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An Unlikely Pairing: Zombieland Writers and a G.I. Joe Sequel

Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese. Two writers whose names you’ve probably heard around here a few times. We interviewed them in October prior to the release of Zombieland, the breakout hit they co-wrote. At the time, we probed them about their favorite zombie movies, their ability to adeptly combine scary and funny into a movie with enough pace to feel like “a wild ride,” and their upcoming projects. They responded with tales of a distant project called Earth vs. Moon. It was interesting. We were hooked. These guys were clearly the kind of writers who could tackle such a premise and make it fun — and beyond fun, watchable.

Not once in any of these conversations did we ask them about G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the recently release summer actioner from director Stephen Sommers. The topic was never approached because of one thing: the assumption that writers like Rheese and Wernick weren’t the kind who take on such a franchise. They’re filled with original ideas and talent. Loads of talent. Why waste it on G.I. Joe? That, and at the time we had no knowledge of a sequel, even though it seemed like an obvious play.

Fast forward to now. Reese and Wernick have since signed on to write a treatment of the comic adaptation Deadpool for Fox, they’ve been toying with writing a Zombieland sequel for Sony and they’ve set up the development of Earth vs. Moon at Universal. The only thing missing from their deck of cards is a project at Disney and Paramount. Enter Paramount, and the Joe sequel that we all knew was coming. According to Collider, Reese and Wernick are in to write the script, leaving them one Mouse-house project away from a studio system full house.

An interesting play, especially for Paramount. They appear to be leaving behind the mostly capable writing of Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett and Michael Gordon to hand it over to a more clever version of their favorite sons, Orci and Kurtzman. Where the comic sensibilities of Reese and Wernick (a huge factor in their perfect casting as the scribes of Deadpool) fit in is unclear. There is a roadmap laid down for G.I. Joe that worked to the tune of $300 million worldwide. It involves glossy effects, cardboard acting and an appeal to every 12-year old boy on Earth. I wouldn’t expect the Zombieland boys to get much freedom to flesh out these characters, especially if Stephen Sommers is returning.

That said, a little freedom could do this franchise some good. As one of the Joe supporters from early on, I was pleased with the film. It delivered action beats, contrived, but fun moments and characters that worked within its framework. It was also absurdly hyperreal. These themes stretched out with more naturalistic (and funny) dialog and characters that exist in more than one dimension (a Reese/Wernick specialty) could make for one hell of a sequel.

With a bit of freedom. Are you taking notes, Lorenzo di Bonaventura?

Side note: Does this G.I. Joe sequel come with a menu? Can I get an extra side order of Rachel Nichols, please?

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet.

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