Ahh… G.I. Joe: Retaliation. The gift that keeps on giving.
Caught up in the “Wow” moments of last night, it was tough to sit back and look at what we saw and make judgements about the events transpiring and what they mean for the film. I will be laying some trailer related spoilers out here, so if you’re avoiding the trailer for some weird reason, you may not want to read ahead.
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I’m sure what most folks are asking right now, is how can you possibly pull 10 things out of your ass from a 3 minute trailer? Well, I’ve spent about 12 years in this hobby pulling things out of my ass, so why stop now?
Going into this trailer, we really didn’t know a whole lot about G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Aside from some great Tweets from The Rock and Jon Chu, it was still more or less a mystery. So, even with only less than 3 minutes of footage, I feel like we got some answers, but also got some great questions. Isn’t that what a trailer is designed for? Don’t people hate it when it reveals the whole story? I know I do, and while this G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer did spill its guts a little bit, it left the door open for a whole lot more.
10 – What is the tone of the film?
Obviously based on the results from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, it was prudent to expect a pretty superficial popcorn film for the sequel. The first one was, at its core, a mindless, numb, summer blockbuster that looked pretty but ultimately didn’t really make you “feel” anything. It bordered on campy, with just certain elements of realism tossed in, all amongst accelerator suits, brainwashing, and nanomites. So what about the sequel?
Well, we don’t yet know for sure, but early indications are that this is a far darker, more serious adventure. Of course there will be some humorous elements thrown in (Bruce Willis quipping about cholesterol from the back of an El Camino, for one) but judging by this 3 minutes, there will be far less camp, far more hard-edged action.
While I’m hesitant to completely shut children out of the property, for an ever-aging once 1980’s audience, I think this can be a good thing.
9 – Is it all Ninjas all the time?
All we’d really heard leading up to the trailer was how “ninja-centric” the film was going to be. Ray Park was Tweeting left and right about training and stunt work and ninja action with Elodie Yeung, and Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner had specified there would be a lot of ninja stuff as well.
Well, judging by the trailer there certainly is a strong ninja element to the story, but it’s far from 100% ninja action. We see a healthy dose of machine guns, explosions and vehicles scattered throughout the trailer, and it’s pretty clear that this isn’t just ninjas, this is military as well.
Like it or not, the ninja piece is a very strong driving force behind the G.I. Joe universe, so from what I can tell, this film (so far) is bridging both things nicely. Of course, we’ve only seen three minutes.
8 – What happened to the cast of the Rise of Cobra?
A big question many of us had coming to this film is how were the producers going to separate themselves from The Rise of Cobra, and what did that mean for the cast of the earlier film? Well, apparently it doesn’t mean anything good.
Granted, names are not specifically mentioned, but it becomes pretty clear that the G.I. Joe team gets ambushed and most of them are dead. The only carry over we get from the Rise of Cobra character-wise is Duke, so for all we know, the others might still be safe and sound somewhere, but judging by comments from Marlon Wayans, that’s not necessarily true. I’ll still keep my fingers crossed for Scarlett somewhere down the line, but for now, things look somewhat bleak.
One must wonder how that plays into Snake Eyes’ mindset. While the first film didn’t dive too deeply into the Scarlett/Snake Eyes dynamic, the body language suggested some bond was there, so I do wonder if the writers will at least make that tie-in within the confines of G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and how that plays on Snake Eyes going forward.
From the trailer we still don’t know what’s up with The Baroness or Destro, either, but perhaps that is for the best.
7 – How do the updated costumes look?
I stand behind my thoughts that the biggest issue folks had with film #1 were the costumes. The Reactive Armor just didn’t lend itself to a cutting edge military team, and people just didn’t feel attached to these weird characters in variations of black and gray. So of course a big concern about the second movie was the uniforms.
Well, Snake Eyes obviously makes the biggest impact, practically landing in our lap at several different times sporting an awesome lip-less mask, some great layered body armor, and almost a completely new look. He was impressive. The rest of the Joes are seen mostly in various different military garments, but without the Reactive Armor, and in some cases with some cool layered armor on their chests which is a neat touch.
Firefly is tough to follow as he dodges around with Roadblock, but you can make out some camouflage within his uniform, and he is sporting a balaclava in one sequence. Storm Shadow, of course, looks much the same, while the Cobra Troopers are much more “Cobra” and much less “Neo”. The Troopers look pretty great in the urban camouflage and flak vests, with those great Viper-esque helmets. Here’s hoping somewhere down the road they all end up with chrome faceplates.
And of course, there’s Cobra Commander. Ahhh, Cobra Commander. Reviled in the first film for his somewhat strange chrome and transparent goat/snake face mask that really did not evoke the character well. Personally, I thought it was a pretty cool look, but I know I’m in the vast minority, and I must admit, I geeked out hard when I saw him appear in this trailer, looking as he should. He appears to be wearing a modified version of his familiar battle helmet, with little teeth at the top and bottom, which looks fantastic. He has a long leather coat and really brings out a sense of menace and most importantly, an accurate feel for this character, who is inarguably one of the most recognizable characters from 80’s lore.
