It’s a good time to be Channing Tatum. The actor, hot off of The Vow and 21 Jump Street, and poised to have another hit under his belt with male stripper comedy Magic Mike, is being called upon for G.I. Joe Retaliation reshoots that would see his role as Duke not only beefed up, but possibly spared from death as well. Even the trailers let you know right away that all of the old Joes (save for Snake Eyes) would be offed by Cobra in the film’s opening, paving the way for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as Roadblock to lead the franchise in a brand new direction. After some test screenings, Paramount has delayed the film’s Summer release by roughly nine months, adding 3-D and tinkering with the story as well, specifically to add more Duke Hauser.
So, yes, it may be a good time to be Channing Tatum, but it’s always a great time to be Duke. This wouldn’t be the first time the G.I. Joe character has been spared from a silver screen death at the last minute.
In 1987’s G.I. Joe: The Movie, an animated feature created to introduce new heroes and villains into Hasbro’s toy line (much like Transformers: The Movie did in 1986), Duke caught a spear to the heart at the hands of Cobra’s emperor Serpentor. It’s crystal clear that he bites it, but a throwaway line of dialogue at the end of the film mentions that Duke is recovering from a coma.
Hasbro had planned for Duke’s death to represent a dramatic change in the product, having done the same thing successfully with the death of Autobot leader Optimus Prime in the Transformers film. What they didn’t count on with Transformers: The Movie were scores of miffed parents, upset that taking their child to an innocent 90-minute toy commercial also meant consoling them afterward as if a loved one had died. To avoid letters and phone calls from a nation of upset moms and dads, Hasbro cut Duke’s funeral from the script and added a line that acknowledged that Duke was indeed alive.
This further establishes a new rule of cinema: You can’t kill Duke. Good news for any actors stepping into that role -- you’re untouchable. Duke can be impaled by a genetic monstrosity, bombed to smithereens by the forces Cobra, even saddled with post-conversion 3-D, and he’ll just keep on ticking.