As news of the G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra sequel leaked out of Hollywood, I began thinking a bit about exactly how The Rise of Cobra impacted the G.I. Joe brand and where do we go from here… sure, there is a strong collection of the fandom (myself included) who really enjoyed the first film, but I don’t think you’ll find many people who thought it really evolved the franchise in a good way. The best many folks can say is “it didn’t suck, and it was mindless fun”. Personally, when it comes to summer popcorn, I don’t need anything more than that, but considering how defined I was by Larry Hama’s work on G.I. Joe back in the day, I started thinking that maybe “mindless fun” shouldn’t be a barometer.
Then I saw this thread on HissTank.com, and it got me thinking even more about the sequel and how the brand can evolve from The Rise of Cobra, and how it can maybe save itself, so to speak. Personally, I don’t feel like it has to save itself, but many fans have already written it off, and with Paramount enlisting the aid of a pair of writers that have zero connection to the original film, I can imagine a scenario where they try and “rebuild” the film, so to speak. In my mind, there are a few ways they can improve on the mythos without just white-washing it and starting over. Click the “Read the Rest of this Entry” link below to read my thoughts, if you are so inclined.
I actually think when he’s not defending himself from folks on the site, Omegawrath actually makes a lot of sense and brings up some good questions and arguments. This is kind of where I see the faults from the first film and how they could be addressed in the sequel.
- Duke – In the first Rise of Cobra film, Duke was a perfect storm of fan anger and hatred. Most of the longtime Joe fans are not really big on Duke as it is, but throw in a pretty boy actor (who was a wooden, emotionless actor at that), totally change the core of the character, mix in some lame relationship with The Baroness and Cobra Commander, and you can be assured that Duke is the butt of many fan jokes. Out of all potential issues with the first film, this might be the hardest to overcome.
Hardest, but not impossible. We all know by now that Duke is an important character to the G.I. Joe mythos, at least in Hasbro’s eyes and the public’s eyes. He’s been the face of the franchise since the Sunbow days, so he can’t just be written out…but I think he can sort of blend to the background. He’ll have to have a part in the G.I. Joe sequel, but if they can introduce some new characters, take the focus off his backstory and just let him be a soldier, I think they can move forward with the character and get fans to sort of forget everything they can’t stand about him.
- The Baroness – The first lady of Cobra got the most defaced in many fans eyes with her portrayal in this film as nothing more than a brainwashed former fiancee of Duke who was never really evil, and never really captured the essence of the Baroness character. The end result of the Baroness was especially disappointing, because I felt like Sienna Miller did a great job portraying her, but the core of the character was so damaged by her lame backstory in the film that it watered down any possible coolness.
And yet, I think this is still salvageable. Make her a sleeper agent. Say she’d been working for MARS and Cobra all along and posed as Duke’s girlfriend to get in closer with the US Military. The “brainwashing” was just a cover, and she pics the perfect time to reveal herself and make the movie going audience realize what a duplicitous woman she really is. Sure, there are enough plot holes there to drive a few buses through, so don’t make it a focus of the story, just use it as an excuse, “retcon” the non-evil brainwashed version, and move the hell on.
- Marlon Wayans as Ripcord – I know many folks had a problem with this, but honestly I didn’t at all. I had no issues with the race change or the character change, and the comedic aspects flowed well and didn’t come across at all forced. There were a number of issues with the Rise of Cobra, I didn’t think this was one of them.
I honestly don’t think much needs to be fixed here. Like it or not, most folks’ familiarity with G.I. Joe is from the Sunbow cartoon, which had it’s fair share of humor, and I think audiences are going to expect that from G.I. Joe. Comic fans, I’m sorry, but you’re not getting gritty realism and humorless military action here, and really, Wayans’ role as Ripcord was a welcome one. There will always be a segment of the fandom that laments the change to the character, but Ripcord was obscure enough that it impacts very little in the grand scheme of things. If I had any complaints, it’s that Scarlett somehow got attached to him, and that doesn’t really work for me (or for many of the comic faithful). If I had any advice to offer, forget about that little kiss in the Night Raven, and just continue her relationship with Snake Eyes. It doesn’t have to be over the top, just the same looks and mannerisms as the Rise of Cobra, and things will be fine.
- Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow – Personally, I think the Rise of Cobra captured these two characters to near perfection…but I can’t really get over the whole orphan Snake Eyes thing. That just didn’t really work for me, and didn’t seem to work for others, especially with the idea that Snake Eyes only took a vow of silence.
Easy fix. Forget it. Just don’t mention it. We all know Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow know each other, so flash to Afghanistan, or some other modern day military theater. Don’t mention the long history of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, but understand that they’re already very close. The perfect way to introduce Stalker without using his code name, which (rumor has it) had too many negative connotations to be used in the film itself. Typical military action, typical Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes rivalry… they get ambushed by a team of mercenaries led by Zartan, Storm Shadow somehow gets humiliated (possibly to the point of dishonorable discharge?) while Snake Eyes is gravely injured and loses his voice and face. Simple as that.
- Cobra Commander – I know I’m in the minority here, but I LOVED Cobra Commander in the film…I loved him as The Doctor, and loved him even more when he finally became The Commander, even though he had a unique look that didn’t mesh with anything else we’d seen before. But there is plenty of fandom hate out there for him, and there’s nothing that really identifies this character with what the public is used to, so some changes should probably be made.
