Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes are locked in battle atop a snowy cold mountain. Somehow Storm Shadow has gotten the upper hand and he’s got Snake Eyes pinned to the ground. Try as he might, Snake Eyes can’t escape. While they’ve battled many times, they’re always equally matched, and it’s hard for either to get the upper hand. But not this time. On this day, it looks like Strom Shadow is finally going to win. But as he applies even more force with seething anger in his eyes, all of a sudden, Jinx appears from behind and she’s got some sort of breathing device that she puts on his nose and mouth, and a second later, Storm Shadow falls unconscious. I then hear director Jon M. Chu call cut.
But let me back up a second.
As I type these words I’m on a plane back to Los Angeles. It’s Wednesday, October 26, 2011 and yesterday I got to spend all day on the set of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. While I’m clearly in the minority as I really dug the first film, after getting to see a great looking sizzle reel on set, watch the filming of two big action scenes, and speak with Chu, Byung-Hun Lee (Storm Shadow), Ray Park (Snake Eyes), Elodie Yung (Jinx), Dwayne Johnson (Roadblock), DJ Cotrona (Flint), and Ray Stevenson (Firefly), and producer Lorenzo Di Bonaventura, I’m 100% sure the sequel is going to be even better. Hit the jump for more.
Before going any further, I’m going to offer you two ways to get this set report. For those that want to hear about the visit but don’t want to learn spoilers, I suggest just watching the video blog that’s below. For those that want even more, you should also read the 25 Things to Know About G.I. Joe: Retribution which is further down the page.
G.I. JOE: RETALIATION Video Blog
As most of you know, whenever I do a set visit, I always record a video blog as soon as I get back from set. For G.I. Joe, I did one with George Roush from AMC Theaters and El Mayimbe from Latino Review. While I’m a big Joe fan, Mayimbe is a super fan and George is also pretty well versed in the world of Joe. All three of us were really impressed by what we saw and learned on set. Some of what we talked about was…
- our thoughts on the first film
- thoughts on the sizzle reel we saw
- what it was like to go to NASA and how it looked like a matte painting
- the interviews
- what we saw being filmed
- and so much more
25 Things to Know About G.I. Joe: Retribution
- Unlike the first film where everything felt cartoony, the sequel is grounded in reality. When someone gets cut they bleed. Planes have to deal with gravity. The sequel exists in the real world.
- The sequel has two big storylines that will eventually converge at the end. The first storyline focuses on Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes. The second story is the Joe’s and Cobra. In the third act, both stories meet up.
- The sequel takes place a couple of years after the first film.
- There is a lot more Kung Fu. And it isn’t just Storm Shadow fighting Snake Eyes. Members of the Joe team also use Kung Fu.
- Unlike the first film which got greenlit in October and was then filming two months later, the sequel had plenty of time for pre-production and to fully flesh out a great story. This led to being able to design great looking vehicles, better fitting costumes, and making sure they had time to rehearse with the new actors. Everyone on set talked about how happy they were with the script and the story. And the vehicles looked cool.
- The reason the film is called Retaliation is that both the Joe’s and Cobra are retaliating.
- While they’ve made many changes in tone and added and removed characters from the first film, the sequel catches people up who never saw the first film and it rewards those who saw it, an example of which is the President storyline. If you saw the first film you know what I’m talking about…
- Cobra Commander is in the film. He will never wear the hood, but he will have the hard mask. We got to see it in the sizzle reel (we saw about 5 minutes of the film) and the costume looked great.
- The sequel is being shot on film and widescreen.
- The sequel is doing as much practically as they can. In the sizzle reel we saw a lot of stunts being done practically with the actors on wires. In post production they’ll remove them. The goal is to use visual effects to amplify the action. There is one big action scene that will rely on visual effects because that’s the only way to make it work. Like I’ve said many times, the more you do practically, the more you believe what you’re watching. What I saw on set and in the screening room looked great.
- Destro is probably in the film. They wouldn’t confirm it either way, but the way they spoke and smiled when talking about him makes me think he’s definitely in it.
- Bruce Willis plays the original Joe and he’s got a fun intro. Also, while he might be retired, that doesn’t mean he’s not fully prepared for anything. In fact, he might keep his house like a fully stocked weapons depot. Also, while he doesn’t have a huge role in the film, his character is extremely important to the story and comes in at a key time towards the end.
- While the P.I.T.T. isn’t in the film, they have a funny nod to it later in the film.
- There are two large action scenes in the sequel and a lot of little ones. The third act has one of the very large scenes.
- We’ll see hundreds of Cobra troops but not thousands. Also, by the end of the film, the world will know Cobra.
- The shoot is 73 days on first unit and 61 second unit days. That’s a huge amount of second unit (which is the primary unit for shooting the action scenes).
- The film explores more of the Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes backstory.
- The sequel takes place all around the world. Some of the places that are featured include North Korea, Germany, Washington D.C., Islamabad, South Carolina, Tokyo and India.
- Cobra is the lead bad guy in the film and Firefly is under their umbrella. Firefly is a former Joe that now works for the highest bidder.
- The Joe’s that appeared in the first film that aren’t in the sequel aren’t talked about or mentioned. It’s like they’re doing something else and we don’t know where they are.
- We’ll see 20 to 30 Joe’s but the sequel focuses on a core 8.
