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I absolutely cannot say enough for my site visitors.  I have a couple of guys in the UK who absolutely went above and beyond to bring us these reports.  Dave Tree talked about the footage he saw a little over a week ago, and now Russ Sheath has taken considerable time and effort to do this write up for GeneralsJoes as well.  They get no payment for this, they do it because they enjoy the site and they want G.I. Joe fans to get an idea of what to expect when June 29th comes.

I feel extremely honored that they would choose GeneralsJoes as a place to post this information, and cannot thank them enough.  Fantastic, fantastic coverage.

Russ is a regular contributor to Aint it Cool News, and he sent them one screening report, and then wrote up a specific post geared towards Joe fans for GeneralsJoes as well.  Awesome.  Russ and Dave, you guys are both awesome.

This screening report encompasses about 10 minutes of footage, and could be considered rich spoiler material, so tread forward with caution.  There is a LOT of detail here, and Russ went through a ton of work, so hopefully folks can read it through, enjoy it, and get a good idea of what to expect come June 29th.  I know I am extremely excited.

The full post is after the jump.

Joe fan and Ain’t It Cool News contributor Russ Sheath checks out Paramount’s top secret GI Joe: Retaliation footage in London and brings you the intel.

So, Joe fans, I had the absolute pleasure to be invited by Paramount here in the UK to see some of the first footage from GI Joe: Retaliation.

Following the mixed reaction to GI Joe Rise of Cobra, this was always going to be a tough film to promote. Kids I’ve spoken to all loved Rise of Cobra but anyone over the age of 14 was far less impressed, and then there were you guys, the GI Joe fans.

A lot of GI Joe: Rise of Cobra indicated that they were on track for a movie that would satisfy fan and ‘regular joes’ alike. Larry Hama, the Godfather of all that is GI Joe was onboard with the production and they pulled together a well established and well suited cast. I think GI Joe: Rise of Cobra just goes to show how, how delicate a process crafting these movies is.

 I completely agree that, to make GI Joe work on the big screen, it has to be a ‘high tech’ response to a ‘high tech’ threat, but the more fantastical elements that take it away from being a simple ‘soldiers v terrorist’ movie and that make it uniquely GI Joe prove a balancing act.

In Rise of Cobra, we got a kids film. A modern, cinematic version of the 80s cartoon and to be fair, there was a fair bit like about the film. Ray Park’s name was mentioned as the only man who could play Snake-Eyes and a man who is a cinematic god for Asian audiences, Byung-Hun Lee as Storm Shadow was great. On the flip side we were sadly let down by an interpretation of the ninja back story that dismissed much of the mystery and drama about the Snake-Eyes / Storm Shadow relationship that made them such popular, compelling characters in the first place.

Marlon Waynes as Ripcord was a great deal more restrained than he could have been, Channing Tatum and copped a lot of flack for a fairly wooden performance (check out 21 Jump St and prepare to re-evaluate your opinion of him) as did Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje who’s cry of ‘Yo Joe’ still sends a shiver down my spine.

On the plus side you had Dennis Quaid as Hawk and Rachel Nichols as Scarlett, both turning in memorable performances, a solid performance from Sienna Miller as The Baroness as well as highly regarded regarded actors such as Joseph Gordon Levitt, Christopher Eccleston and Jonathan Price thrown into the mix.

Add to that Stephen Sommers, a director who, while admittedly has had some hit and miss  box office successes, gave us the accomplished and memorable The Mummy movies.

So, what went wrong? Well, I’m not going to dwell on that because what you want to hear about is GI Joe: Retaliation.

First, and bare in mind that I’ve only seen 9 minutes of footage from Retaliation, everything that was wrong with GI Joe Rise of Cobra is put right in GI Joe Retaliation.

From what I’ve seen today, Jon Chu and team have really captured a GI Joe that will please fans and that will appeal to wider audiences.

So, what did I see?

Well I saw several sequences extended beyond the trailer footage that is already out there. The opening scene from the trailer with Duke and Roadblock and some new dialogue as Duke talks to Roadblock about looking after his kids, establishing a friendship between one of the few reoccurring characters from the previous movie and the star of its sequel.

We see the attack from the trailer and more footage of Roadblock, Lady Jaye and Flint in the well as well as their ingenious escape as Jonathan Prices’s President announces that the GI Joe team are being hunted down.

Cut to more footage from the trailer as we descover that the motorcycle that explodes towards a building is a cobra motorcycle and it’s rider, Ray Stevenson as Firefly is breaking someone out of prison via the exploding bike and some high tech, exploding robo-fireflies in the first glimpse of the movie’s ‘tech’.

It’s interesting that while the film is certainly far more grounded than it’s predecessor, there are still glimpses of fantastical technology such as these fireflies, but the film seems certainly less ‘sci-fi’ than its predecessor and has a ‘step beyond Mission Impossible’ vibe to it. This is something that Chu and The Rock have stressed in interviews, that this GI Joe will be a more grounded, real experience.

it would appear that Walton Goggin’s Warden character, responsible for Snake-Eyes incarceration is also responsible for the previously ‘on ice’ Storm Shadow’s imprisonment. Firefly releases Storm Shadow and the two of them take out the prison guards, eventually releasing the occupant of a kind-of cryogenic pod….Cobra Commander.

I may be wrong but this appears to be the same Cobra Commander from the previous movie. As the character tumbles from the pod sliced open by Storm Shadow, we see his face briefly, revealing the same scarring as the Levitt Cobra Comander. It was difficult to tell whether it was Levitt behind the makeup and eventually the mask as he places a reflective face mask on, or not. We hear the Commander speak and he sounds more sinister and foreboding than in the previous movie and as Firefly remarks that Cobra has been without its Commander (or words to that effect) we cut to Jonathan Price’s President (President Zartan, if you will) talking to the real, captive President and remarking that since President Zartan took over the popularity polls have actually increased.

