hour film that could serve so many different characters while attempting to stitch together all of the potential plot hurdles – without reducing nearly everyone (and every bot) to empty caricature.
In fairness, the question was in reference to a shared movie universe – so it’s certainly possible that if Bonaventura was interested in the idea (which isn’t likely any time soon), the filmmakers could build toward the team-up in further standalone Joe and Transformer films (establishing a core cast of main characters and parallel plot threads) before pulling everything together for a mega-crossover.
Still, if you could develop a plausible storyline, what does G.I. Joe bring to the table in a film wither giant shape-shifting robots? Aside from Ninjas, what would keep the G.I. Joe characters from being anything but the same disposable military personalities that we’ve already seen in the Transformers series? The G.I. Joe franchise has the foundation for memorable characters but in a cluttered film with robots, ninjas, terrorists, and more, it’s hard to imagine there would be time to give everyone a worthwhile moment to shine.
As cool as it would be to see Snake Eyes take-on a Decepticon, Paramount Pictures and Bonaventura have too much riding on these two franchises to make this idea all that plausible – unless of course Hasbro thinks it would help sell more toys. In which case, G.I. Joe + Transformers really is a possibility.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation is in theaters right now and Transformers 4 opens on June 27th, 2014.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Transformers 4 as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.