First of all, make no mention of the whole “Rex” thing. Please, just let him be Cobra Commander and hope folks just kind of forget about the whole “former best friend of Duke, Baroness’ brother” idea, because that was…well… dumb. But really, I think that’s the only thing holding him back. He established himself as ruthless and evil in the first film, Gordon-Leavitt has the voice, has the mannerisms, and has the acting chops to bring him to life. All he really needs is a change of uniform. Sure, behind the mask, he looks like Darth Vader, but as long as his mask isn’t transparent, that makes no difference. Somehow work that hood and work that mirrored faceplate into the costume and the rest will come together. The personality is already there, in my mind.
- The Science Fiction – Lots of fans…and I mean LOTS of fans want G.I. Joe to be all Blackhawk Down all the time. They want pure special ops, black ops, straight-laced military action, no ifs, ands or buts. However, that’s never been how G.I. Joe operated. Even in the earliest days of the comics, there was a very strong science fiction and fantasy bend to the mythology, and that needs to stay, but I do think a better balance can be achieved.
Rather than the obnoxious, over the top, CGI-laden stuff like the Accelerator Suits, simply inject science fiction into every day battle. To some degree it needs to be a showpiece, but it doesn’t need to be the entire focus of the marketing campaign like the accelerator suits were for the Rise of Cobra. I mean, look at the Cobra Gunship. There was never a huge focus on that particular ship, it never drove the ads, it was just kind of there, but people really loved it, it fit the story, and it fit the “10 minutes in the future” concept of the film. Stuff like that works. Keep the action-packed military operations, but continue to inject a heavy dose of science fiction, it really needs to be there for this to have a G.I. Joe film. A note to Paramount writers and producers, if you’re reading this… play all 4 Metal Gear Solid games. Then play them again. Then watch all the cinematics. THIS is how G.I. Joe could be done on a motion picture scale. Inject some more humor, make the story a bit less political, but Metal Gear Solid maintains the most seamless blend of military and future-tech that I’ve ever seen, which is what G.I. Joe’s foundation has been for twenty-seven years. Learn it and love it.
- The whole script thing – Or the fact that there really wasn’t one? And that’s not a dig, either, that’s a documented fact. Beattie was still slamming through final edits on the script while the film was shooting. And people wonder why some of the dialog is stilted and the flow is off-pace. The writer’s strike won’t be here the next time around, and according to rumors, Paramount has already tabbed the guys behind Zombieland as the next screenwriters, so things are off to the races there already.
Not sure there’s much to say about “fixing” this, other then if you’re writing a “Real American Hero” story, please study “A Real American Hero”. Not Devils’ Due. Not Valor Vs. Venom. Not Sigma 6. I love Sigma 6, and I love the Sigma 6 elements in the Rise of Cobra film, but I know damn well I’m the minority and the exception to the rule. 95% of folks who know G.I. Joe, don’t have a clue and don’t give a damn about Sigma 6. So if you’re going to invest 350+ million bucks in the film, maybe some better source material could be chosen? Ya think?
Study, study, study. Read the Marvel Comics. Watch the Sunbow cartoons. Appreciate what made the characters work on the page and on the screen over the past twenty-seven years, not over the past five. Get a feel for the “vibe”. You can marry the Sunbow style and the comics quality…it’s possible. I believe it. You just have to have the right guys writing the treatment.
Imagine if you will… the sequel opens:
1 – A large concrete gate in front of a state-of-the art prison slides open…there is a name plaque: “Blackwater”.
2 – Futuristic convoy trucks emerge from the prison, soldiers in military garb sit behind the wheels. They’re driving through a deep canyon, a winding, remote road.
3 – A streamlined military jeep pulls along side, Duke, Ripcord, and Snake Eyes inside, escorting the convoy. The Baroness is in the back seat.
4 – Some pithy dialog. Mentioning the prisoners, Cobra Commander and Destro. The Terrorist world has been quiet with them imprisoned. Almost as if waiting…
5 – Baroness looks at her watch. Waiting? No more waiting. She presses a button.
6 – The rocky sides of the canyon explode, showering the convoy with debris. Fantasy-laden flight pods are encased within, manned by fully equipped blue garbed soldiers in thick flack vests and mirrored facemasks, proudly emblazoned with the Cobra symbols.
7 – Another rockface explodes, revealing a sloped-armored tank that should look familiar to anyone. Standing in the turret is a moustached man with an eyepatch, who raises a cybernetic arm and proclaims… “COBRA! ATTACK!!!!”
With some quality special effects, this could be a tentpole moment in a summer popcorn film. Nothing extravegant…nothing we haven’t seen on weekday afternoons after school, but seeing it in live action makes all the difference. Rocket trails, machine gun fire, some flashy explosions, lots of Joes running around (cameos, anyone?). This stuff ain’t rocket science, I think we just have to have the writer (or writers) who appreciates what G.I. Joe has been about.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. To me, it was a cool 90 minute thrill ride that was definite “mindless fun”. But upon further review, should a hobby I’ve devoted 27 years of my life to be praised for being “mindless”? Perhaps not.