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G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA

Sommers-Size
Stephen Sommers has quickly become a master of the action epic, as is evident in his popular "Mummy” movies and "Van Helsing.” To his crew, many of whom have worked with him on all his major projects, his vision for epic scope, and painstaking detail in his propulsive action set pieces, has come to be known as Sommers-sized. It is not merely large-scale for the sake of it, but part of his passion to continually keep the audience's adrenaline pumping and their eyes glued to the screen. 

Sommers builds sequences through careful progression, brick upon brick, with an acceleration that is carefully planned and timed. That includes the overall look of his film, which he entrusted to his production designer Ed Verreaux. "Ed is highly familiar with the world of action and effects movies,” says David Womark, referring to Verreaux's work on "X-Men: The Last Stand,” "Rush Hour 3” and "Jurassic Park III.”

The unique challenge Verreaux faced had its roots in a franchise that already had an established look, one which fans were familiar with. "One of the things we wanted to do though,” he says, "was try to push it to the next level, while still staying true to the real character of G.I. JOE.”

Having only a passing familiarity with the franchise, Verreaux immersed himself in the world of G.I. JOE. "I went online and went out and bought about $200 worth of G.I. JOE comic books and learned all about DUKE, SNAKE EYES and their whole universe. It was kind of fun for me to spend a week reading comic books, just to get a sense of what the world of G.I. JOE was all about.” Notes executive producer Howsam, "Ed really did his homework on the property and created this really vibrant place that the actors, Stephen and everyone could live in.”

The designer not only had to create the contemporary world, but also the unique worlds of both the G.I. JOE team and MARS, and he quickly gained an understanding of how they differed. "In the first big meeting we had with Hasbro, they explained that MARS really had all the slick design stuff, while the G.I. JOE side is a little more utilitarian, closer to everyday military, not quite so over-designed,” he explains.

"I've been involved in a lot of big movies,” says di Bonaventura, "but this is one of the biggest movies I've ever seen. The scale is enormous and the architecture of it is very specific and has to be exceedingly specific, because you need to be able to differentiate where we are at all times, be it in the world of the G.I. JOE team, MARS or our own world. That was a big demand to place on Ed and his team.”

The crew took advantage of front-end time made available in the compressed schedule, building large numbers of sets during the first portion of production time. "The first couple of weeks we were doing local locations in Los Angeles, partly because we had to have time to get the sets built,” Verreaux explains. During the film's full-speed-ahead prep and shoot, more sets were continuously built at a single time than on any other film made to date. On average, large genre films usually build no more than 12 to 14 sets during a single period. The "G.I. JOE” production had 168 sets and set pieces constructed for the film.

Many of the largest sets were constructed at The Downey Stages. "There were very few nooks and crannies in the Downey studio that we didn't in some way or other use or build a set on,” says Verreaux. Among the sets built were the mammoth Urban Combat Level (part of the giant "Pit,” the underground home base of G.I. JOE), the MARS Docking Bay, the G.I. JOE Submarine, the MARS Missile Tube and Launch Tube and the MARS Flight Control set, among others.

The Pit, in fact, is the most impressive, featuring several levels (augmented by several more with visual effects set extensions). "There's the Urban Combat Level, the Undersea Warfare Level, the Command Center, a myriad of hallw

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