Reflections on a Roller Coaster – the up and down ride of G.I. Joe: Retaliation

I’m not entirely sure why, but the topic of this post popped into my head rather suddenly as I really started thinking about the home release of G.I. Joe: Retaliation.  And in fact, I suppose it was the trailer that really did it.  I grabbed the trailer off of YouTube to embed it in my previous post about the release of G.I. Joe: Retaliation on Blu-Ray and DVD tomorrow, and it started playing…

…that first few seconds of music and The Rock’s little speech?  Yeah, it took me back.  I think I must have heard those words from him at least a hundred times as I watched the trailer over and over again and did screen caps, and just basked in the wonder of the G.I. Joe sequel, still not entirely sure it was really happening.

And then it wasn’t happening.

That got me to thinking about the last 24 months and what a crazy roller coaster ride the G.I. Joe fandom has been on since then.  True ups and downs, and pretty much every single emotion in between.  I thought it might be fun to take a little ride down memory lane and peek at what it’s been like for the past two years and maybe, just maybe appreciate the exciting road we’ve been on, even if it wasn’t always that fun.  Click the Read the Rest of the Story link below to check it out.

Yes, my paragraph of text above references the last “24 months” when in fact, the official kick off began just a little bit earlier.  April 15th, 2011 to be precise, when New Orleans website NOLA.com verified that filming for the G.I. Joe sequel would be filming in New Orleans at the end of that year.  The title of the film was initially called “The Cobra Strikes” but that was shot down not much longer thereafter.  Actually, it was July 20th, 2011 when we fully discovered that the G.I. Joe sequel was not going to be called The Cobra Strikes, but instead would be entitled G.I. Joe 2: Retaliation.  That link also confirmed that Arnold Vosloo would be returning to the role of Zartan, but believe it or not, that information wasn’t even confirmed for most until we sat down in the theater and witnessed it for ourselves.

I think it’s safe to say that June 6th, 2011 was a pretty large milestone as well, as we got our first hints that Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson was going to star in the film as Roadblock.  My Johnson himself confirmed the news in a Tweet that same day.  It’s hard to believe this was over two years ago that we first got a hint of what was to come with The Rock as Roadblock, and that decision would turn out to be fateful, as many would argue that it was the sheer star power of Johnson that drove G.I. Joe: Retaliation to be the box office blockbuster that it turned out to be.

While I won’t run down the announcements of every single actor involved with the film, the addition of Elodie Yung was important specifically because besides The Rock, she was the first new addition to the cast and this is the first mention we got of Jinx.

The news on June 13th, 2011 wasn’t necessarily ground breaking, but it was really the first indication we got of how pervasive this process would be over social media.  The announcement of Rhett Reese’s Twitter account, and director Jon Chu’s open announcement of welcome thoughts and ideas opened the floodgates for social media interaction, and proved without a shadow of the doubt that the folks involved in the film making process were deeply vested in the online community.  For one last casting announcement, I feel it necessary to just leave this right here.  A few short days after that post, The Rock posted this image on Twitter, giving us our very first look at Roadblock in uniform, and first exposure to Battle Kata.

Over the period of the next several months we got some more peeks into the production of the film sequel and some behind the scenes images, but the next big news would hit November 1st, 2011 which was the first footage revealed (courtesy of Entertainment Tonight):

Does anyone else remember totally over-analyzing this? Holy crap.

And then there was December 12th, 2011.  The day that would live in infamy…the day we got our first G.I. Joe: Retaliation trailer.  That music.  That cinematography.  All…those… screen…. caps.  It was our first look at any real time footage in regards to the film, and the reaction was pretty legendary.

Does that bring back memories? Yeah, me, too.

January 18th, 2012 came and went, and with it were the first hints that perhaps Channing Tatum’s Duke would not play such a central role in the motion picture sequel.  This story would go up and down and be debated many, many times over the next several months.

Three words:  SUPER. BOWL.  SPOT.

So, 2012 started off pretty great with some great positive buzz in the form of trailers, and Super Bowl TV spots, but things would start getting just a little bit rocky not long after.  Mainly it was Hasbro’s turn to throw the fandom a little bit of a curve ball.  While the toys were revealed courtesy of USA Today to coincide with the Super Bowl trailer release, the first really detailed look came at Toy Fair 2012, and the results were quite mixed.  Reduced articulation, lots of reused vehicle tooling, and a somewhat eclectic group of action figures left some fans scratching their heads and wondering how Hasbro might have missed the boat in movie scheduling.

