Remember the days when G.I. Joe 3 had a writing and directing team in place, and wasn't just drifting through production limbo like so much blockbusting flotsam? Not too long ago, Paramount had Jon M. Chu locked in to continue steering the Joe ship (following his efforts on G.I. Joe: Retaliation), and with Snow White and the Huntsman screenwriter Evan Daugherty putting pen to paper on the new film's script; they made a fine franchising combo in the abstract. If nothing else, they put the movie on rails.
But then Chu got caught up with directing an update on 80s cartoon Jem and the Holograms. At the time, this didn't strike anyone as problematic, per se - the announcement came packaged with assurance that Chu remained on Go Joe duty - but everybody needs a solid commercial filmmaker for their burgeoning movie series, and so Chu suddenly found himself in the lead to work some magic with Lionsgate's Now You See Me 2. As Chu went AWOL on G.I. Joe 3, so too did Daugherty, it seems, leaving Paramount two sandwiches short of a full picnic basket.
Good news for fans invested in the continued adventures of the Joes, though, courtesy of Variety: the company has bounced back and hired themselves a new writer, one Jonathan Lemkin, who cobbled together the screenplay on 2007 Mark Wahlberg vehicle Shooter. Lemkin also owns credits on The Devil's Advocate, Red Planet, and Lethal Weapon 4. More tellingly, he's also currently typing away on The Longest Night, another Paramount joint, making G.I. Joe 3 his second writing gig with them.
And so the production is halfway to shifting back into gear. What does Lemkin bring to the proceedings, though? Truth to tell, it might not matter all that much in an ongoing saga like G.I. Joe, which has changed hands twice since 2009 (Stephen Sommers directed the first, Chu the second, and a mystery guest will handle the third); if anything, it's Lemkin who's benefiting from series producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura's clear statement of intent with the next picture, namely "simplify, simplify", and not the other way around.
That's a fine starting point for any modern day tentpole film, though, and while Lemkin's previous projects have often erred on the more complex side of plotting, he should be in good standing here. His only overarching goals here are to keep the story tight, and to give its new star, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, an expanded part. That presumes, of course, that Johnson deigns to lend his considerable screen presence to G.I. Joe 3 to begin with, though there's no official word on that in the face of upcoming solo ventures (Hercules) and role reprisals in ongoing franchises (Fast & Furious 7).
What we do know, lucky for Lemkin, is that G.I. Joe 3 won't mash together Joes and Autobots as so many children of the 80s loved to do in their sandbox play sessions of yesteryear. Walking into an established property as the new guy is difficult enough. Walking into a merger between two established properties sounds like a nightmare. In that respect, Lemkin's job here is pretty straightforward: revitalize a lackluster franchise with tight scripting.
G.I. Joe 3 is expected to be released sometime in 2016.