6 – What is the plot?
While most of us had an idea where the film was going due to the whole Zartan as The President story that carried over from the Rise of Cobra, we certainly got verification with the trailer. Apparently framed for a heinous crime, the G.I. Joe team is mostly exterminated, leaving the remnants to fight back against the government, who appears to be working in concert with Cobra Command themselves. How the government and Cobra rationalize their relationship isn’t quite revealed, and the whole shocking imagery of the Cobra banners unfurling on the White House is a pretty big jump, but for the most part, we now understand how this film is going to work.
I can’t help but find it interesting just how similar the themes of the movie are in comparison to the recently deceased G.I. Joe: Renegades animated series, and part of me wonders if it had to go away so the film could tell the same story a different way.
5 – Where is Destro?
That is a question many of us had, and an answer we still do not know. If I had to wager, I’d say Destro doesn’t appear in Retaliation, but is probably being kept in the back of screen writer’s minds in anticipation of the third film, where he will certainly make a triumphant return alongside a “proper” Baroness. That’s my guess, anyway, and I’m sticking to it. If the costume designers were to design a revamped Destro in the same vein as they did for Cobra Commander, watch out. We could be in for something very cool, but I stand by my thoughts that we will not see the Scottish arms dealer make an appearance in this second film.
4 – Is Cobra Commander in the film?
Leaked script sheets spoke of a scene between “CC” and “Storm” which convinced the fandom that Cobra Commander would be a part of this movie, but none of us really knew for sure until we saw him standing on that gantry with Firefly and The President. And it was awesome.
3 – What is up with the Test Tube Vipers?
So exactly what the heck is going on in that laboratory setting, where Storm Shadow is kneeling, surrounded by large glass tanks that look to contain white-uniformed Cobra… somethings. What is up with that?
And what is up with the fact that Storm Shadow actually appears to SHOOT one of the glass tanks? Why? Are they containment tanks for Cobra Commander, and this is part of Storm Shadow’s rescue? Then why are there other people in the other tanks?
Or perhaps… is this part of some twisted genetic experiment? Are we possibly seeing the birth of Serpentor? Is Cobra using DNA from these bodies, or did they use this DNA to bring Storm Shadow back to life? At one point, the Cobra ninja opens his eyes under water, which would indicate that perhaps he was, at one point, inside one of those tanks?
But then, of course, the question remains, even with all of the above scenarios, who is the person walking out behind Storm Shadow? If the ninja was rescuing Cobra Commander, that could be the Commander in some sort of suit, which helps him breathe (since he had those respiratory problems in the first film) and he adapts that suit to look more fitting later in the film. But again, who are the others?
This is perhaps the biggest mystery within the trailer, and one I cannot wait to find out more about.
2 – How did Storm Shadow come back from the dead?
Tying back in with the above issue, how exactly does Storm Shadow make his return? Obviously in those scenes with the test tubes, he’s shirtless and looking very similar to how he looked when he drifted under water in the Rise of Cobra…so did his body get recovered and genetically revived? Did he go into some sort of ninja trance and then wake himself?
Again, more questions than answers, but obviously the fact remains that he is alive, and hopefully we get a cool reason as to why.
1 – What does Duke’s “death” mean for the brand?
This is something that is very intriguing to me. There are already some conflicts within the fandom about whether or not Duke truly “died”. It is evident from the events in the trailer that the audience and the characters in the film believe he did, but did he really?
I think he just might have. So what does that mean? First of all, this totally turns the core character concept Hasbro has been marketing for 10 years now on its ear. They’ve spent so much time and money investing in Duke as the essence of G.I. Joe, to cast him aside like that seems drastic and downright shocking. Even if he’s not really dead and is only captured, it’s obvious that he plays a pretty small role in the film, and the focus is now squarely on Roadblock, a character who Hasbro couldn’t even produce until 2003 because they had lost the trademark. And heck, even when they got the trademark back, they still rammed Heavy Duty down our throats throughout Valor Vs. Venom, Sigma 6, and then the Rise of Cobra, so this sudden and dramatic leap to Roadblock is very surprising to say the least.
I will admit, I like it. Roadblock has been one of my favorite characters since the first day I bought him in 1984, and I’m glad such a focus is being put on him as a central component of the G.I. Joe film mythology. I’m not entirely sure what the long-lasting ramifications are of this removal of Duke as a G.I. Joe icon, but it could mean some serious changes down the road. I, for one, am really anticipating just how these changes impact our favorite brand going forward.
So what do you think? A little too much analysis for a 3 minute trailer? Yeah, probably, but after all the lead up, I felt like I had to get myself some pay off, and this helped. Do with it what you will.