This past week, Paramount Pictures dropped a mega bomb on us with the announcement that G.I. JOE: RETALIATION was being moved from its June 29th release date to March 29, 2013, leaving everyone reeling with a “what the f*ck” look frozen on their collective faces. For a film that seemed poised to be a pretty entertaining flick, not to mention a return to form after the less-than-stellar G.I. JOE: RISE OF COBRA, the decision to shift its release date almost a full year is one of the most baffling in recent memory.
Paramount’s stance seems to be that the decision is simply a matter of converting the film to 3D. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson confirmed as much via Twitter, saying that they would be re-shooting scenes in order to capitalize on the conversion. If that’s the whole truth and nothing but, then the question remains; Why wait until now to make that decision? I find it impossible to grasp that a conversation about 3D had never come up until 5 weeks before its scheduled release.
I’m not privy to secret meetings on the Paramount lot, so I can only speculate on much of what “really” went down that led to this zinger of a decision, but it doesn’t take a wiretap to know that something’s rotten in the state of Denmark if the decision to convert has come this late in the game. Using THE AVENGERS box office as justification for the conversion is a weak one, simply because GI JOE doesn’t have the same built in audience that THE AVENGERS does, nor does it have a massively successful array of films that built up to its release. In short, it doesn’t add up. Paramount citing TITANIC 3D‘s success as an example of why it’s the right decision to convert is weak sauce as well. The two movies have NOTHING in common. 3D does not make them similar, just similarly unnecessary.
The most likely explanation is that bad test screenings have caused studio execs to get nervous, which in turn causes studio execs to make rash decisions. Test screenings, ever the bane of a filmmakers existence, exist primarily to test the marketability of a particular film, but the results aren’t even close to being scientifically proven. The process is nothing more than getting a very small consensus from a very limited group of people. It’s simply not possible or economically feasible to test a film in every market, so thereby it cannot be completely reliable. Films like THE GREEN HORNET and SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD tested brilliantly and underperformed at the box office, while the likes of ACE VENTURA: PET DETECTIVE did the opposite. There are thousands of examples like these and G.I. JOE: RETALIATION is no different. It’s all a gamble.
So, why is it that the gamble wasn’t worth a June 29th release for Paramount? For one, BATTLESHIP, another toy-to-screen film from Hasbro, sunk at the box office. Certainly that didn’t go unnoticed as G.I. JOE: RETALIATION sat waiting around the corner. However, what Paramount didn’t take into consideration was that people were actually looking forward to the sequel. I can’t think of anyone that was “psyched” for BATTLESHIP. Shit, I can’t even think of anyone that thought it was a good idea to make the damn thing in the first place.
The initial trailers for G.I. JOE: RETALIATION led all of us to believe that the sequel might actually be good, possibly great, in that cheesy action flick sort of way. All doubts about director John Chu (of STEP UP fame) being at the helm started to vanish as the filmmaker seemed passionate about the project due to his own nostalgia for the property.
So, the question with Chu is; Was that enough for Paramount? And further than that, are Paramount’s doubts over the film because of Chu’s vision or because of their lack of insight into the material? I seriously doubt that the wheel-greasers are kicking back and watching ‘80’s Joe cartoons and reading the comics. They’re looking at charts and graphs and shit that lead to big dollar signs. Could it be possible that Chu’s film is actually good as is and that Paramount simply doesn’t see it that way? Or, is it just a train wreck they’re trying to piece together with 3D band aids?
I get that Paramount wants to make the most money out of G.I. JOE: RETALIATION. It’s their investment and their right to do so. However, the fact that millions have already been poured into the marketing, the hype built to an enormous level, toys already on the shelves, and fans counting it amongst their must see on the summer docket, the sudden and drastic change has left everyone with a bad taste in their mouths.
In many ways I’ve felt that people have reacted a little too angrily at Paramount for this decision, but then I put it in the context of a concert. It’s as if a band you were really looking forward to seeing was about to play in your hometown and had been shamelessly promoting a concert, selling merchandise in advance, and pumping you up to come out and see them rock your world, only to cancel abruptly, leaving you with a shitty t-shirt and tattered posters. I think it’s safe to say that most people would feel slighted by the band and turn their nose to them, in a sense, punishing them.
Come March 29, 2013, I have to wonder if Paramount will still be in the doghouse with fans over G.I. JOE: RETALIATION or will we all be in “forgive and forget” mode? As strange as this last minute decision is, it’ll be even stranger to see how the film pans out when it finally bows and we see if Paramount screwed the pooch on a good film or made a crappy film crappier.
The only type of GI JOE movie I want to see is like this…