‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’: Bruce Willis takes command

Feb. 03, 2012 | 8:08 p.m.
gi joe retaliation G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Bruce Willis takes command

Dwayne Johnson (left) plays Roadblock and Bruce Willis (center) plays Colton in "G.I. Joe Retaliation." (Paramount Pictures)

The invasion is underway — “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” won’t arrive in theaters until June 29, but the commando sequel is already trying to win hearts and minds with the new commercial that airs on Super Bowl Sunday during the big game on NBC. It’s a film that will be driven by action and sprinkled with comedy, according to producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura, but it also aspires to bridge an interesting pop-culture generation gap.

When the first film in the franchise, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” arrived in theaters in 2009, di Bonaventura heard from plenty of confused people — the common link was that most had grown up in the 1960s or 1970s when G.I. Joe was a brand name synonymous with the 12-inch-tall military-man toy that introduced the term “action figure.” They were all unaware of the 1980s reinvention of the brand — in Marvel Comics, toys and animation — that used G.I. Joe as the code name for an elite, high-tech military force.

g i joe G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Bruce Willis takes command

G.I. Joe, old-school version (Los Angeles Times archives)

“One of the things that everybody kept asking was, ‘Who is Joe?’ Most of us who didn’t grow up with the comic books or the animated series hear the name and think of a single person, not a group,” di Bonaventura said. “People who did grow up with those comics think of it as a plural… I was someone who grew up with the action figures, so when I saw the animated series I was like, ‘What the hell is this?’ That wasn’t the Joe in my imagination.”

Viewing that schism as a story opportunity, the new movie melds the mythology of different eras by presenting G.I. Joe both as a group and as an individual. Veteran action star Bruce Willis joins the franchise as General Joseph B. Colton, the “original G.I. Joe,” and a character that actually appeared a few times in the later issues of Marvel’s military tales. Now the character moves to the very center of the on-screen universe.

“In this movie putting a face on who Joe is — in Bruce Willis — and that idea of having the original Joe is great for the audience that doesn’t know the Joe of the 1980s but knows the Joe of the 1960s and 1970s,”  di Bonaventura said. “There’s a combination of these things coming together in a really great way.”

Willis joins Dwayne Johnson as the two major cast additions. Channing Tatum, meanwhile, returns as Duke and shares the screen with Adrianne Palicki, Ray Park, Ray Stevenson and RZA.

“We have a couple of advantages: Channing is a bigger star [than he was when the first was released], Bruce is a well-established star and Rock is a well-established star,” di Bonaventura said. “That’s a big advantage over the first movie. That positions us in a way that we can say to the audience that we’re trying for a certain kind of film.”

The arrival of Johnson is interesting — the former ballplayer and wrestler seems to be in a phase of his career where he specializes in late arrivals by jumping on moving franchises to add muscle to their sequels. It worked in “Fast Five” and now he’s doing it with “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island” and the new “G.I Joe.”

gi joe G.I. Joe: Retaliation: Bruce Willis takes command

"G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero" from 1982 (Marvel Comics)

“He literally is bigger than life and I think that helps in this kind of large-scale adventure — sometimes it’s an advantage to be small and sometimes it’s an advantage to be big,”  di Bonaventura said. “In this world having the sort of physical capacity he has — on top of the ability to deliver the humor — that’s a great combination for the franchise. It’s great because [the series has] found the right tone and I think that’s so much about what the challenge of a franchise is now — finding the right tone. One of the things we talked a great deal about is that when someone gets punched, you feel the punch. It was one of the guiding principles of it. We really wanted you to feel the muscularity of the franchise, which exists in the comic books and the animated episodes. At the same time we wanted to hold on to the tongue-in-cheek humor.”

Perhaps, but the franchise has to hope that new director Jon M. Chu (“Justin Bieber: Never Say Never,” “Step-Up 3D”) can take the place of demolition expert Stephen Sommers, a director with far more experience when it comes to effects-laden projects (“The Mummy” and “Scorpion King” franchises). The first movie grossed more than $302 million and that will be both a boon and a challenge to the newcomer, but  di Bonaventura says the new recruit is ready for his tour of duty.

“He’s come to this with a certain delight in dealing with the characters,” the producer said of the 32-year-old director. “Because Jon grew up with this in his DNA, there’s a confidence that he has shown as a director that shows in the film; an understanding of these [characters] that the fans are going to appreciate as well.”

