We've been skeptical of the G.I. Joe film for months now. Sad CG and goofy bare-chested Joe's all seemed to point to this film's eventual terrible demise. But the good news is, this film is bad in a fun way.
It's been a lackluster summer for fun blockbuster movies. We've gone months watching letdown after letdown. I guess it was only natural that we assumed that G.I. Joe would be yet another installment of boring explosions, tired plots and bad acting. But I'm happy to say G.I. Joe is actually exciting explosions, silly plots and enjoyably bad acting. Does it have flaws? Oh yes, many. But it's a cool breeze of refreshing action fun that airs out the stink of disappointment from Transformers 2.
The film is full of the tropes from director Stephen Sommers' past work, which if you if you like a strapping young hero coming to terms with his heroism-ness, the big, seemingly unstoppable host of baddies, and the many women counterparts who, although they are perfectly capable of kicking ass on their own, constantly need to be saved by the menfolk, you are in for a treat. Think of it as a highly militarized version of both The Mummy and Van Helsing, with slightly less charismatic leads.
G.I. Joe starts off with the delightful and actually scary CEO of MARS James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) explaining all about his brand new weapon fueled by what appears to be the green Powerade and nanomites, tiny bugs that eat metal really super fast. Actually that's wrong the movie started with a super old flash back in medieval times, seriously I think they shot in the restaurant, that showed, rather unnecessarily, the McCullen lineage and how his ancestors were skeevy weapons peddlers too and eventually got caught dealing to both sides and were forced to wear an iron mask. And that is how G.I. Joe does foreshadowing, by just telling you what's to come.
Anyways back to the future. So McCullen is a bad guy and attempts to steal his own weapon that he sold to the US, thus killing off a whole military unit except for Duke and Ripcord, who join up with the off-the-books black ops unit, the Joes. You can tell they are black ops, because they are wearing all black.
Dennis Quaid and his little hat play General Hawk, who allows Duke and Ripcord to join up with the Joes, for now, because, surprise, the Baroness, who showed up to steal the weapons earlier and kill Duke's men but not him, isn't the sexy Russian we've all dreamed about, but Duke's ex, who used to be blonde, so the hair color change signifies evil-ness.
After this the flick is just a giant chase and be chased action feature. Everybody wants the nanomite weapons and the Joes do a really lousy job of protecting them, hence the eventual destruction of the Eiffel Tower. But honestly, this is all the time I'm going to take to describe the confusing and flat out ridiculous plot because that's not what we go to these kinds of movies for. We go to Joe to watch Ripcord make jokes, Snake Eyes flip, kick and wave his samurai sword about and to witness the toy accelerator suits we will later contemplate purchasing because even though we're old now, that doesn't mean we have to stop buying toys. And the suits, surprisingly not as heinous on screen as I imagined. The CG was terrible, and I mean terrible, but you didn't really care because the movie established early on that they weren't striving for reality in any sense of the word, so "shut up and eat your awesome."
What's in it for die-hard Joe fans? Plenty of shout outs and new fancy military toys to get excited about. The movie makes a serious effort to let you know they know it's a movie based off toys, with giant underground drill tanks, underwater subs, power suits, jet skis and jets. Sienna Miller all but winks into the camera while delivering the cheesetastic lines like "a real american hero." There's heaps of "yo joe" calls and past references to the cartoon, which is fun for fun's sake.
But with the good came the very, very bad. The film gets a little bogged down by excessive flash backs and spoon fed foreshadowing. I literally thought Sienna Miller and Joseph Gordon-Levitt were going to bust into a "foreshadowing is fun" musical number when she tells Duke, after only implying it 1,000 times before, "I'll marry you if and only if you watch out for my baby brother [JGL] in Iraq." Surely nothing will go wrong now. And special attention needs to be paid to the god-awful Norton Anti-Virus plug in the middle of the film. The enemies highly technological science based is guarded by Norton — sure, yeah.
Also, I think I need to take note of Stephen Sommers' continual use of the damsel in distress plot line. In Van Helsing, The Mummy (1 and 2), and now in G.I. Joe there are at least one, if not multiple, scenes where the main female character is left unconscious, or seriously incapacitated, and at the mercy of evil. Then it's up to the hero to save the literal damsel in distress.
Each movie the women go under and are shlepped around by the hero, no seriously there are multiple "carrying the lady" scenes in all of his films. I got a little mad when the male characters had an entire conversation over one female characters limp body about what they all need to do to "fix" her. And I got even more pissed that Sommers pretty much pulled the rug out from under all of his women whenever they solidified themselves on screen as warriors.
For instance, after an entertaining fight between the Baroness and Scarlett, Ripcord finds a weepy Scarlett staring in the mirror at her face cuts and scrapes upset about her tiiiiiiiny scars and that she lost a fight. He comforts her and there's this strange sigh of relief that Scarlett has now dropped her hard exterior shell to find comfort in the menfolk, it was kind of bullshit, especially since she was clearly fine and General Hawk had been all but left within an inch of his life down the hall, but gross scars. Oh and there's not a single moment like this or the men, they are G.I. Joe heroes after all, not girls. Sigh.
That being said, I gotta admit there are moments where I just gave in to my damsel fetishisms and thought, "Carry me away from all of this, Duke." So while Sommers needs to work out some of his, "girls don't always need to be unconscious in all of your movies" issues, and I'd like him to not resort into turning women into girls with weepy "why me" moments, there were still moments where he plays that damsel card pretty well. But I'd like him to stop now.
As for the "big reveal" well it is titled The Rise Of Cobra, and the film is pretty much a giant build up to the big Cobra Commander reveal, which was sadly, horribly disappointing. Why JGL was cast in this movie I will never know. He's a great actor but all I got out of his performance was one blinking eye and a limp. It was look-around-the-theater-in-dismay angering. Honestly if they spent longer with him it could have tanked the entire feature, but thankfully they didn't. So don't worry there's plenty of Snake Eyes to go round.
Even though the film had handfuls of flaws, I left the theater fist punching the air, swooning over my new found attraction to shirtless Byung-hun Lee, and with a smile. It took me a minute to remember a lot of the details, because this isn't the type of movie you keep with you forever, but it is the classic summer fare that rescues sticky pedestrians on a hot day with explosions and movie theater air conditioning. G.I. Joe is silly, but it's worth seeing because... it's fun. Remember fun? Fun was what you were looking for when you shelled out $10 to see Transformers 2 and left with a headache. G.I. Joe will hopefully bring back fun movies that at least attempt to be entertaining and coherent and not just an excuse for Michael Bay to visit Egypt to shoot a movie.
Maybe my expectations were already so low that it had no where to go but up, still I felt like the audience and the actors were all in on the joke when Duke drives his motorcycle in the rain, through a graveyard, with sunglasses on (and a leather jacket, of course). It's self aware but not in an annoying Scary Movie way, in a now watch me blow the shit out of this bunker and then ninjas are going to fight on top of it kind of way.
Will I buy it on DVD or see it again in the theater, nah, once was enough. But I will tell you to go see it for an escape from your mind for and hour and 40 minutes. So now you know and...ah you know the rest.