So then. Have we landed the script for G.I. Joe 2: Twin Parallax?
No, no we haven’t. But for a while, we thought we had.
We were sent a screenplay which claimed to be leaked from the offices at Paramount, complete with a scan of a hand written Post-it note (allegedly by Rhett Reese or Paul Wernick) and a 126 page script, which even had a Paramount watermark on every page. Being both excited and apprehensive, I read through it and was amazed at how well done it was, both in terms of scale and thought.
What convinced me more than anything at first that the work was official was in its slavish ties to the first film. If the script was a fan attempt at putting something decent into circulation, then the first thing you’d expect them to do is ignore anything that happened in the first abomination. As it stood, this felt way too substantive to be a fake.
For those of you unaware of my feelings towards the first film, then you have only to glance here to get an insight into how invested I am in G.I. Joe, watching as my beloved comic book series was mauled and twisted into an unrecognisable mess last summer.
However, as I started wading through the document and penning my thoughts, we also managed to get in touch with Rhett Reese. He explained to us that what we were looking at was 100% fake (he had heard of the script that we had, but he had not read it), and that he and Paul Wernick hadn’t turned in their screenplay for G.I. Joe 2 yet.
We’re not geeks for nothing, though, so I still thought it was worth going through and seeing just what kind of fake screenplay had been put together.
Furthermore, I understand that there are a lot of writers out there who would love to get the attention of studios drawn towards their own work, so getting a big publicity hit is a sure fire way of doing so. And I can’t really blame them for doing so, especially when the work itself is worthy of merit.
The script was sent to us by an anonymous source, and we thank them for doing so. For in a way, it speaks volumes about the first film, that someone would feel impassioned and driven enough to actually construct their own take, though I appreciate that it’s nothing new.
Still, the strength of excitement for the sequel has been entirely generated by the hiring of Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, which is an incredibly shrewd move by Paramount after the amount of praise Zombieland received, but one to be commended. They stated in their interview here on Geek that:
PW: GI Joe is such a fun, fun, fun playground for us. It doesn’t get any bigger than GI Joe. Rhett made his first movie when he was, what, nine?
RR: I was 11 or 12.
PW: It was a GI Joe movie made with stop motion characters, with little action figurines. We were up in Rhode Island where Hasbro is headquartered. It’s such an inspired world and one where excited to play in.
RH: Unfortunately, we’re not allowed to talk about what the movies about, but just know that we have a deep affection for GI Joe, and that we’ll bring our absolute best to it and hope that that’s good enough.
So I still hold out hope, but only if some major issues from the first film are addressed.
Anyway, what follows now is an analysis of the script we received, as at the end of day it doesn’t matter who’s written what, as there are still some points that will prove problematic for anyone working on the sequel.
It read well, with a fairly standard routine of set pieces and plot but, no matter how hard the writers work, they’re still constrained by the awfulness that the previous film set up. I’m looking for a completely fresh start from Joe 2, yet in the opening action, along comes the excruciatingly awful Ripcord, oozing the kind of ‘shoot me in the face, please’ attitude that Wayans so skilfully portrayed in the first film.
Ripcord’s appearance alone made the script at first seem that much more legitimate, as no fan writer would (hopefully) ever dream of repeating that mistake, but the studio, on the other hand, would probably insist on using him. His story time is much more limited in this version, though he’s still too prevalent in the final act, when he has a slightly ropey action scene with Duke, in which the ‘banter’ seems far too clichéd (at points Ripcord seems to be channelling Will Smith with his lines “Hell no!” and “That’s what I’m talking about.”). Even limited Ripcord still induces vomit, so please make him go away.
Talking of the Duke/Ripcord scene above, on paper it reads much like the end of The Phantom Menace, with some fantastic-sounding martial arts action being cut away from, only to centre on a very similar equivalent to the young bastard Anakin, talking incessant rubbish in a spaceship. Not good.
It does seem like the script has tried to sideline as much of the, er, bullshit from the first film as quickly as possible, introducing new characters and more military-based action scenes. More importantly, the new characters are given the respect they deserve and have core parts of their comic book storylines intact, the highlight of which involves the Hard Master.