— Geoff Boucher


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16 Responses to ‘G.I. Joe: Retaliation’: Bruce Willis takes command

  1. @themunson says:

    So basically Lorenzo di Bonaventura is saying most of his acquaintances live under rocks- the only plausible excuse for anyone under the age of 45 to not have noticed the GI Joe phenomenon of the early 80's.

    Also, not to be that guy- but The Rock played college football at Miami. The term "ballplayer" is reserved for baseball players.

  2. AgentOrange says:

    Where is Sienna Miller and what have they done with her?

  3. BryanInFlorida says:

    I loved the first movie and although I grew up with the original GI Joe it was very enjoyable. It was a great cast. It was great quality. Hell for my part I wish the original cast would be in a tv series based on the first movie.

    Also to add the ego's of the big name add ins I am afraid will ruin it for me on the second movie! They should of stuck with the original cast who did a excellent job!

  4. kimila says:

    I want my wayans brother!!

  5. Lee says:

    you people must be very young, If you know anyone that served in the second world war you wou that Joe or G I Joe refered to the common soldier. meaning General Issue Joe. Check your history.

    • Richard says:

      I agree, however, the GI Joe this movie is based on is the GI Joe Cartoon and comics from the 80's which is only related to the GI Joe from the 40's or 50's in name only. To merge the two doesn't really make a lot of sense. Either base it on the original GI Joe or the cartoons.

      • Louis says:

        If you known the history of gijoe you would know that the Joel’s of the 50’s and 60’s was of the regular military they started special forces in the 70’s with the Joseph p. Colton figure and in the 80’s they brought back the unit so now know how you can have all them to gather know your history frist I know because I grow up with them when they change the name to the vdventure team in the early 70’s and knowing is half the battle .

  6. speaktruth says:

    Where is Marlon Wayans. Seems like they took out all the chocolate eye candy… just saying!!!!!! They don't have very good white candy in the movie either but I still see them.

    • BikSmoove says:

      Marlon Wayans was the only thing I hated about the first one, including Channing Tatum. Seeing as tho Im a black man myself it erks me to say M. Wayans is the worst actor in the world. On and The Rock is half black

  7. hdtrailers says:

    Why Bruce Wills looks like "hey are we doing a film here now"

  8. Hutch031 says:

    So all this time ive been waiting to see what happened after cobra commander and destro got locked up and zartan took over as a disguised president which obviously was going to have them released somehow and we pick up from there. But noooooo, gtta start a new story? Forget the 60s 70s or whatever, we want the cartoon characters!! The favorites! Duke! Scarlett! Flint! Snake eyes! Tomax! Xamot! Dreadnots! The good stuff! See now im jusy agitated! Smh!

  9. timetable says:

    It was so obvious the first GI Joe movie was made by people too old to understand the franchise at all; these statements prove that to be true and reveal that this producer doesn't spend much time with people under 40. The first movie seemed to be created by people who saw GI Joe as fun, generic action toys but had no connection to the relatively complex storylines and individual characters that made them so popular and enduring. I think the new director will do much better.

  10. hdtrailers says:

    it is nice to see the return of Joseph Brady Colton as the Joe team leader… brings back feelings of nostalgia

  11. hdtrailers says:

    ok buddy idk where you get your facts from but i get mine from fun publishing so, yeah

  12. Sgt. Andrew Scotts says:

    Channing Tatum is no Duke. Duke is a field commander, takes charge, thinks strategically and all the Joes fall into lime under his leadership. Channing comes off as athletic cocky version oh Homer Simpson that is to say he’s entertaining when he is playing a dumb jock example 21 Jump Street, Step Up ans Step Up 2. The last movies where he took on a leader role was unconvincing like Curly from the 3 stooges running for president, ex The Eagle and GI Joe Rise of Cobra. He would have been a perfect Lt. Flint, the younger arrogant half brother that is more prone to getting into mischief. Marlon Waynes is a funny comedian, loved him White Chicks and can’t wait to see him again in White Chicks 2 and Scary movie 5. Why did they put him in this action GI Joe film as a main character makes no sense. It wasn’t like kids were running to the store and screaming for a Ripchord GI Joe. Main Joes wanted was Duke, Flint, Snake Eyes, Gung Ho the calvary marine that just his presence swings the tide in favor of the Joes, Roadblock tough as it gets machine gun speacilist, Lady Jaye, and ShipWreck the loud mouth grizzly adams looking sailor. Bruce Willis should not headline the new Joe Movie looking like a tired old fart just maybe 5 yrs away from a geriatric nursing home. I hope with The Rock Dwayne Johnson that the movie will be halfway descent and convincing as an elite force worthy of the name GI Joe.

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