Flanked by red-shirted “troopers” with Cobra logos emblazoned along the left sides of their bodies, a large contingent representing many manifestations of the property got up bright and early to talk about all things G.I. Joe. Â On hand was Hasbro’s Michael Ritchie moderating, with toy designers Aaron Archer and Michelino Pailino, animation producer Joaquim dos Santos, legendary comics writer Larry Hama (in a baseball cap and an Arashikage hexogram on his black T-shirt), the movie’s screenwriter Stuart Beattie, Hasbro CEO and General Hawk lookalike Brian Goldner and movie mogul Lorenzo di Bonaventura. Â A virtual army of cosplay characters were on hand, but none officially sanctioned by Hasbro.
The capacity crowd sat and enjoyed a bit of teaser animation shown at Joe Con, which featured Duke and Roadblock under heavy fire by Cobra troopers before being rescued by Snake Eyes. Â This was from the new “G.I. Joe: Resolute” project, which will feature sixty minutes of actual content broken up into 5 minute webisodes, with discussions of a DVD and TV broadcast at a later date. Â The animation shown was not the final production value material, but something intended to showcase the new tone. Â “It’s a PG-13-type animation, more aggressive with a lot of action and a lot of buzz leading up to the movie,” Ritchie said. Â The publicists on hand were not willing to release these images at press time.
They also showed character walkarounds with a dreadlocked Stalker, a simple matte black Snake-Eyes with goggles, Storm Shadow in simple white (sans logo), Destro with a metallic arm and the Baroness. Â “It pulls a lot of influence from ‘Ghost In The Shell,'” Dos Santos said. Â They kept the color schemes of the 80s versions to make the characters easily recognizable, but wanted to showcase technology perhaps five or ten years ahead of what’s available.Â
“Warren [Ellis, who wrote the project] was a decision to usher this into pg-13,” dos Santos said. “There’s no cursing. Snake-Eyes offed a dude, but there’s no blood. It’s ‘Warren Ellis Light,’ his style is all over the project. Â It’s within reason, and in good taste. Â Not that his work isn’t always in good taste, but sometimes it isn’t in good taste.”
Ellis even sent a message to SDCC fans through dos Santos. Â “He wanted you to all know that he’s in England, sitting in his living room, naked, collecting all of Hasbro’s money, and he wants to thank all of you for that.”
“We really saw those original comics from the 80s as our inspiration,” Goldner said. Â “We all wanna make sure we can share these stories, much like we did with ‘Transformers.'”
Hama spoke about his experience with the property. Â “From the very beginning, after the first issue, I got a lot of mail,” he said. Â “Thousands a month, and I read them all. Â I realized it had to be this interactive thing, this thing that was reactive to what the readers wanted. If the fans wrote in and said they didn’t like something, it was gone. Â If they liked it, there was more of it. Â With the internet it’s possible again and it’s even stronger. Â You’re getting a direct input into the material and you’re getting what you want. Â I have to thank all of you, that’s who helped me do it. Â It’s really your story too.” Â Hama cameos in the movie as a NATO general.
“Larry created a problem for us,” di Bonaventura said. “There’s so much material, we couldn’t decide. Â Stu [Beattie] felt the same conundrum. Â One of the hardest things we had to do was figure out how to keep as many [characters] as we could. Â Our director decided to attack it from a character perspective and attack it dfrom that point of view. Â There’s no single story line that carries you through. One of the interesting characteristics is that there’s so much character that the challenge for Stu is how to put all this together. Â We were able to tap into Larry any time we wanted to. Â Larry admonished us, we wanted to have Snake-Eyes say one line, and he stopped us. Â It’s a great resource for us to have. Â Larry was always pushing us to push forward, don’t always think about what was, think about what can be.”
Beattie said, “I’m very big on simple stories and complex characters. Â I prefer to spend time on what’s going on in these people’s heads than what’s going on in the story. Â The movie has lots of great twists and turns, but it doesn’t go overboard. Â I wanted to spend time with the characters. Â I just wanted to make sure they were best represented. Even in Australia, I grew up with it. Â As for getting into all the characters, we figured the answer to that was to do sequels.”
Explaining why the movie was subtitled “The Rise of Cobra,” di Bonaventura said, “How do you introduce [newcomers] to this property? Â We chose two ways into this. You get to meet Cobra for the first time. Â So it’s the origin story for Cobra. Â Through Duke and Ripcord being our eyes and ears, and at the beginning of the movie they don’t start as Joes. Â It’s a good way to come in.”
Cast photos were shown next, most of which have been seen online. Â Starting with Dennis Quaid as Hawk, they noted that he was hard to get since they were over budget. Â “Dennis’ son is the reason he’s in the movie,” di Bonaventura said. “Dennis was so good, we probably ended up writing 10-15 more scenes for him,” Beattie added.
