*No spoilers-although there is nothing to spoil!
All through my childhood, I had two great loves; Star Wars and GI Joe. I was a GI Joe fan spanning back to the 70’s with the 10 inch action doll- complete with real hair and the ‘kung fu’ grip. I vividly remember the transition from the large hero to the 4 inch, pint size action figure. Even with the change, it didn’t take long for me to begin my new obsession with these little toy solders. Fueled by the TV cartoon, I spent a few years fighting for world freedom along side my comrades like Duke, Snake Eyes, Scarlett, and all the gang. So naturally, when I heard that the inevitable was going to happen and that GI Joe was coming to the big screen, I was both elated and apprehensive. Well, it looks like the dead Star Wars franchise will be in good company with this lame initial outing. So here we go…
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra begins with the introduction of military buddies ‘Duke’ (Channing Tatum) and ‘Ripcord’ (Marlon Wayans) as they set out on a routine mission to protect a high priority package. They are quickly ambushed by superior Cobra super soldiers led by the Baroness (Sienna Miller) and are almost wiped out if not for the timely rescue by a GI Joe squad. Duke soon joins the elite force and it’s quickly revealed that the stolen package is a new weapon that of course, threatens the safety of the whole world. It sounds like a job for some real American Heroes.
GI Joe has good intentions and has high ambitions. Like it’s cousin toy line from Hasbro, it tries to tap into the same nostalgia the first Transformers movie did so successfully. It attempts to introduce a sexy, hip cast like the new Star Trek film. It also tries to bring some of the complex and multi-layered action scenes of the original Star Wars films. Unfortunately it fails at all three. Director Steven Sommers (The Mummy Series, Van Helsing) yet again creates a world that is not quite convincing. The reality, characters, and effects are underdeveloped and feel targeted for a 13 year old. The premise of the early days of Cobra is fine but GI Joe fails at the screenplay level. The dialogue is not smart nor does the story take you to unexpected places. Even the one or two twists at the end are mediocre at best. The characters are as plastic as their 4 inch counter parts- emotionless and stone faced. Unfortunately, even Dennis Quaid’s General Hawk is just laughable and Marlon Wayan’s sidekick is stereotypical. There is a feeble attempt at a deeper story between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow but even as these two engage in ‘ninja combat’, it still feels unsatisfying. Ironically, I thought the puppet-action film Team America had much more lively action scenes and convincing acting- ha ha.
The effects, my gosh the effects. I appreciate what Sommers was trying to recreate. There were times that I think he took direct scenes from the original TV show. The scenes are always full and frenetic. The action is fast paced and action packed. The problem is that the effects look like one step above a video game. Not surprising coming from the maker of the Mummy and Van Helsing. I know some of this is intentional since Sommers prefers the slightly ‘cartoonish’ reality verse the real world environment. But a movie with such limited ‘practical’ effects and vehicles, makes it feel as threatening as playing with the real GI Joe toy line- jut blow them up, we’ll just make more. Seriously, when Cobra and Destro are finally revealed at the end, I thought I was in a Power Rangers movie. The special effects rich world of Joe became more of a distraction rather than complimenting the experience.
And yes there is actually a ‘walking side-by-side’ scene with tough music underscoring it. Do action heroes even do that any more?
Knowing that the movie was not ‘pre-screened’ for critics was a definite indication that the movie was not going to be great so I carried those expectations in with me. Unfortunately, I was still shaking my head. It was yet another bastardization of one of my true childhood loves. GI Joe now joins the crowded company of disappointing genres like Star Wars and Transformers. I’m not too worried though, with the rate that Hollywood pumps out these movies, I’m sure a real American reboot is around the corner. Let’s hope next time we get more than “CGI Joe”.
Checkout our podcast on GI Joe
I give this 1.5 Babbles out of 5