After G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra left some moviegoers and critics underwhelmed (or possibly overstimulated), Paramount Pictures knew they needed a different approach for the sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation. While the first movie, directed by Stephen Sommers, was a commercial success, it fell short of being a sure-fire franchise launch and paled in box office comparisons to the other Hasbro/Paramount team-up Transformers.
As a result, the studio, courtesy of producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, has gone back to the drawing board for their follow-up - picking certain elements from the prior film to carry into a sequel and, subsequently, trimming the aspects (and cast) that no longer fit. It was a risky gamble; however, based on the time we've spent on set talking to the filmmakers and previewing what audiences will see when G.I. Joe: Retaliation finally hits theaters this Spring, Paramount has given us some convincing reasons to shout "Yo Joe" again!
We'll be publishing a full report of our time on the G.I. Retaliation set in the coming months but in anticipation of a new 3D trailer for Retaliation that is attached to Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, we're offering our readers a sneak peek at a few conversations with the film's stars, producer, and director - as well as snippets of behind the scenes insight.
After arriving on set, di Bonaventura was the first person that we had a chance to sit down with and the producer helped provide context for the retooled approach to the G.I. Joe film franchise. Essentially, di Bonaventura asserted that following the Rise of Cobra release, the filmmakers realized that while they got a lot of things right, there was also plenty of room for improvement:
I was trying to think back when we started first talking about the fact we were going to try to, I’ll say, reenergize the cast – if anybody had really tried that in a way. I think either people abandon everything and start over or hold onto everything.
So by process of elimination or by process of feeling our way through it, came to this sort of balance. It’s interesting because, I’ve watched a lot of the footage, and it doesn’t feel like we’ve stepped away and yet we have. It’s a really interesting thing. I can’t really explain it because it was a sort of ‘feel your way through it.’ One of the things we wanted to do was we wanted to try to bring an uptick of machismo to the cast and with Rock and Bruce we sort of got a lot right there. Boom. But at the same time when you look at some of the secondary characters now, like Walt Goggins who is a great actor and he has a really fun role. Joe [Mazzello] is in there – and the RZA. I think all of those things have brought a different flavor, and at the same time, it’s Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow and we’re fighting the same battle – a new and improved Cobra.
G.I. Joe fans have already seen Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow return in the latest Retaliation trailer but, based on our time on set, viewers should prepare for their arc to be a major component in the film. Their shared origin story, told in Rise of Cobra flashbacks, set the stage for further exploration (both past and present) and it sounds as though viewers will get that chance in part two.
Discussing his role in the sequel Ray Park (Snake Eyes) promised another round of intense confrontations between the two characters:
We wanted to make it real. Like it's two brothers fighting, there's a lot of aggression. Instead of flashy-flashy and doing flips in the air, we wanted to tell the story throughout the fight as well. There's a lot of good moves, a lot of great choreography that we worked on.
The larger attempt to make set-pieces "real" is a response to what many viewers described as a "cartoony" look to Sommers' Rise of Cobra. For some, the over-the-top action in the original film was in keeping with the tone of the 1980s cartoon; however, when competing with films like Olympus Has Fallen at the 2013 box office, the filmmakers realized that they'd need, as di Bonaventura put it, "gravity."
Or, as star Dwayne Johnson described his Roadblock character, "badass":
It’s a lot of fun. The character is a lot of fun. You start to understand the mythology of the character, how he fits into the G.I. Joe world - and this version of Roadblock is a bit more boots to the ground badass.
Movie fans following G.I. Joe 2 development were surprised to hear that Paramount had tapped director Jon M. Chu (best known for the Justin Bieber film Never Say Never) for this "badass" sequel with "gravity." While jumping from Bieber to Blind Master was certainly an unexpected move for the filmmaker (a popular topic in the comments of our announcement post), Chu's love for the source material provides a fresh and honest perspective for the production. He wants to make a G.I. Joe film that he, as a fan of the franchise growing up, would want to see.
Speaking on his approach to the film, and why he believes Paramount gave him the job, Chu said:
Convincing them to hire me for the job I guess was just my expressing my passion for the characters and how we want to make it human while also grounding the characters. Make them individuals because that’s what I love. My Roadblock is MY Roadblock. [Talking about his childhood action figure] He was a person with a personality and with a different uniform than everyone else who had an arm missing and that chip in him was the cool thing about him.
We'll know for certain whether or not Chu's efforts payed-off when Retaliation hits theaters (now in 3D) this spring. Closer to the film's release date, we'll launch our full set of interviews with the cast and crew - along with detailed descriptions of the scenes and sets we had a chance to see first hand. In the meantime, check back soon for our impressions of behind closed doors 3D footage from the final film - as well as further comments from Chu and di Bonaventura.
Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on G.I. Joe: Retaliation as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation releases on March 29, 2013.