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Merrick here...  

Russ Sheath from AICN comics just got a look at nine minutes of footage from G.I. JOE: RETALIATION,  director Jon M. Chu's forthcoming sequel to Stephen Sommers' surprisingly enjoyable 2009 action adventure.  

With the embargo on this material now lifted, Russ was eager to share his thoughts on said footage...saying that "Chu and The Rock get GI Joe right."  

Here's Russ with more...


 Hey Harry
I thought you and the AICN readers would like to hear my thoughts on the new GI Joe Retaliation footage that was screened by Paramount in London today.
Paramount showed nine minutes of new footage as well as the new trailer which I believe is due for release this week.
The footage shown was extended scenes from the trailers we have already seen which followed a video introduction from producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura.
The first thing that strikes you is that this is not the same GI Joe that has gone before!
If you have seen the preceding trailers for GI Joe Retaliation the first thing you will note from the footage and from the press is that the movies star, Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock and director Jon Chu have been keen to stress that this is a much more grounded and mature GI Joe than the previous movie, the Stephen Sommers directed Rise of Cobra.
Gone are laser weapons and outlandish flying machines, THIS GI Joe is is more gritty and real. 
Admittedly the footage shown indicates that Retaliation is still keeping with the 'tech' aspect of GI Joe, but the whole atmosphere just feels more realistic, more akin to the excellent Warren Ellis penned GI Joe Resolute animated series that came out a couple of years back, not in content but in its general outlook.I guess a good indicator is the tech and approach taken by The Transformers movies in portraying the military. This is more 'Mission Impossible' tech (with a few exceptions) than the cartoon influenced predecessor.
We saw a flash of sequences from the existing Retaliation trailer and the first extended scene we see is a prison break sequence as Firefly, played by Ray Stevenson breaks Storm Shadow and Cobra Commander out of prison. This prison is seemingly the same shown in previous trailers that holds Snake-Eyes captive as Walton Goggins character is taking Snake Eyes captive and is then seen attempting to stop the escape of Storm Shadow.
Some fast cuts and martial arts action as Byung Hun Lee's Storm Shadow dispatches the guards and breaks out Cobra Commander. It's no surprise that Storm Shadow survives his icy fate at the end of the last movie and here he joins Cobra Commander (that's him in the mirrored face mask in the trailers and then later in the black leather ensemble and classic Cobra Commander mask) in busting out of prison aided by Firefly, an exploding motorcycle and some pretty nifty exploding robotic fireflies aiding the escape. We get some Firefly dialogue from Ray Stevenson too, who retains his English accent.
It was difficult to tell whether that was Joseph Gordon Levitt as Cobra Commander from the quick glimpse we got of the unmasked, scarred leader of the Cobra Legions and I'd be keen to know who voiced him, as we heard the Commander speak he sounded much more sinister and commanding than in the previous movie.
We re-establish that the President of the United States is not only in league with Cobra, but if you remember he has been replaced by Zartan, a cobra agent. The world learns that the President is in league with Cobra and a satellite weapon is holding the world to ransom. we see a city, possibly London, literally quake under the effect of this weapon as the President tells world leaders that Cobra will usher in a redistribution of power around the world.
Some more previously seen trailer footage takes us to the one man who can help the disavowed surviving Joes, the original GI Joe, Joe Colton aka, Bruce Willis.
Bringing Bruce Willis to the party amps GI Joe to the next level as the Joes track down Colton in his home, with some great dialogue between Willis and The Rock as they bust out the heavy weapons and the Rock drives what looks like a classic GI Joe Hiss Tank vehicle into battle.
Some quick shots of Lady Jaye and Jinx establishing that the ladies of GI Joe get their share of the action too and it's then to the ninja action.
The ninja aspect of GI Joe lore was what really took the concept away from its more grounded soldiers V terrorist concept and into a great, fun mythos and it was Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow that really proved the core and the most popular character, the mystery of their relationship unfolding as their fates and those of other GI Joe characters intertwined. In the middle of a world of soldiers v terrorists with high tech vehicles was this soap opera-esque mystery about the arashikage ninja clan.
