By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com June 28, 2011 at 1:18AM
Despite being an ugly, cartoony, badly-acted mess with very little to recommend it, 2009's "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" managed a fairly impressive $150 million gross in a late summer slot, which is the very least of an excuse that franchise-happy Paramount needed to greenlight a sequel. But that doesn't mean that they're not going to shake things up: director Stephen Sommers clashed with the studio on the original, and has departed for the supernatural thriller "Odd Thomas," while an eye on the bottom line has seen most of the original cast members, including Marlon Wayans, Christopher Ecclestone, Rachel Nichols, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid and, most unsurprisingly, the since-gone-supernova Joseph Gordon-Levitt, put out to pasture.
Instead, lead Channing Tatum, who'll reprise the role of Duke, along with ninja-double act Ray Park (Snake Eyes) and Byung Hun Lee (Storm Shadow), have been joined for the new take by Dwayne Johnson "District 13: Ultimatum" star Elodie Yung and, now, two more names have come aboard. Heat Vision reports that TV actor D.J. Cotrona and rapper-turned-polymath RZA have joined the cast of "G.I. Joe: Cobra Strikes."
We don't know Cotrona from Adam, but he's perhaps best known for being cast as Superman in George Miller's aborted "Justice League" movie a few years back, and he's since gone on to take a supporting role alongside Tatum in "Dear John," and a lead in the canceled TV series "Detroit 1-8-7." He'll play Flint, the team's Warrant Officer, who would go on to romance teammate Lady Jaye, head up an environmental team known as the Eco-Warriors, and become a best-selling author (as ever, looking up the Wikipedia pages for these characters are the best bits about "G.I. Joe" stories).
RZA, meanwhile, has made inroads into acting in recent years, in films like "American Gangster," "Derailed," "The Next Three Days" and a memorable cameo in "Funny People." He's recently wrapped his directorial debut, the Eli Roth-produced kung fu homage "The Man With The Iron Fists," in which he takes the lead opposite Russell Crowe, and that seems to be good training for his part here: he'll play The Blind Master, the martial arts mentor of Snake-Eyes and new character Jinx. Plot details are still otherwise under wraps, but we suspect it'll involve Cobra striking in some way. Are they not being paid well enough, then?
We're sure some more casting is on the way, and we're also sure it'll continue to be fairly low-rent (although Variety says that Jonathan Pryce will be returning as the U.S. President, maintaining some of that all-important continuity after the cliffhanger at the end of the first film). Jon Chu, director of "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never" is helming from a script by "Zombieland" writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (the latter the only thing that gives us even a glimmer of hope, although it's worth noting that their "Deadpool" script wasn't all that). Filming must be getting underway fairly soon, as the (yet to be officially titled) "G.I. Joe: Cobra Strikes" will hit theaters on August 10, 2012.