Why am I even bothering to pitch this one, you ask? G.I.Joe will most likely not be getting a sequel. ‘Rise of Cobra’ did not bomb but it didn’t exactly set the box office alight either. Not to mention that there are probably very few people out there salivating for another film.
But dammit, I am. The first film is undoubtedly going to make it onto my top ten favourite films of the year, not because it is one of the best but just because I had such a good time watching it. Where Transformers 2 crashed, burned and wasted my time for an agonizing 150 minutes, G.I.Joe had a pulse; it had energy, action sequences where I could actually make out what was going on and it gloriously revelled in the kind of large scale absurdity that no action/spy films do these days, the rest of them so determined to be gritty and realistic.
In all honesty, I think if a sequel really is going to be made then its going to be a step down in quality (and the series wasn’t on that high of a pedestal to being with). My sadistic side wants to see the film made purely for the pleasure of seeing Christopher (never should have left Doctor Who) Eccleston and Joseph (eyebrows should have been given separate billing in the credits) Gordon-Levitt prance around for two whole hours in those ridiculous masks. I want to see just how crazy this show can get. But it’s my job on ‘memo to the executives’ to take things seriously and have an honest stab at how a sequel to G.I.Joe could, potentially, rock the lives of the kids who grew up with it.
Let’s start with the story threads the last film left us with. Cobra Commander and Destro are incarcerated. The Baroness is seemingly a normal person again having had her mind control thingy removed and despite these setbacks, master of disguise Zartan is now sitting comfortably in the oval office under the guise of the President of the United States. Even in defeat, Cobra has taken over the country. Despite what I believe is a blatant rip off of Mystique taking the identity of Senator Kelly in the first X-Men movie, there is a lot that can be done with the idea of a Cobra operative being one of the most powerful men in the world.
What I would really love to see is a slight change in tone, edging more towards satire. You got the feeling with the first film that it knew it was meant to be fun but it wasn’t always aware of how silly it was. The cartoon always had that self awareness. In one particular episode entitled ‘Cobrathon’, the Joes raided Cobra Commander’s secret stash of treasure rendering him bankrupt. In order to raise five billion dollars to keep Cobra from sinking, the Commander decides to hold a telethon. In the midst of all this, the Joes raid Cobra’s HQ, ‘The Terrordrome’, but instead of a fight against a million enemy soldiers they find a real estate auction going on. That’s the kind of absurdity I want to see.
So imagine that with all his power and influence President Zartan is not only able to get Rex/Cobra Commander and Destro released but frame the Joes as a rouge outfit that launched an unprovoked assault on the MARS Industries weapons facility in order to steal its state of the art technology for itself. Having blown the lid off of G.I.Joe to the rest of the US defence community and the public, they find it very easy to swallow the story they are being fed. Meanwhile, since we were told in the last film that MARS makes 70% of the world’s weaponry, surely the war economy of the entire planet would collapse overnight if it went belly-up. As such, the world powers are only too eager to apologise for the events of the last film and hand over an entire private island (somewhere exotic like Palau for example) to Rex and Destro to rebuild their organization and get back making their state of the art weaponry. Cobra Island is born.
From here, things can get really crazy. MARS Industries is rebuilt into the Cobra organization and Rex and Destro realise that there won’t be any need to plan nuclear assaults or schemes of world domination any longer. The world has just been handed over to them. They have the funds and the skills to continue pioneering deadly weaponry. With a President already in their pocket they can influence policy and rig the elections to make sure they keep Cobra in office. We could see a direct lift of that episode of the cartoon and watch Cobra’s first annual telethon. We can start a scene from the outside of the Terrordrome as the camera closes in and hurls through its foreboding giant doors and ominous corridors. Expecting to see Cobra soldiers doing drills or torturing prisoners or some such despicable act, we actually see a bunch of them sitting at desks with headsets operating a call centre for their legitimate arms operation:
“Good morning, you’re though to Cobra customer service line. My name’s Gerry, how can I help you?”
“Yes sir, five trouble bubbles and a Neo Viper; would you like a receipt for that?”
“No madam, fuel is not included with the Cobra Rattlers. I made that perfectly clear when you ordered them.”
“Congratulations, you’ve placed on order for $500 million dollars or over which makes you qualify for one of our free gifts. You can choose from a nanomite needle starter kit or a chocolate fountain.”
Ok, I’m trying to be funny (with ‘trying’ being the operative word). I’m not suggesting the next film become an all-out comedy but that it harness the biting humour of its source material, while also maintaining the wonderful character dynamics that we remember. If you ask me, the relationship between Starscream and Megatron in Transformers cannot hold a candle to the power struggle between Cobra Commander and practically everyone in his organization trying to overthrow him.