- The reason the sequel was filmed in New Orleans is the tax credit and the fact that the production got to use a NASA facility that is used to build parts for the Space Shuttle. Also, the city is film friendly and has plenty of workers with a lot of experience. Getting back to the NASA facility, the production shot 65-70% of the film on the base and they got a ton of production value by using existing structures. The production is the first on the base and it took four or five months to get the approvals to film there. Since filming began, many other productions have been trying to get access to the base, so there is the possibility that it could be used on more movies.
- The shoot started on August 15th and it goes until November 18th.
- The Baroness is not in the sequel.
- Snake Eyes has a new costume and it’s more detailed and it has better armor. It’s more realistic and functional than the first film. While we tried to get Ray Park to tell us if Snake Eyes wears goggles in the sequel, he would just smile and not answer.
- Director John M. Chu is thinking of doing mashups for the soundtrack. Meaning taking different tracks and putting them together. As of yesterday, he was putting it all together and didn’t want to reveal who he was trying to get.
- Gun Fu. There are two big battles between Firefly (Ray Stevenson) and Roadblock (Dwayne Johnson) and we learned the final battle (which is in the 3rd act) is something that’s never been done before and they’re calling it Gun Fu. That’s because as they fight, they’re using Kung Fu and guns. Both Stevenson and Johnson sounded very excited when talking about their final battle.
Getting to Visit NASA
With the current space shuttle program ending, NASA has a lot of empty hangars and they’re perfect as soundstages due to the high walls, climate controls, and security all around the facility. Trust me, we all had to get clearance to get on the base and officers with loaded weapons patrol the grounds. There is a reason the paparazzi haven’t landed set photos.
The fact is, while the base might be a perfect place to shoot plenty of movies, that doesn’t mean the Government was begging Hollywood to come in. The production told us that they had to work extremely hard to get permission to film on the base and it took four or five months to finally get the approval. It helped that they had a relationship from the Transformers movies.
Once they got permission, the production tried to incorporate as many real structures into the film because they would get fantastic production value for almost no money. One such building that was a perfect fit was where the Shuttle program used to build the fuel rocket assembly. Called the VAB (Vertical Assembly Building), the building sits on 43 acres of land and the structure is more than 200 feet tall so the rockets could be built indoors. While I’ve visited many soundstages, standing inside this building I was blown away by the size and scope of what it takes to get our astronauts into space. It’s one thing to watch it on TV. It’s another to see firsthand the engineering of NASA.
As you might imagine, if you have access to a building that’s 200 feet tall and it’s a real structure that can house a massive fuel rocket, it would also be the perfect place to fit a nuclear missile. It’s also where a big action scene takes place in the sequel.
Shortly after walking around the VAB and thinking I’d seen it all, we walked into another room which caused me to question if the ending of Raiders of the Lost Ark was made up or a real place. I say this because next to the VAB, and in the same building, was the biggest “garage” I’ve ever seen. Imagine if you were NASA and you needed a place to store old shuttle parts and have them protected from the elements. What would you do? If you said you’d build a room bigger than the room at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark and have it climate controlled, you’d be right.
I’m not joking when I say that when I first entered the room, I thought the production had hung a huge matte painting and what was in front of me wasn’t real. I really couldn’t believe a room of this size existed. All of us who got to visit the set were shaking our heads in disbelief as the “garage” was bigger than any soundstage any of us had ever seen. I wish NASA would let us run a photo. But the base doesn’t allow people to take photos and I wasn’t going to get arrested.
From there we walked around to a number of other buildings that had been converted into Hollywood soundstages. All had massive ceilings with huge doors and we got to see a number of the practical sets in the film. Everything looked incredibly detailed and real, and it was clear the added pre-production time helped the production design. We all were impressed by the sets and the level of detail.
Unlike the first G.I. Joe which was like the cartoon come to life, the sequel looks more like the comic book in that it’s grittier, dirtier, and more realistic. While I enjoyed what director Stephen Sommers did on the first film, there is no denying the vision that Chu has and I think more moviegoers will identify with it. Also, while many fanboys wondered how Chu, the guy who directed the Justin Bieber movie, landed the G.I. Joe movie, I’m extremely confident when people see the first trailer they’re going to be impressed. I know I was when I saw the footage yesterday. Finally, I really think the Joe sequel is going to be a fun ride that will make Joe fans happy, and bring a lot of new people to the franchise.
G.I. Joe: Retribution opens March 29th. For more from my set visit:
- Dwayne Johnson Talks Playing Roadblock, His Preparation Process, Returning to the WWE, FAST 6, and More on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- Director Jon M. Chu Talks Directing Action, Being a G.I. JOE Fan, Getting to Know the Cast, the Soundtrack and Possible PSAs on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- Lorenzo di Bonaventura Talks Differences from the First Film, Walking the Line Between Reboot and Sequel, & More on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- Byung-hun Lee Talks Training, Storm Shadow vs Snake Eyes, Weapons, Movies in Hollywood vs Korea and His Action Figure on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- Ray Park Talks His New Costume and Weapons, Fight Sequences with Storm Shadow and Working with Elodie Yung on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- D.J. Cotrona Talks Playing Flint, His Relationships with Lady Jaye, Duke and Snake Eyes, and George Miller’s JUSTICE LEAGUE on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION
- Elodie Yung Talks Her Costume, Working with RZA as the Blind Master, Her Action Sequences and Director Jon M. Chu on the Set of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION