Smoke and flames put a bit of sizzle into the “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” press conference yesterday at the Shilla Hotel in Seoul. Background music blared. Flames shot up on screen. Clouds of smoke wafted up. “G.I. Joe” stars Lee Byung-hun, Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller – flanked by “G.I. Joe” director Stephen Sommers and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura – emerged from the haze.
Bordering on cheesy, the theatrics and the colorful “G.I. Joe” banners draping the walls served as a flamboyant precursor to the big-budget film, which Tatum dubbed “a big, fun crazy ride.”
“All the action that you could possibly dream up will come to life before your eyes,” Hallyu star Lee said of his Hollywood debut film.
Di Bonaventura pinpointed the fast pace of his third Hasbro-related actioner: “Just enjoy it, and hopefully you’ll be able to breathe, cause Steve (Sommers) made this thing so fast.”
Based on the Hasbro toy line and its comic book spin-off, the upcoming flick charts G.I. Joe’s battle against the terrorist organization Cobra and the arms dealer Destro.
Rising star Tatum plays Duke – a special operation forces commander charged with the task of transporting powerful state-of-the art weapons. After losing his team members to an ambush orchestrated by Cobra, Duke and sole surviving member Ripcord join G.I. Joe in their fight against the organization.
Miller and Lee star as members of the terrorist organization Cobra; with Miller carrying out her evil plans as the leather-clad Baroness, and with Lee wielding his sword as the Korean martial arts fighter Storm Shadow.
“Storm Shadow is an iconic character and we needed to have somebody who had the grace and style and the physical prowess and the assuredness of performance,” said Mr. di Bonaventura regarding the decision to cast Lee.
“The next two movies I direct he’ll be in,” Sommers said of Lee at a round table interview following the press conference.
“He seemed very quiet and reserved,” Sommers described his initial impressions of Lee. “And then we found out he’s got a great sense of humor.”
“I respected him way before I met him,” said co-star Tatum, who saw Lee in “A Bittersweet Life” prior to working with him.
Tatum also revealed that his interest in Korean film extended beyond Lee’s work, briefly discussing a film project he is involved in that may use Korea as a backdrop.
“I have a Korean manager,” Tatum elaborated. “He’s always trying to get me to watch movies.”
“The style that Korean film is in is so much more gritty and kind of tough and slick,” Tatum stated with admiration. “I was like, ‘Okay, let’s go and maybe try and do, you know, an American movie in Korean.'”
Still in its early stages, Tatum said that they were initially inspired by the Michael Douglas flick “Black Rain,” where Douglas plays a New York police officer who gets entangled in the Japanese underworld. But now they are going to aim for a different angle.
“I wanna come here on a trip by myself and really get to see Korea for myself,” said Tatum. “If we’re gonna do it at all, we’re gonna do it right.”
When asked about plans to star in a sequel to “G.I. Joe,” Tatum answered: “We haven’t really talked about number two. If people go see the movie and they like it, obviously we would like to.”
The movie has already garnered attention from the Korean press for the reportedly substantial amount of screen time Lee receives and his relatively fluent English.
While Lee’s appearance in the Hollywood flick is sure to attract domestic moviegoers, Miller also set forth a convincing summary as to why audiences should check out “G.I. Joe.”
“We blew up more cars than have ever been blown up before. … We have Byung-hun Lee without a shirt on, which will draw a crowd … and Channing without his shirt on.”
“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” hits theaters nationwide on Aug. 6. (Korea Herald)