Monday, December 12, 2011

Movie Trailer: G.I. Joe: Retaliation

Michael Bay’s Transformers films ushered in a wave of nostalgia for 80’s toy properties.  Sylvester Stallone’s The Expendables tried to accomplish the same for 80’s action heroes.  The former was much more successful than the latter, as The Expendables required the action heroes of yesteryear to collectivize in order to achieve a respectable level of bankability in the current marketplace.  By comparison, The Transformers were able to achieve much more without having to do a crossover with other toylines.  Would it be possible for one form of nostalgia to aid the resurrection of another?  The makers of G.I. Joe: Retaliation seem to think so, as they have cast Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson in a lead role.  While not actually an 80’s action hero, The Rock unmistakably comes from that exact same mold.  Such iconography will now be used to aid the Joes in their second cinematic outing.

The story picks up right where the first film left off.  The President of The United States orders the G.I. Joe team terminated with extreme prejudice, believing them to be traitors.  Little does anyone know that the leader of the free world is currently being impersonated by Zartan, Cobra’s master of disguise.  The termination of the Joes is but the first step in Cobra’s latest plan for world domination.  Their team largely destroyed, the remaining Joes set out to stop Cobra and clear their names.

2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was but another of Stephen Sommers indistinct adventure yarns.  It was easily as bad (or worse) than any of Michael Bay’s Transformer films, but somehow escaped the same level of scrutiny.  John Chu steps in for Sommers this time out, and the difference is readily apparent.  From its opening moments, the trailer stresses militarism over the properties more cartoonish elements.  It actually looks like a modern war film set in the Middle East.  The approach is a bit more akin to that of Michael Bay, though much more visually coherent.  

Much of that is due to the presence of The Rock, who plays Roadblock.  Though he looks nothing like the cartoon and comic book incarnations of the character, he evokes the same ultra-masculine energy.  The character is a muscle bound machine gunner, which is basically what the Rock is shown to be in the trailer.  He’s definitely a more fitting hero for such a film than Channing Tatum.  The 80’s action hero iconography is fitting, seeing as how this film is based on the 80’s iteration of the toyline.

Also adding to the distinctly 80's feel is Bruce Willis, who plays General Joseph Colton.  His presence adds a nice bit of familiarity, suggesting that the film makers understand just what kind of film they are making.  Those who were lukewarm on the first film need to be reassured that they will be in better hands this time out. 
The most visually striking portion of the trailer shows Snake Eyes engaging a band of red clad ninjas in a bit of wire assisted sword fighting on the face of a snow capped mountain.  The imagery seems borrowed from Silent Interlude, the 21st issue of Marvel’s classic G.I. Joe comic series from the 1980’s.  It also calls to mind the “fire element” battles from Chang Cheh’s blood soaked Five Element Ninjas.  Ninjas have always played a significant part in the G.I. Joe mythos, and would make a welcome addition to any G.I. Joe film.

G.I. Joe #21 "Silent Interlude"

G.I. Joe: Retaliation seems a little more sure footed than the forgettable first film.  It seems squarely focused on the action elements of the property, which is the best approach for the material.  The cartoons and comics were able include elements of Sci-Fi and even fantasy.  That kind of genre mixing is better achieved over a series of films, after the audience is properly oriented to one particular mythology.   G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra tried, and failed, to present all aspects of The G.I. Joe mythology in a single film.  G.I. Joe: Retaliation seems to be easing the audience into it, distilling to property down to its militaristic roots.

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