Wednesday, May 30, 2012

G.I. Joe Déjà Vu?

"I'm still alive, y'alls! I'm all around you!" 
Last week I evinced some (okay, a lot of) frustration at Paramount's decision to jettison its highly-anticipated (by me) G.I. Joe: Retaliation from its summer perch and swap it out for a lower-profile late-March release. The stated reason offered up by the studio at the time was that they wanted to pony up the necessary bucks and time to apply the dreaded post-converted 3D process to the completed film. As it turns out, however, while 3D did indeed play a part in the decision, there may have been more to it than just that, and it brings to mind a serious case of G.I Joe déjà vu.

Back in the mid-'80s, when Marvel and Sunbow were producing the very popular syndicated Transformers and G.I. Joe animated TV series, they decided to take the plunge and put out full-length, theatrical animated features based on the properties. The first to start development was G.I. Joe: The Movie. Tasked with introducing the new year's batch of figures and vehicles into its storyline and transitioning out the old, the movie's creatives decided to weave a key plot point out of the death of Joe field leader Duke, who would take a stake through the heart after hand-to-hand combat with lead baddie Serpentor.

So enamored were they of this idea that they decided to repeat the same trick with their upcoming Transformers: The Movie, the first act of which would culminate in the death of heroic Autobot leader Optimus Prime. Various production delays eventually forced the Joe movie to fall behind, and Transformers hit theaters first, where the tragic death of Optimus Prime led to several kids and their parents completely losing their minds. The ensuing backlash prompted Hasbro to nix the impending death of Duke in the forthcoming G.I. Joe movie (which skipped a theatrical window entirely and went straight to video). Thus, moments after this fight sequence...

...there's an off-camera voiceover as Duke sinks into unconsciousness to helpfully tell us that "he's gone into a coma." Bear in mind, this is just after he's been STABBED THROUGH THE FREAKING HEART. Then, just as the movie is about to end, there's another off-camera voiceover to let us know that Duke has pulled through and everything is going to be okay. Yo Joe! Well, it looks like the sudden popularity of actor Channing Tatum at the turnstile this year (thanks to solid returns from both 21 Jump Street and The Vow) may have granted Duke a similar reprieve in the big screen wing off the franchise.

In what has to be one of the worst kept secrets of the year, Tatum's Duke was scheduled to meet his maker early in Act I of Retaliation, prompting Dwayne Johnson's Roadblock character to take over the tattered remains of the G.I. Joe team and dish out some full metal payback. This is a plot point that was essentially spoiled in trailers and interviews, so it's not like they were too worried about playing it close to the chest. Well, per Deadline, it appears that Tatum's sudden visibility in the public eye coupled with his sudden disappearance from the film didn't play well with test auds. Stupid, stupid test auds.

Now, granted, the suits are still being dodgy about whether that particular plot point will remain in place after bringing back Tatum for reshoots, but while Duke's sudden death would have been the big surprise in the film's initial configuration, the bigger surprise following the tinkering will be if he still dies. Of course, it wasn't just the need for more of that sweet, sweet Channing that prompted the release date shift. As a piece over at The Hollywood Reporter mentions, the prospect of going toe-to-toe with The Amazing Spider-Man just a week later may also have made the studio skittish.

And who knows, the way big tentpole projects have been dropping like flies this past month in The Avengers' wake, Paramount may well have been right to worry. I'm not sure what form or of what quality G.I. Joe: Retaliation's final release will be when it finally debuts next March, but if they do end up giving Tatum's Duke a stay of execution, I really hope they  explain his near-death experience with the old "He's gone into a coma" standby. You know, for old time's sake. Failing that, there's always this approach, courtesy of Brian Hall (told you he's not going anywhere!):
I'd be down for the Tatum/coma idea if it meant he'd spend the movie as a wandering spirit like Obi-Wan Kenobi. Oh man, I would love that. Wandering Spirit Channing Tatum: "Watch your six y'alls..."

1 comment:

RobRoy said...

Bwahahahah! Ah, only a handful of people truly understand the greatness of Brian's "Tatum."

I'm with you, Z. I could care less either way if he's dead or not dead or sorta' dead or they thought he was dead. I'm paying money to see The Rock and Bruce Willis kick ass in a GI Joe movie.

Say that out loud and tell me how good it feels.

The Rock and Bruce Willis in a GI Joe movie!

That is all.