Thursday, March 21, 2013

G.I. Joe Creator Larry Hama Digs Retaliation

I had the singular honor earlier this week of spending nearly an hour talking with Larry Hama, the legendary comic book writer who almost singlehandedly shaped the modern day mythology of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero via his role as primary author of the long-lived Marvel Comics Joe series in the 1980s and '90s. So far-reaching was his work on the property that its impact continues to be felt thirty-plus years later on toy aisles, on comic racks, and on the silver screen.

While we covered a whole lot of ground vis-a-vis Joe (and more!) that I'll share with you next week, I wanted to tease our talk a bit by posting his thoughts on the upcoming film sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation, a preview screening of which he'd left mere moments before getting on Skype to talk to me. Given that there are few people who know the ins-and-outs of G.I. Joe better than he, and given the generally negative reaction to the first flick, what did he think of this second try? Find out after the jump:

You just got out of the screening of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Is there anything you can tell us as far as your impressions? 

I really liked it. This is actually the first screening in New York. It was a small screening, but it was packed, and the reaction seemed pretty good. I thought it was a vast improvement over the first one. I took my daughter with me. She's 22, 23, and she loved it. She's pretty critical. (laughs)

I don't want to give any spoilers, but I think they concentrated on a smaller number of characters.  The character development was really good. And the action sequences were just great. They were about physical action. My big problem with the first movie was that the big finale, y'know, was sort of like a James Bond finale.

Y'know, this ice fortress didn't really make a lot of…it was just vehicles moving, and objects exploding. There's no…it's hard to get audience involvement about things blowing up. I think the second one is a much smarter script in that it's more about the people. The characters.

Which has always been your approach to the universe...

Yeah, my approach has always been, it's all about the characters. I'm the last person to worry about continuity. I've always said from the beginning that my entire 155 issue run on the comic was all retcon from start to finish. Because I never had a master plan. I didn't even know what was on the next page. I always did it page by page. I like to think of it as the Dickens Method. Because I just did it every month to make it to the next month.

And if I got to a point in the continuity where I thought stuff was wrong I retconned it. Or, I filled the gaps as logically as I could. What I really like about the second movie is that they didn't say that the events of the first movie didn't happen. They kept the concept of that continuity but they somehow improved on where it went, which I think is kind of brilliant that they can do that.

And, they keep some of the threads going, but also slightly retcon some of that continuity. The Snake Eyes-Storm Shadow thread is much more upfront and got a lot of screen time, so that's great. And the ninja fight on the mountain fortress is just amazing. They showed a huge amount of it in the previews, but there's a lot more of it. And it's pretty amazing.

Lots of times you see these action things with lots of CG and lots of green screen, and it's like you're just following a video game. But in this case it's so well cut together with the live actors who are visibly acting and advancing the plot. I think that's a big difference.


As you know, despite some serious initial misgivings when the project was first announced, I've been feeling good about Retaliation since we got our first look at the first trailer lo those many moons ago. My screening isn't until next Tuesday, so I have to wait until then to form my own opinion, but knowing that it gets a thumbs up from Mr. Hama is definitely something any fan should be feeling good about. I'll have much more from Larry Hama next week, so make sure to check back for that Tuesday AM.

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