Have you seen the trailer for the G.I. Joe sequel? It looks pretty darned sick.
Why is that, though? I’ve found myself pondering that question somewhere between my 10th and 12th viewing of aforementioned sick-ness. By all appearances it’s just another stock Hollywood shoot-em-up, save that it has a popular intellectual property stamped on it. Why then, particularly given that my tastes generally run counter to this sort of thing, does this trailer give me fanboy tinglies every time I watch it? The answer, I eventually realized, is because someone in the marketing for this film went and earned their pay. This is a trailer that is tailor made to push all the right buttons in the 20-something male demographic, and in that it is somehow only more fascinating.
First up, the previously referenced intellectual property cattle-branded onto the celluloid. G.I. Joe is a pop-culture institution. Even knowing nothing about the story background involved (itself younger than the franchise, only dating back to the 1980’s while the brand name goes as far back as the 60’s), you know what G.I. Joe is. If you are a male, it is irrefutably statistically proven that you owned at least one G.I. Joe. Again, you may not have given two shits about the characters or the storyline, but you had one and the G.I. Joe name carried meaning for you at some level. There’s one button pushed.
Second, if you ‘did’ care about the story it was probably because you watched the 1980’s cartoon as a kid, either in its initial broadcast or in various re-runs throughout the 90’s. Everything we enjoyed when we were kids is once again irrefutably statistically proven to be totally cool and awesome, even now when we are ostensibly adults who do big people things like vote and pay taxes. What’s important about this is that the sugar-addled tots who waved their G.I. Joes in front of the Saturday morning boob-tube two decades ago are today collecting proper paychecks but not yet spending them on kids of their own, giving them disposable income to burn at the cinema. That’s two buttons pushed.
Third, there’s the cast of characters. The costuming in this film seems to cleave closer to the classic character models than did its predecessor. This gives the sequel the advantage of more immediate recognition. Every time Roadblock picks up a big gun, Cobra Commander minces behind his mask, or SnakeEyes… does ninja things, there’s a whole synaptic bonfire across your brain as it tries to decode what it’s seeing and put it into context with its previous experiences. When in that millisecond span it connects the dots and has that “aha!” moment, there’s a small rush of endorphins rewarding your clever little brain for a job well done. In this way, seeing your favorite characters up on the screen in full costumed glory literally makes you a little high. There’s three buttons.
Fourth, there’s the people ‘playing’ those characters. In this case I refer specifically to the prominent showcasing of Duane “The Rock” Johnson (though I’m personally in it as much for Ray Stevenson and Ray Park, both of whom deserve to get more work than they do). Now, for a while it was topical to remark on how Johnson’s career has been more of a parody of action-stardom than the real thing, but if you take a look at the last couple of years the man has been back on the upswing. Why is that? Because the preteen boys who once upon a time made up a solid core of his fanbase back when he was a pro wrestler are now monied adults who will pay to watch him kick ass and let them re-experience those vicarious living room thrills. Still counting the buttons.
Fifth, that shot of the Cobra flags flying on the White House. In addition to being a nice short-hand for “the ante done got upped,” as it naturally always must in sequels, I feel the notion of a sinister cabal of supervillains co-opting our government is one that plays well to a generation that matured during the last decade. I won’t try to read any more subtext into it until I watch the film, but for now I’ll count that as a button pushed.
Finally, there is the music that plays over the latter part of the trailer. It’s surprisingly insidious. If you think it sounds familiar, that’s because it should. It’s the song Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes, remixed by the group Glitch Mob. This particular type of aftermarket digitized music has become quite popular in the last couple of years, especially in the 20-something demographic, and when you consider that the song is question is one that was initially popular when many of us were in high-school and just forming our musical tastes I would argue that the soundtrack to the trailer is very deliberate and calculated. Its working too, I can’t stop listening to it.
Someone at MGM is steepling their fingers and chuckling to themselves with maleficent jolity. You know what though? They earned it. As advertising goes, this shit is pretty off the hook. (do people still say that?)
Now, to see about pre-ordering those tickets.