Di Bonaventura continued, “We go around the world, and people have different experiences of what GI Joe is. Â Duke is the bridge to those people. Â The values system of GI Joe is embodied by duke. Â We’re showing you their battle armor when they go into battle.”
Ray Park’s turn as Snake-Eyes was next. Â “We really put him through a drill, this outfit is very uncomfortable,” di Bonaventura said. They noted that Park and actor Byung-hun Lee were so skilled that “it benefited the movie because they didn’t need stunt men, we could stay in close on them.”
Talking about Rachel Nichols as Scarlett, di Bonaventura said, “She was our first choice, we were lucky to get her.” They noted that her character graduated college at 12 but never understood men and doesn’t understand her sex appeal. Â
Marlon Wayans was shown as Ripcord next. Â “People don’t appreciate what a good actor he is,” di Bonaventura offered. “We’d seen him in ‘Requiem for a Dream,’ and it was a great performance. Â We asked him to be funny, but he was also very serious.”
Of Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, who plays Heavy Duty, di Bonaventura said, “Great attitude, tough as nails.” Beattie added, “and he knew his character really well.”
Di Bonaventura claimed that the international flavor of the cast freshened things up, noting Akinnuoye-Agbaje (who’s from Nigeria and raise in Britain) and Said Taghmaoui playing Breaker (a French Moroccan, which is brushed on in the plot). Â Christopher Eccleston was shown in his “corporate guise” as James McCullen, and it was noted that Destro masterminds the first part of the film. Â
Addressing that point, Beattie said, “It’s about how would this be today. It started as an American unit, but for the fight against terror, you’d want to bring in partners and smart people from around the world.”
Sienna Miller, di Bonaventura said, “had a ball, really got into being a bad girl. Â We gave her a lot of complexity, she has a lot of torn loyalties.” Apparently, in this story, she and Duke were engaged at one point and Duke “literally and figuratively left her at the altar.” Â A production still was shown with Duke rescuing the Baroness from ane explosion after she led Vipers in a night time assault.
Further complicating things, Ripcord is intent on flirtation with Scarlett, leading to complications. “It’s hard to cinematically have a character who doesn’t talk,” di Bonaventura said of Snake-Eyes in his relationship with Scarlett. Â “It feels like a triangle between those three. Â Ripcord keeps saying, ‘are you guys a couple?’ every time he tries to make time with her, Snake-Eyes sword gets in the way.”
Snake-Eyes relationship with Storm Shadow deepens as well. Â “We explore them as ten-year-old kids, when they first met,” di Bonaventura said. “We expore the myth and why they’re on separate sides of the coin.”
Some production stills shows Snake-Eyes atop the Baroness’ black Hummer in a car chase scene. Â Others shows Duke in fatigues, Heavy Duty firing weapons, a snowy exterior for a “MARS laboratory, underneath the polar ice caps.” Â Locations include, Paris, Kirikistan, the Sahara desert, the arctic circle and Washington DC. “it’s really a global tour,” di Bonaventura said. Â
“I wanted to model the movie on the films I grew up on, like ‘Raiders of The Lost Ark,,'” Beattie said, “four action sequences that’ll go ten minutes each, and you walk out thinking about them. Â There are only four action sequences, but they build.”
Di Bonaventura said, “When Stu said ‘four scenes that are ten minutes each,’ I think he understated. Â Some of them are fifteen minutes. The scale of this movie, what’s demanded to build the pit, what’s demanded to build mars laboratory. Â Paramount gave us more money to make this than we got for the first ‘Transformers.’ Â You’ll see staggeringly large action sequences. Â You can take the technology of today and move it forward twenty or thirty years in the future. Â Like we have an accelerator suit where a man can run 55 miles per hour.” Â
Beattie added, “That gives you a car chase where one guy’s not even in a car.” Â
Questions were allowed after that, and a fan asked, “why not Roadblock?” Â “It was very close,” Beattie said. “There were just certain parts of Heavy Duty that sat more in my mind than Roadblock. Â If I can get him in the sequel, I’ll get him in the sequel. Â Heavy Duty felt right to me.”
It was announced that toys would remain in the three and three quarter inch scale, and that “Resolute” toys would hit in the spring with a big push of “Rise of Cobra” toys in the summer of 2009. Â They’ll start planning for a more balanced line, including “classic” figures, in 2010, and designers Archer and Pailino “have to plan for ten years of story.”
Without discussing particulars of vehicles we’ll see, the panel closed and fans were able to take more photos of the growing assemblage of cosplaying Cobras outside the door.