By Aubrey Day | 05-14-2012 | 11:00AM
Sequels. How often are they actually better than the original? The Godfather 2, Toy Story 2, er, Hot Shots! Part Deux...it's not a long list. But could G.I. Joe: Retaliation be about to join this select group?
We're not suggesting the Hasbro toy-based action figure franchise is likely to produce the most credible movie of the summer (though it's got to be better than Battleship…) but the trailers have at least looked kind of fun. And certainly better than the first one.
Remember G.I.Joe: Rise Of The Cobra? A film that at times felt perilously close to a live action version of Team America: World Police but without the humor or star power ("Matt Damon!"). It even had the same destruction of the Eiffel Tower, though played straight.
Stephen Sommers' original -- like his Mummy series -- managed to make some decent box office dollar without ever impressing the critics: "Transformers minus the humanity", "Instantly forgettable", "Like a bad TV show" and "Loud and dumb" were among the many barbed comments although we liked The New York Times suggestion: "G.I.Joe could never be killed by critics, because this pricey juiceless pulp was already dead".
And so it proved, with takings of $300 million that meant, as sure as rehab follows fame, a second film would inevitably come along at some point.
The world waited, not exactly with baited breath. Particularly when it was announced that the sequel would be directed by Jon Chu, whose previous credits include Justin Bieber: Never Say Never and Step Up 2 the Streets.
But then the trailers started dropping. And they had proper action heroes (The Rock! Bruce Willis!) and some half decent one-liners, from Dwayne admirably keeping a straight face as he says "Let's move. The world ain't saving itself…" to Bruce blasting a bunch of bad guys before being asked "Are you okay?" and responding with that perfected-over-decades smirk: "Well, my cholesterol's a little high…".
Plus there's an everything's-at-stake plot (the G.I.Joes have been terminated by the President's evil doppleganger), some serious military hardware and a fairly tasty soundtrack (a Glitch Mob Remix of The White Stripes' Seven Nation Army underpins the trailer). Not to mention Jonathan Pryce getting his teeth into both a goodie (the captured President) and the big bad Zartan.
Yes, there's still ludicrous destruction (instead of Paris, we get London being blown to smithereens) and a whiff of nonsense about the whole thing but credit where credit's due: Chu looks like he's having a ball. "I grew up with 'Joe,'" enthuses the director. "I had all the toys and used to watch the cartoons every afternoon. And this movie will introduce it to a new generation."
We reckon reviewers probably still won't embrace poor ol' Joe. But with the bar set pretty low from the first outing, this might just turn out that rare summer blockbuster event: a sequel that improves on the original...