Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Yo Joe!!!

And the circle is now complete.

Everyday we're finding out about more old-turned-new nostalgia being revamped, updated, and repackaged for both current kids, and older kids with a disposable income. Today is no different with the announcement of Tundercats being brought to screen. But a few days ago there was another, in my opinion more significant property that we also, got a bit of news on. It's the last of the Great 80s toon to get the live action update nod G.I. Joe.

First things first. There has been no official announcement other than this: Hasbro, who own the franchise, has just struck a deal with William Morris to bring their properties to market. William Morris in turn has very smartly jumped on the opportunity, and is bringing it to Paramount in efforts to create a film. Since the previous options on a live action Joe film have recently expired. Nothing is actually known yet though. There has been no press release, or writer hired, nothing of the sort. But the red tape involved in bringing a film to us has finally been cut and if Paramount is savvy, and especially if Transformers is a big a hit as I expect it will be G.I. Joe will definitely be moving forward very quickly.

So since we have no hard information to go on I thought I'd bring you my take on what the Joe movie should be. Because I honestly love G.I. Joe. I was a fan, like most of you reading probably, from the 80s incarnation of the Joes. I own every dvd they've released of the 80s cartoon and watch them regularly. Yes; it still hold up incredibly well. I also collected the 3 3/4" action figures; and in fact, with my very first allowance ever got I bought a G.I. Joe figure. Roadblock. The only properties that I hold in as high standing as G.I. Joe in fact are probably Star Wars, and Transformers. And yes, I too despise Sigma 6. So to me the prospects of a calssic Joe movie are very exciting.

While I care about stuff like the director and the casting and the budget and whatnot. I am a big fan of the subject matter and that's what I'd like to talk about for a bit here. So lets think about this film for a minute. Obviously G.I. Joe is an ensemble film. Nominally you'll have one or two main protagonists but really its about the team as a whole. Just like in the cartoon, the potential cast of characters is really big, in fact far too big for a single film. So G.I. Joe is going to have to, at least hopefully, be a series of films. In my opinion the first film should be an origin story and should be plotted something like this.

COBRA, a ruthless terrorist organization bent on destroying the world has finally surfaced, and the only way to fight them properly is to create a hand picked super team of soldiers from varied backgrounds and skill sets. The film should follow the head of this new group Conrad 'Duke' Houser (my thought is just keep Hawk out of it for now) as he collects a ragtag team of offbeat heroes to fight this new and deadly villain. I can see the montage now... think Armageddon, only better, cause they're Joes :) Once he has the G.I. Joe strike force assembled everyone gets their code name, and they plan best how to defeat Cobra. Meanwhile Cobra Commander, a deadly S.O.B. worse than any Taliban militia man, is preparing to unleash the biggest terrorist strike on US soil ever. Alongside the shadowy international weapons dealer with a dark past Destro, and his cadre of hired goons, Cobra Commander has an insidious plot to destroy and conquer America that can only be stopped by A Real American Hero.

The one thing I'm not sure how to reconcile is the whole motivation for Cobra. World domination just doesn't fly anymore. Not in the way Cobra was out for it in the cartoon series. It's just a bit to 1970s James Bond villain. And if you want to make the story believable Cobra better be big, honestly dangerous, and damn evil. So a goal much smaller than world domination is kind of off limits too. hmmm.... we'll need to think about it. Can't be money, or something stupid like 'Destroying Freedom', it needs to be believable.... well, I'll think on it.

Anyhow, the more important thing I think is who exactly do you put in this cinematic opus??? What characters should make it, and who should be left out for the sequel? It can't be so big a cast that it intimidates newbies, and there can be any number of characters in the background waiting for a single line, or just there for the fans. For my money, here are what I think are the essential Joes for the film:
After that its a toss up between a number of characters: Alpine, Gung Ho, Cover Girl, Bazooka, Beach Head, Leatherneck, Rock n Roll, Lifeline, Dusty, Quick Kick, Barbeque, Spirit, Snow Job, Breaker, Cutter, Deep Six, Wild Bill, etc etc etc... You need to have a balance, Duke is the leader, Flint is the field commander, and I think should be the nominal protagonist. Their women need to be there for the love interest angle, so you've got Scarlett and Lady Jaye. The kids, heck everyone, wants to see a Snake Eyes/Stormshadow ninja showdown subplot, so you know those guys are in there for sure. Fan favorite Shipwreck also has to be in the main cast. He was such a foil to the regular army grunts that he makes a great addition. And while people might not agree with me I think Roadblock has to be in the film too. He was always one of my favorites. And I don't think the film would be the same without him. So that brings us to 7 regulars. I would increase that up a bit, maybe adding Gung Ho, Alpine, and Leatherneck, but I wouldn't want to go over 10 main cast members. It'll just get confusing after that. One request though, NO Sgt Slaughter... that guy got so overplayed.

As for Cobra, well there aren't quite as many great characters on this side. Since this is an origin story of sorts I suggest we keep Serpentor out of it. Have that be the main story for the second or third film. That said Dr Mindbender, and the BATs can probably be left off the list as well. The essentials are

That's all. After that you've got to decide how you want the story to go. Do you add Xamot and Tomax? Zartan and the Drednocks? Firefly and Scrap Iron can probably be thrown in the film, but so much of the plot of a G.I. Joe episode revolved around the circumstances of character that I think the choice for this first film should be clear. Cobra Commander vs Duke, that's the big showdown. That's what matters. In my opinion the rest of the team of baddies should just be wave upon wave of Cobra soldiers. That's the fight I want to see.

A few other questions present themselves when considering this film. Does anyone die? One of the staples of the show, although technically not entirely true, was that no one ever died. It wasn't until G.I. Joe the Movie, that anyone was set to die. But even then they backed away at the last minute and let Duke live. I think yes, you have to have the potential for death or there is no threat, no consequence. If anything this film MUST include is a modern sensibility of the consequence of war. Keep it free of gore, but don't kid yourself or the audience. We'll all be better served if the subject is treated with respect. I'm thinking a PG-13, although I know this in itself will be the hardest tightrope to walk while adapting this story.

As you can see. I really think this film has a lot of solid potential. I just hope they can do it justice. I suppose its funny in a way; seeing as I'm a Canadian, that I love this cartoon about US soldiers, but its really not about politics. This is a clear cut case of Good vs Evil. White hats vs Black, The Rebellion vs The Empire. And yes, I know that in today's world, we know better than ever that this is not really how things work. The real world is much more grey. I just know that despite any politics people may try to impose on a G.I. Joe film, from a character perspective, it's got a very solid grounding. The people in the G. I. Joe world were always 3-dimensional; and hopefully that too will translate to the film.

You can bet we'll be hearing more on this film in the near future. I for one am looking forward to it.


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