The moment in Rise Of Cobra that had me splitting blood was Storm Shadow’s line to Snake Eyes, that the latter had take a vow of silence, therefore destroying the idea that his vocal cords had been destroyed in an accident. That issue is redressed as much as it can be, with some fantastic moments between the two of them, as they hunt down the man responsible, including a raid on the White House, which delivered the kind of action that was handled so poorly the first time around.
Once the script hit its stride, then things actually started to look very promising. This version introduces Flint and Lady Jaye, the Dreadnoks (as mentioned above) as well as The Crimson Twins (Tomax and Xamot, hence the title) and in a moment of pure geek joy, Firefly.
The use of Firefly throughout is genius, as he becomes a key plot point in, amongst other things, trying to assassinate the recovering Baroness. This leads him to a confrontation with Snake Eyes in a hospital and later, to one with Storm Shadow, in some great narrative twists, so more’s the pity that it won’t be happening.
The Twins are described as being like “Patrick Bateman times two”, which is a superb summary of their characters, their attitudes and their business ethos. Their dialogue is written with their symbiotic relationship being a direct port from the comics. And there’s their relationship too with Cobra and, more particularly, Cobra Commander and Destro.
The Commander himself is almost instantly transformed into the verssssion we know and love (sorry for the bad snake pun), especially early on in the story when an inventive use of his hooded look is explained: a cut out from his prison sheets, to hide his disfigured face before he’s marched in front of the press.
The relationship between himself and Destro is much more than the bickering hatred that we know and love, though that was more from the cartoon, than the comic, in its tone.
The whole Baroness fiasco from Rise Of Cobra is also happily sidelined, though the necessary re-introduction of Storm Shadow could have used the legendary ‘Sleeping Phoenix’ get out clause (a personal geek favourite between my friend and I), but instead chose the nanomite excuse, proving, yet again, how restrained and authentic the script felt.
The nanomites actually get more than a passing mention in this sequel, as they provide an endless ‘get out of jail free’ card, which proved to be such a lazy solution to just about everything in Rise Of Cobra. It’s like having another 80s franchise violated with midi-chlorians.
Here, Flint and Lady Jaye represent the most positive step taken towards making for a better Joe team (others do get appearances, sadly no Roadblock), but were this script real, it would still boil down to this: who the hell would play and direct them, anyway?
The whole point of introducing new Joes in the comic was to replace the older ones, yet that system was shafted by Rise Of Cobra too, so, while attempts might be made to bring in new people for the official sequel, let’s hope that they’re well represented and if more time is needed to get them established, then just ditch some of the original line up. It’s harsh but true.
Regardless of their individual merits, Sommers, Eccleston, Gordon-Levitt and Wayans were all bad fits and in severe need of replacement. Gordon-Levitt was only convinced to take part by Channing Tatum, after being reassured that it wouldn’t be a massive recruitment advert for the army, and since his character’s now going to be masked all the time, just get a voice actor and go the Darth Vader route. The same goes for Eccleston/Destro.
Of equal importance is the look of the costumes. After the generic black armour of the first film, I really hope they’ll now be dressed in their distinctive military uniforms, otherwise any new characters that are introduced, perhaps including Flint and Lady Jaye, will just become ‘other pretty young faces, stuck on standard issue uniform’. It would be nice to get some more realistic age variety thrown into the mix too, with the gap between Quaid’s Hawk and Tatum’s Duke being far too wide for my liking. Casting someone of the Hugh Jackman/Gerard Butler bracket would help immeasurably.
Overall, this script, regardless of its legitimacy, was promising (and this from a man with no hope at all) and would perhaps have convinced me to go back for more. Yet, we all know that so much can change, regardless of a writer’s efforts, and with too much studio interference, things can all go a bit Batman & Robin (seriously Paramount, if you want to shift merchandise then make the film with an audience like me in mind. I earn a reasonable wage and will be capable of spending more on a film than any youth could.).
It’s all moot for now, of course. What we’ve seen here is a surprisingly interesting hoax screenplay, that felt solidly better than what we were given by the first film.
For now, though, it’s over to Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese, who have the job of doing all this for real….