While G.I.Joe, having been driven underground to escape arrest, can do nothing but watch in horror as the world turns to ruin. Their only hope seems to be, as it usually is with successful companies, the greed, jealousy and ambition of the people within. The Baroness is recruited by the Joes as a double agent, being their only hope of infiltrating Cobra Island. But once she reunites with her old lover Destro, who secretly plots to overthrow Cobra Commander and take back the organization for himself, she begins to question which side she’s truly on. Meanwhile Cobra Commander, being no fool, is on to Destro’s plan and has an equally sticky end planned for him. And in the middle of it all Zartan, knowing he is the cog in the machine which keeps everything running, starts to have second thoughts of his own about whether he wants to be Cobra’s lap dog for the rest of his life or actually run the country himself.
Whether you liked or disliked the portrayal of the bad guy characters in the first film, I think it should be easy to mould them into something truer to the source material, with one exception. The first film’s portrayal of Cobra Commander, or Rex the eyebrow raising doctor, whatever you want to call him, did not sit well with me. The whole appeal of the character in the comic and cartoon was that you didn’t know a thing about him or his past, beside the fact that he was the leader of a ruthless terrorist organization determined to rule the world. People like that tend to keep their identity hidden. You could imagine anybody was under that mask. You could create your own backstory for him. The filmmakers felt the need to provide an origin for the character and tell us exactly how he became Cobra Commander. The problem you now have is that the fans want to see a masked look that is faithful to the source material but the adaptation in the first film provides no logical reason for it. What is the point of Cobra Commander wearing a mask encasing his entire head if Duke and the Joes now know exactly who he is and what he looks like? I think I’ve answered my own question.
Maybe some of you out there enjoyed watching Rex (the friend), Baroness (his sister) and Duke (her lover) play happy families in the last film and want more of it in the second, particularly the concept of how the relationship will now play out between brother and sister now that she knows the truth. But I’d rather not. Personally, I think this particular commander needs to be cut loose. I would keep Rex as Cobra Commander for the first half of the film while introducing a mysterious masked character who acts as his own personal bodyguard. Once Cobra’s world arms selling operation is in full swing, Destro makes his move to dethrone the commander and recruits said bodyguard to kill him. Rex doesn’t see the enemy in front of his face and is promptly assassinated paving the way for Destro to take control of Cobra, but the bodyguard has other plans. He assumes the mantle, identity (and costume) of Cobra Commander giving Destro the impression that it was Rex who managed to survive and kill his assassin thus stopping the planned coup. Destro returns to plotting his next takeover assuming that the commander is unaware that he was the orchestrator. Only the audience knows the Commander is now the very man Destro hired to kill him. With this foundation, we get a new Cobra Commander, one whose face we have never seen, with no past and by the bodyguard allowing Destro to remain ignorant of the truth, we have no idea what his true game plan is. And if the fans are still unhappy, I see no reason why the costume can’t be changed to the traditional blue duds and chrome face plate, and that they can’t get the best Chris Latta impersonator in the land (if there is such a man) to supply the original voice we all remember.
But just a moment; we haven’t really talked about the Joes themselves yet. Does anybody really care about the ones we got in the last film? I shouldn’t think any audience is excited about the prospect of Channing (last choice) Tatum leading the charge of a bunch of characters only slightly less bland than him. I’d like to suggest something drastic. For the next film, why don’t we get an entirely new line-up of Joes and completely remove the team from the first film. After all, G.I.Joe is a huge operation with a huge list of characters still waiting to hit the big screen. I can think of nothing that will get the fans excited more than saying the team from the first film are on a mission somewhere off screen, allowing a whole new roster to save the country. I suppose they could keep Snake Eyes but he has to lose that ridiculous rubber mouth. But you can also pick from Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, Roadblock, Quick Kick, Lifeline, Dialtone, Gung-Ho, Wetsuit, Leatherneck or my personal favourite Beachhead, the ill tempered drill instructor. This could be an element which makes the series stand apart from all other ‘team’ movies. Rather than continuing to develop the characters you have and throw new ones into each successive film to appease the fans, switch the team around. It isn’t as if there are any characters to develop from the last film anyway.
While having mentioned what to change, I want to make note of how much I enjoyed the action sequences of the first film. It was amazing to find, after groaning through trailers and TV spots of those accelerator suits, that the actual Paris chase sequence with Duke and Ripcord running at super speed against the flow of traffic, dodging flying cars as if they were basketballs, was huge fun. I want the scale upped in the next film. I want aerial dogfights and kung-fu. I want to see a massive free for all scrap on the deck of the Joes aircraft carrier the USS Flagg (the toy of the 80’s that no child could afford) where Shipwreck and Destro have a sword fight. And I want to see the Joes make the final charge though Cobra Island’s defences and march on the Terrordrome. When the chips are down, even in the face of a country which has abandoned them, the Joes never give up the fight for the US of A; hence the well earned subtitle ‘a real American hero’.
So what do you say folks? Are you ready to cry “Yo Joe’ once more or am I just flogging a dead toy?
p.s. I don’t want any stupid ‘Black Eyed Peas’ techno rap song playing during the end credits either. There’s nothing that says G.I.Joe less.