Say hello to Snake Eyes â€” just don’t expect him to say anything back. This is the first character reveal from next August’s G.I. Joe movie â€” the mute, faceless, black-clad ninja commando, among the most famous of the good guys from the 1980s incarnation of the decades-old Hasbro toy line.
Just as Paramount breathed new life into the Transformers franchise last summer, the studio is hoping to do the same to this sci-fi soldier series about a team of military experts battling the villainous Cobra organization.
G.I. Joe refers to the team, not any one person, and Snake Eyes is its mysterious lone wolf. In the movie, shooting now and set for August 2009, this fearsome figure is played by Ray Park (Darth Maul in the first Star Wars prequel).
“He’s the world’s greatest ninja, but he’s also next-generation. He’s not afraid to use a sword one second, and a split-second later he’s pulling out his Glock,” says director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy and Van Helsing). “His chief nemesis is arguably the world’s other great ninja, Storm Shadow. The two grew up together, were blood brothers and now are mortal enemies.”
Channing Tatum (Step Up) plays all-American team leader Duke. Rachel Nichols (Alias) plays the crossbow-wielding Scarlett, Marlon Wayans is paratrooper Ripcord and Dennis Quaid is the commander, Hawk. On the evil-doer side, Sienna Miller plays the raven-haired Baroness, Christopher Eccleston is Destro, the arms dealer who hides behind a silver mask, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock From the Sun, Brick) plays multiple roles, including the Cobra Commander.
Depending on which decade you grew up in, the name G.I. Joe can mean very different things. Hasbro initiated the G.I Joe line as 12-inch dolls in the 1960s, with generic figures representing the U.S. military branches.
The franchise was relaunched in the ’80s with smaller action figures, new heroes featured in comic books and a popular after-school cartoon.
Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura also is overseeing this project. He says the appeal then, as now, is broad, across race and even gender. (G.I. Joe was one of the few toys for boys that had female characters.)
“There are quite a few characters in it, and almost certainly a character in which an audience member can see themselves, or want to be,” he says.
Sommers stresses that the movie is an origins story, so his challenge is to explain why the bad guy wears a metal mask, why Snake Eyes doesn’t talk and other strange things kids took for granted. “For people who know nothing about it, it’ll make sense,” Sommers says. “And to people who love this stuff, it’ll show where they all came from.”