Paramount‘s “G.I. Joe” franchise is a bit like the Canadian rock band Nickelback: no one admits to liking them, not one person we know listens to or enjoys them, but clearly someone is buying their pedestrian CDs and attending their concerts in droves. And like the band’s poor reception from anyone resembling critics yet still just doing fine thank you, despite being thrown together before the late 2008/2009 writer’s strike, and generally receiving poor reviews (34% RT score, 32 Metacritic score, even a 5.6 out of 10 from the perpetually forgiving, easy-to-please and populist IMDB crowd), “G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra” went on to gross $302 million worldwide (thanks, international market).
But budgeted at $175 million, the film only grossed $150 million in the U.S. Add in P&A for domestic and international, and the ways studios and theaters split costs, and you have a film pretty much operating at a loss. However, “G.I. Joe” is still a potentially lucrative franchise and Paramount — who don’t want to squander the rights they paid for from Hasbro — decided to bite the bullet and in a way, start over.
By all accounts, “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” isn’t so much a sequel as it is a sorta do-over. For example, Cobra Commander is in this second installment, but producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura said he’s not played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt and the character is a “different guy” this time. Whatever that means, and in his coy way, he describes it as a “hybrid” sequel. “It’s not a reboot; it’s an evolution,” he said.
Even the producer admitted the first film’s production (like many films developed during the writer’s strike) was woefully rushed. “The first one suffered from one thing a lot: which was we had no time to make it,” he recently told Moviefone. “They green lit the movie and we were shooting ten weeks later. That’s insane. In this movie we were designing things seven months before we shot. So when you have no time to do anything, your first design comes through. Literally, Storm Shadow’s costume, we never saw it until it showed up on set.”
Starring Dwayne Johnson and Bruce Willis, with Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce and Lee Byung-hun reprising their roles from the first film, ‘Retaliation’ was penned by “Zombieland” writers, Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, and is directed by Jon M. Chu (“Justin Bieber: Never Say Never” and two “Step-Up” films). Will that make it worthwhile? We’re still on the fence and recently placed ‘Retaliation’ on a list of sequels that no one actually asked for.
This is a long-winded way of saying, here’s Bruce Willis holding a gun, pointing it and looking determined… For what arguably is the 9 millionth time in his life. Congratulations? “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” hits theaters June 29.