We see President Zartan addressing world leaders, telling them that Cobra will be rebalancing the power in the world as a cobra emblazoned satellite lurks above the earth and seemingly the cause of the, literally, earth shattering destruction reigned down upon London. It would seem no European capital is safe from Cobra, but to be fair Paris ‘gets it’ in almost every movie.

Cobra is overtly in league with the President of The United States and the Joes turn to the last man they can trust, John McClean, aka, Joe Colton the Original Joe, Mr Bruce Willis.

The Joes arrive at Colton’s house and Bruce breaks out the artillery as they head off to seemingly thwart Cobra.

Bruce and The Rock have some great dialogue together in this footage as is testament to two of the most charismatic actors in Hollywood. The same bad-assed-ness that The Rock bought to Fast 5 is present here and Bruce Willis is…well….Bruce Willis!!!!  John McClean, or for the older fans and Kevin Smith, David Addison (did I just show my age)!!!

There were a lot of very quick shots, Lady Jaye and Jinx featuring heavily, helicopter’s taking off and Roadblock driving what looks like the movies interpretation of a Hiss Tank.

And so, to the Ninja’s.

Snake-Eyes looks fantastic and while I wasn’t initially sold on the mask, it works very well on screen. The visor closer fitting to the face looks unique and very cool and elements of the mask looking similar to the one worn in the excellent GI Joe Resolute animation.

Storm Shadow too looks more ‘ninja like’ and it’s clear that two of the most popular elements of the original movie are going to be taking it to the next level. We meet Storm Shadow in a hallway of what looks to be a monastery (could this be the same building glimpsed atop the mountain battle scene) as drums echo to a beat that reminded me of the rooftop chase in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. This really set the atmosphere and tension of this scene, I’m not sure if it was a temp track and much of the footage was set to the White Stripes remix from the trailer, but it really worked.

Storm Shadow launches a hail of shuriken at Snake-Eyes who shoots them out of the air with his Uzi-like HK MP7, a great nod to another classic element of the Snake-Eyes mythos as Storm Shadow, Sai in hand does battle with Snake-Eyes. the martial arts action looked great, there was a definite Chinese martial arts movie feel to the footage, similar to Crouching Tiger or Hero, but without the over the top elements, this looked like a fight that belonged in a martial arts movie, an eastern feel with a western edge.

We then cut to an extended sequence from the mountain-side ninja battle, as Snake-Eyes and Jinx zip-line across the mountainside and do battle against the red ninjas, ending in an avalanche.

Again, to me, the ninja element of Joe was one of the most compelling. Reading the comics I was enthralled by the mystery of Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow’s relationship, these two most unusual yet similar characters amid this world of soldiers and how their soap opera like story would play out.

Similarly, the mystery of Cobra Commander, who was this enigmatic man?

 I loved that he was a guy who was pushed too far, broken, lost everything and fought back against the system, recruiting an army. All elements that would have translated almost perfectly from panel to screen, sadly that was not to be due to the first movie, but Retaliation clearly has the fans in mind, righting the wrongs and from the footage shown offering us a lot to look forward to.

Back in the screening, there were, again, many more shots that flashed by, Bruce Willis’s Joe Colton taking out a guard, could the Joes be assaulting the White House?

So, all told. What did I think of the footage?

Well, as a GI Joe fan I think Jon Chu has bought us the GI Joe we’ve been waiting to see.

Retaliation, from the footage I’ve seen, links to what has gone before in Rise of Cobra, continuing that storyline but very much with its own sense of style, overcoming what has come before and rebuilding that which was damaged.

I think the comics to screen translations since 2000’s The X-Men right up to this summers The Avengers have show us the balance between very literal translations of the comic book panels and the differences in how they are received (Watchmen, 300, Scott Pilgrim) what can go horribly wrong (Ghost Rider, X-Men Last Stand), but also where the balance had been achieved (Iron Man, Avengers, X-Men First Class, Spider-Man).

Mark Stephen Johnson and Bryan Singer are both fans of the source material, however Daredevil and Superman Returns weren’t received well at the box office. X-Men First Class is widely admired yet drew little from the panels of any specific comic book while Chris Nolan’s Batman movies took core elements from specific books or stories, dared to contemporise the mythos and were well received. I guess the point I’m trying to illustrate is that it’s not an exact science, making these movies (although some things are common sense… Lips on a mute ninja, anyone).

GI Joe has not just one comic book identity but four. It has cartoon series, an animated movie and toy lines, each with their own fans and detractors.

There are some elements that should never be a literal translation from panel to screen, can you imagine Serpentor with his cowl on screen? I’m trying not to, but, that doesn’t mean that at some point we couldn’t see a character called Serpentor and an internal power struggle in Cobra, the twins Xamot and Tomax or a town called Springfield under the control of Cobra.

From the footage I have seen today Jon Chu and crew have taken some of the best elements of what I loved about GI Joe as a kid, what i love now and what makes me sit here at twenty to one in the morning, aged 38, writing this piece for you. For that this movie gets my absolute support and it’s why you will love this movie too.

I think Larry Hama is going to love seeing this version of his creation on screen, I think that fans and movie goers alike are going to be incredibly happy with this movie based on the footage I saw today and I can’t wait to bring you more as the publicity ramps up.

Whichever version, incarnation or interpretation of GI Joe bought you to this site, GI Joe : Retaliation is going to be YOUR GI Joe movie.

Follow Russ Sheath on Twitter @russwords

Russ Sheath is a regular contributor online to Ain’t It Cool News and in print in CLiNT Magazine.

Russ, thank you so much for your in depth analysis and report on this G.I. Joe: Retaliation footage.  Very much appreciated.