The next monumental event (at least in my opinion) was the trailer launch on April 24th, 2011, which was essentially just another trailer, but it was a trailer advertised to hit at midnight Pacific time, which meant to stay on the ball, I set my alarm for 2:45am and got up and geeked out on Twitter for a full 60 minutes before crashing again for a couple hours.  Great interactions with fellow fans, with Jon Chu, and with the official G.I. Joe: Retaliation Twitter account made the lack of sleep more than bearable.  It made it necessary.  It certainly helped, that on the What’s on Joe Mind Podcast got Dave Tree on the horn, who had seen a preview of the film, and we got some great inside peeks.  Little would I know that this would be the last positive buzz from the film for quite a long time.

It still amazes me that we could go from such highs to such lows in a relatively short time.  May 23rd was the fateful day with the G.I. Joe: Retaliation date change announcement.  The news took everyone by surprise (including Jon Chu and Hasbro) and it was… a difficult time.  Of course, G.I. Joe fans all commiserated in one of the most impactful and cleansing What’s on Joe Mind podcast episodes I’ve ever been exposed to.  We had tons of guests, including representatives from Marvel Comics, USA Today, and contributors from all over the world.  We all came together and vented, and cleared our heads together.

…and then things went quiet.

The rumor mill swirled, cast members spoke, early screening reviews were vicious, and the G.I. Joe film era almost seemed to be over before it even began.  If there was any good news to this, I got a chance to speak directly with Jon Chu about the rumors which was a pretty cool experience.

December, 2012 was the next real emergence of G.I. Joe: Retaliation press, as a screening of the Ninja Mountain Battle was shown at BNAT 14 and got absolutely rave reviews.

devin_faraci_Retaliation_Scene

Fast forward again to March 18th, 2013 and we’re getting close to “GO TIME”.  GeneralsJoes readers and faithful news gatherers from the UK Russel Sheath and Dave Tree hit the ground running in London to attend the first G.I. Joe: Retaliation Premier and reported from the show!  While there, we got some awesome exclusive access to the man himself, Jon Chu, posting the interview on both GeneralsJoes and What’s On Joe Mind.

Along with Jon Chu, contributor Russ Sheath also got GeneralsJoes exclusive access with a great interview with script writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. With the movie release on the immediate horizon, release dates were shuffled a bit and the big news came via Fandango, which indicated that G.I. Joe: Retaliation would actually hit theaters a couple of days earlier than previously thought.

So the next eventful day was March 26th, 2013 where I got a chance to check out an early screening and finally after so many months, could fully consume G.I. Joe: Retaliation in its entirety.  Of course I posted the review post haste.

On the heels of the domestic premier for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, probably the highlight of the entire experience was the What’s on Joe Mind podcast episode celebrating the film launch, which had a very special guest, Mr. Jon Chu himself.

In like a lamb, out like a lion.  G.I. Joe: Retaliation’s build up lasted two years, and suddenly, it was done.  That doesn’t mean the news stopped and pretty shortly after the film hit theaters, a fantastic response at the box office prompted pretty quick reports from Paramount that a third film was already in the works.

Over the next few months, reports of various home releases were sprinkled throughout the Internet, everything from Steelbook to Blu-Ray Combo Packs, and most importantly, news of the Extended Action Cut, revealing an additional 13 minutes of footage in the film.  Now here, we are…on the precipice of G.I. Joe: Retaliation hitting home theaters everywhere.  As we all consume the films, the special features, the commentary, and behind the scenes features, it almost signals closure on the second film, and preparation to open the door for movie number three.  It’s another drastic turning point in the G.I. Joe film franchise, and one that I desperately hope goes more according to plan than the last one.

But regardless of the rocky road that brought us there, huge kudos go out to Jon Chu and the folks behind the second film, who took what some might say wasn’t the best foundation and did the best they could with it, successfully reinvigorating the G.I. Joe Hollywood franchise.  For that we all owe them thanks and a bright look to the future.

  • Mamu Nestor

    Jon Chu was amazing. He did a heck of a press tour. I caught his live chat interview he did, and all the WOJM interviews. Thanks to Dave Tree also. Mr. Chu was very gracious on Twitter. He is the right guy at the right time. I consumed much media about the film. ET exclusives etc. thanks Justin for all your hard work on getting the difficult to find stuff to us Joe nerds.