Paramount's official reason for bumping the Dwayne Johnson-starring sequel was to convert the movie to 3D. But many industry insiders have been skeptical, given that nine months is an awfully long time to postpone something that was less than five weeks away from premiering (especially with all the publicity and merchandise having already gone out).
Not surprisingly, there is more to this story than just 3D conversion, and Deadline has the inside scoop (MASSIVE SPOILERS AHEAD):
Apparently, audiences were not happy with the decision to see Channing Tatum -- who plays Duke, the leader of the Joes -- get killed off in the first few minutes of the film. (Then again, this isn't that big of a spoiler if you watched the Superbowl trailer. When Roadblock says "We're all that's left" after a massive gunfight and Duke isn't there, it was safe to assume he got the axe.)
It's not surprising that audiences hoping for a Tatum-Rock buddy movie would be disappointed by the death of Duke. However, what is surprising is Paramount thinking they could kill off Duke without a backlash, especially when this exact same situation happened 25 years ago.
Back in 1987, the animated "G.I. Joe: The Movie" was released. In the film, the Joes fight the secret society of snake-men called Cobra-La (don't ask). One of the movie's pivotal moments is Duke's heated battle with Serpentor, where the Cobra leader takes his weird snake-spear-thing and plunges it into Duke's heart. With all the Joes tearfully gathered around, he imparts his final words to his younger brother Falcon, closes his eyes and... slips into a coma?
If Duke's injury looks like it was supposed to be much graver, that's because it was. As series story editor Buzz Dixon explained:
We were aiming for a PG rating, and I finally got permission from Hasbro to do something we had never done in the series: Kill off a character. Since Duke and Lt. Falcon were going to be revealed as half-brothers, and since Duke was being phased out of the toy line, I decided to kill Duke off as the final impetus that turns Lt. Falcon into a real Joe. The scene was animated and, if you watch the visuals and don't listen to the soundtrack, it's obvious Duke dies.
However, Hasbro decided if killing off a major character was good for "G.I. Joe," it would be even better for "Transformers," so they ordered Optimus Prime to be bumped off in "Transformers: The Movie" even though that had never been the intent in the original script.
In 1986, a year before "Joe" was released, "Transformers: The Movie" came out, complete with Optimus Prime's death. Unfortunately, this did not go over too well.
The younger Transformer fans freaked when Optimus Prime went to that big junkyard in the sky... Parents howled in protest to Hasbro, and Hasbro decreed "G.I. Joe: The Movie" be slightly re-edited and re-dubbed to indicate Duke survived (that clunky "We just heard Duke's going to be all right -- yea!" ending).
So there you have it: This is the second time that producers have tried to kill off Duke, only to discover that his fanbase won't let them. The first time, correcting the mistake only required a simple re-dubbing with a voice actor. This time around, it could cost Paramount Pictures hundreds of millions of dollars. Maybe Hollywood will now know that they can't drastically mess with a beloved fan franchise -- and knowing is half the battle.