How Jon Chu can save our childhood

by Howie Decker @HowardTheDeck

The man who brought Justin Bieber’s journey to stardom to the movie screen is now tasked with rescuing a Real American Hero. Jon M Chu, director of Step Up 3D and the aforementioned Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, is at the helm of the G.I. Joe sequel which is currently scheduled for a summer 2012 release. Chu’s main characters will have to trade in their dance shoes for combat boots, as he makes the directorial leap from light-hearted fun into the action-adventure arena. On the surface, it seems that Chu might not be an obvious choice to pilot the project, but closer inspection of his secret file card might reveal that G.I. Joe has found a perfect new leader.

this wasn't on the grocery list

Chu was born in 1979, right in the wheelhouse for G.I. Joe’s glory days. The G.I. Joe cartoon reached it’s popularity zenith in 1986, which would put a 7-year old Chu firmly entrenched in their target demographic. Chu has gone on record saying that he grew up playing with the G.I. Joe toys and enjoyed the comic series, then published by Marvel Comics, which dove much deeper into character development and interaction than the cartoon series could. When my loving mother dragged me on her weekly grocery shopping trips to Wegmans, my only saving grace was finding that magical new issue of G.I. Joe comics on the round metal spindle in the magazine section. Marvel writer Larry Hama, responsible for naming all of the Joe and Cobra characters and vehicles, has military experience that he drew upon to bring an impressive amount of detailed imagery to his G.I. Joe storytelling. He examined relationships between Snake-Eyes and Scarlett, Destro and The Baroness, even Cobra Commander and his son Billy. Issue #21, titled Silent Interlude, is widely regarded as one of the best written comics of all time, with many current writers saying they took inspiration from the issue. Of all the weekly and monthly periodicals I collected as a child, all were eventually lost or thrown away, but not my Joe comics. When the last of my childhood items had to be cleaned out of the house I grew up in, I snagged that box of comics like it was an envelope stuffed with cash. The fact that Chu referenced these comics in a recent interview is a bright ray of hope.

Chu has been active on Twitter recently, asking fans what casting, design, and character changes they would make in the new Joe flick. He has said his goal is to bring the Joes to the screen as we remember them.  My contribution to the Twitter conversation was a wish to return to each character’s unique uniform design.  In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, every Joe wore all black, which robbed Snake-Eyes of his unique and trademark look.  Chu has already shown casting prowess in signing Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson to play Roadblock.  Ray Park (Darth Maul from Star Wars Episode I) will return as Snake-Eyes in the sequel, as well as Channing Tatum reprising his role as Duke. Joseph Gordon-Levitt will not return as “The Commander”, which lends itself perfectly to a costume change, with Cobra Commander returning to the classic and iconic look. Chu recently tweeted this picture, accompanied by the caption “Ninjas never die”, which hints that Storm Shadow will return from the “dead” as well. See the poll below to vote for characters you’d like to see in the new film.

The casting and hints from Chu have me eagerly anticipating this film, because it seems to be as much reboot as it is sequel. The fact that this franchise is getting a second chance is amazing, and it seems Chu knows what the fans want… and knowing is half the battle.

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