Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week: Alter Egos vs. G.I. Joe: Retaliation, two movies that dissect the meaning of the superhero with some cheap chuckles, dastardly villains, and hot ladies along the way.
Alter Egos inhabits a fantasy world where superheroes are a dime a dozen. If you have the powers, as lead supers Fridge (Kris Lemche), and C-Thru (Joey Kern), do, then, well, you can practice them for good, as long as you follow the guidelines, or at least some of them. Quite obviously, this is a parody of parodies and flips the superhero genre on its head. Like Superman, Fridge is dorky in his human clothes. Unlike Superman, it's not because he has to do so to keep his identity under wraps—more like he uses his superhero garb to explore different facets of his personality, as evidenced by the title. Somewhere along the storyline, he must tackle the fact that his girlfriend loves his superhero identity more than his unmasked self, and, naturally, face his nemesis, the man who killed his mom and dad—although he really doesn't want to.
G.I. Joe: Retaliation's trailer, on the other hand, promises a lot more action than men climbing through windows with no apparent skill. In the sequel to 2009's G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra, the G.I. Joe team has been ambushed, then terminated, obviously with a handful of survivors who then retaliate. (Like in the title!) Channing Tatum returns, though with few other castmates from the original, to play Captain Duke Hauser, along with Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson as Roadblock, Adrianne Palicki (Friday Night Lights, TV's next Wonder Woman) as Lady Jaye, and Bruce Willis as Joe Colton. Together, they must restore the G.I. Joe name and take back the country from the control of Snake Eyes. Sounds cool, but not as cool and probably laugh-out-loud funny as Alter Egos.
Advantage: Alter Egos
Alter Egos boasts a fairly unknown cast. Danny Masterson, aka Hyde from That 70s Show, is the biggest acting name. While Masterson plays a rejected superhero applicant who can disappear for 2.3 seconds, Kern and Lemche play the superhero leads, Fridge—a kind of ice man, get it, like a fridge, and C-Thru (whom we assume can become invisible). That's some good humor. Sean Lennon, a longtime friend of director Jordan Galland, adds some wattage to the cast, literally, as superhero Electric Death. Then there are the heroes of G.I. Joe: Retaliation. Bruce Willis, Channing Tatum, Dwayne Johnson, and Adrianne Palicki are members of the super elite military squad out to save the world from Cobra's control. We can't decide here. Alter Egos' nerdy-looking, simpler superheroes promise hilarious times, but we can't get over how much more promising the second installment of the G.I. Joe series looks than the first, and though we still aren't in love with the whole spiel, we like Bruce Willis in the action seat. At least it's not Surrogates.
With Alter Egos, the shtick is the movie: superheroes, but a lot less glamorous, rare, and well-funded—and a lot more human. They need to use your Internet. They can apply for the super gig, then must follow superhero rules. They reap the benefits of superhero charm on women, even in their spandex pastel numbers, though out of costume they lack the pimp-ability, and their superhero ideal? Batman. G.I. Joe: Retaliation's trailer also shows its fair share of humor, though it is more action movie than comedy. Snarky jokes out of Bruce Willis' mouth are nothing new, though we guess we haven't heard him talk about his cholesterol before. We get it: Bruce Willis is now the aging John McClane (Die Hard), Korben Dallas (The Fifth Element), Harry Stamper (Armageddon). Still, the fresh, quirky, self-effacing and anti-mythical superhero humor of Alter Egos has us more entertained.
Advantage: Alter Egos
In addition to having rock royalty part of its cast, Alter Ego's entire soundtrack was written by Sean Lennon. That's pretty cool if you ask us and a hefty challenge for G.I. Joe: Retaliation to face, though it does puts up a decent fight. RZA, the founder of Wu-Tang Clan, is set to play Blind Master, a fun addition we're looking forward to, and that "Seven Nation Army" remix does the trick, though it's not the best use of Jack White's talents. If White had done the soundtrack for G.I. Joe: Retaliation, a snowball's shot in hell, then we would have a real competition on our hands, but as it stands, Alter Egos takes the gold here.
Advantage: Alter Egos
In terms of directing talent, we have two polar opposites in contention. At the helm of Alter Egos is Jordan Galland, an indie director if ever there was one—Alter Egos is just his second feature. G.I. Joe: Retaliation's director is John M. Chu, the man behind Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3D and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Though he's part of the Belieber machine, Chu has made G.I. Joe: Retaliation look nowhere as ridiculous as the first, with its flying Iron Man-like suits and misuse of Sienna Miller. With Alter Egos, we get creativity on a tight indie budget, and for that, we must also dole out some respect to Galland. Seems to us like both men did the job.
In the end, G.I. Joe: Retaliation's rise from the depths of badness isn't enough to get us into theaters, though we do see a rainy night spent on the couch in the near future with the sequel's DVD playing on the TV screen and us laughing along. Alter Egos cinches the win—and not just because we think indie films need all the help they can get or because Sean Lennon's name is in the credits. In the age of cookie-cutter superhero films and franchises, Alter Egos promises some real character analysis mixed in with fun mythology and driest of humor. The title says it all.
Winner: Alter Egos
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