Yo Joe! G.I. Joe Retaliation London Press Conference Report

Scott Davis reports from the G.I. Joe: Retaliation press conference, held in London last week…

This week sees the release of the year’s second big-budget, studio blockbuster after Oz the Great and Powerful with the return of the Joes in G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

A sequel-come-reboot to 2009’s hit, the film sees the return of Channing Tatum, Jonathan Pryce, Ray Park and Byung-hun Lee from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, as well as new additions Adrianne Palicki (Red Dawn), Ray Stevenson (Punisher: War Zone), D.J. Cotrona (Dear John) and RZA (The Man with the Iron Fists).

The two biggest newcomers though are Hollywood action superstars Dwayne Johnson (Fast Five, Walking Tall) and Bruce Willis (Die Hard), who stars as the original Joe, General Joe Colton.

Johnson, fresh from his stint in the upcoming Fast & Furious 6, comes aboard as Roadblock. Asked about his recent spat of joining already-running franchises, Johnson said “It’s interesting how it came around in terms of the franchises. After looking at the scripts and speaking to the studios, if there’s a way I can come in and elevate it a little bit then I will. In terms of G.I. Joe, it was easy to elevate it. They had a new director who was new to the brand, Jon M. Chu, who also loved G.I. Joe and had a deep love and passion for it.”

Chu, the new director on board, enjoyed huge success with the Justin Bieber: Never Say Never concert movie and Step Up 2: The Streets. When he was asked to direct, the studio and he agreed that the sequel should be treated more as a reboot than straight follow-up. Chu explained “There was a delicate balance. Both the challenge and the advantage we had going into Retaliation was that we had a great first movie, but it was a different movie tonally.

He continued “I love G.I. Joe, and I wanted to get in there and have fun with it. And in the tradition, every few years it gets reinvented, whether it was the toy-line, the comics or the cartoons. So, to be a part of that, and have the opportunity to be a part of that and with the cast of Dwayne, Bruce, Adrianne, it already gave us a huge advantage.”

Jonathan Pryce, former Bond villain, is one of the returning characters from the first film. He now has dual roles as the President – one of which is as Zartan, who has taken over the Presidential mantle as a master of disguise. Discussing the dual role (one evil, one good) and how it works, Pryce said:

“It’s been my ambition to work with someone with my talent! Most of the time I was acting with a piece of wood, which isn’t anything new in my career. I did have a lot of fun doing it. The acting wasn’t difficult; it was Jon’s directing that was difficult. But with today’s technology, we could look at what was happening and digitally see what I was looking at with my eyes.”

Retaliation definitely separates itself tonally from the first movie, going more down the realism route a la Christopher Nolan to get its thrills and spills from real stunts, real explosions and have its stars fight for real. In keeping with the realistic approach, the majority of Retaliation’s fight scenes are genuine, with all the actors getting involved. Johnson said on the realistic fighting:

“I enjoy that, I enjoy being able to drive the tanks, got to fight Ray Stevenson. The fight with Ray was challenging was to create a fight style we had never seen of film before, that was pretty lofty. Gun-Kata – two weapons at the same time, trying to avoid the bullets but at the same time fire and try to kick, so that was something we had worked on for weeks and weeks. It’s cool shooting guns and driving tanks, but there’s nothing like knuckle sandwiches to the mouth!”

Johnson’s Roadblock comes face to face with Ray Stevenson a few times in the film, with one huge fight sequence in the finale. Stevenson, who plays the villain Firefly, got to fight with Johnson’s Roadblock, and said:

“Well I have about half a centimetre height on him, but his arms are the size of my thighs! It was a real blessing as Dwayne is such an athlete, and any fight sequence is like a tightly made dance sequence. We did manage to clip each other a couple of times, but it’s a tremendous punishment of the body. But it is what it is, such a great rollercoaster, with two big guys fighting the hell out of each other. And I get to blow a lot of sh*t up!!”

In terms of sequels, the cast said they would be up for more. Johnson, such a fan of the mythology, said “There are so many awesome characters we could explore and bring in.” Adrianne Palicki, who features as Lady Jaye said she would like to see a progression of her and D.J. Cotrona’s Flint, as in the comics they went on to have children.

Director Chu said he would definitely be up for more “It would be an honour. If the fans go out and see it, we would love to continue the story. We have laid the foundation to build off of and go a little crazier in true Joe tradition, and all the characters here would be really fun to take to the next level and continue to build the giant world.”

Johnson had the final word on any sequels, saying “There are so many awesome characters we can explore and bring into a sequel, and would be great fun.”

G.I. Joe: Retaliation is released this coming Wednesday, March 27th, and will be reviewed in the coming days on Flickering Myth.

Scott Davis