 it was bewildering that in the first GI Joe movie they managed to get the ninja aspect of GI Joe so wrong, when an almost direct translation from Larry Hama's stories in the comics would have served the movie so well. In the comics you knew that when Storm Shadow and Snake-Eyes met, it was going to be a showdown. However, no matter how wrong the first movie was, some of the best action and most memorable moments were from the two masked warriors.
In GI Joe Retaliation Ray Park and Byung Hun Lee are two of the few reoccurring cast members from the fist movie and it's pretty clear that Jon Chu and co got the ninja action spot on. In the footage we saw, an extension of the corridor show-down seen in the trailers, Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow face off.
As drums echo in the background to a rhythm that reminded me of the rooftop chase sequence in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the tension is palpable as Storm Shadow launches shrunken at Snake-Eyes only to have them shot out of the air. The fights were fast and cut quickly, not so quickly as, for example Batman Begins, where the edit was so quick I know it frustrated people, but to a degree where the action is amped up from the fights seen in the first movie. We get some more quick action, Bruce Willis taking out some poor suckers in what looks like it might be an attack on the Cobra infested White House (don't quote me on that) and then an extended scene from mountain side Ninja battle.
This is pure GI Joe and a great sequence that got fans the most excited when it was hinted at in the previous trailer. Here, we saw an extension of that scene as the bad guy  ninjas's scale the mountain and face off against Jinx and Snake-Eyes. In this extension we saw footage of an avalanche bought down upon the battling protagonists and some more shorts of Jinx, played by Elodie Yung as ninja Jinx.
As I said before, the vibe is distinctly more grown up and feels like a movie rather than an ad to sell toys. It's gritty, people die and while I certainly don't despise the first movie, it's far from the GI Joe movie fans had hoped for.
Jon Chu, from the footage shown, has given us the GI Joe movie that fans have waited 30 years for. Larry Hama's Vision bought to life, from Snake-Eyes looking bad-ass (no lips / his Uzi style HK MP7 weapon in a direct link to the comic)  to an actor who was born for a role in a movie version of GI Joe in Dwayne Johnson aka The Rock, as Roadblock.
The Rock, by his own admission is undergoing something of a cinematic resurgence following last years Fast 5 where he and Vin lay the smack down in glorious style. Fast and Furious (Fast 4 if you like) reinvigorated that franchise and Johnson more than 
proved that his presence in a Fast 5 could take it to new levels, his presence does the same in GI Joe Retaliation. Combine endless charisma and one of the last true action movie stars working with the king of action movies, Bruce Willis and the charisma practically leaps from the screen. Star power was what this franchise needed and it's got it in abundance in Retaliation.
I, like many others raised an eyebrow when Jon Chu, the man behind the Justin Bieber movie and Step-Up 2: The Streets was announced as director for the GI Joe sequel but from the footage shown Chu's choreography skills taken from the world of dance and music translate perfectly to a world of ninjas's, martial arts and the GI Joe mythos. One can only imagine what might have been if Chu had made the first film. Retaliation retains links to the story established in GI Joe: Rise of Cobra however It doesn't seem to have held the film makers from taking this to the next level, establishing a new vibe and direction, effectively doing away with all that was wrong about the first movie and allowing this film to stand on its own. 
Sure it's a shame that one of the characters that fans universally liked, and sadly Rachel Nichol's Scarlett isn't returning and so far their's no indication of The Baroness or Destro, but we've yet to see the who movie, and with a cast of characters as vast as GI Joe's there's no knowing who will turn up.
From the footage shown it looked like a few effects shots were unfinished, particularly the shuriken battle between Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow, but the action still looked great, more akin and influenced by the kind of sequences seen in films like Crouching Tiger fused with a pace and style directly from more western influences action. It's tough to describe until you see it, but it looks great with a real tension and atmosphere to the fight scene between the two ninja.
From this early footage I think that fans will love GI Joe Retaliation as Chu and The Rock get GI Joe right. Everything that might be considered minor details, for example Snake-Eyes or Cobra Commander's mask are things that have a 30 year history and are in this movie....besides, there's no excuse for a ninja who's taken a vow of silence, having lips. 


RETALIATION opens late June. A new trailer for the picture is now online HERE.

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