Harry has seen G.I. JOE - and is looking forward to seeing it again!
A few weeks ago, I got a voice mail from Stephen Sommers that took me to task for calling VAN HELSING ridiculously goofy retarded fun. He remembered that I gave VAN HELSING a positive review – but if you go back and you look at that review – I talk about Saturday Morning Cartoons, about the sugary confections one must consume to get your brain to the hyper-mental glee state that was necessary to enjoy Saturday Morning Universal Monsters. And while Sommers and I haven’t spoken since that voice mail, if I were to talk to him – I’d say… “What’s wrong with goofy retarded fun, I like it, but I can admit that it’s got goofy retarded fun in it.” And if he asked what was goofily retarded… I’d point out FRANKENSTEIN’s Monster SWINGING. The very definition of goofy retarded fun.
G.I. JOE is not VAN HELSING. It is also not the MUMMY films, nor is it DEEP RISING. In fact, it is very much Sommers’ most fun film and possibly his best work to date.
G.I. JOE starts off with a flashback to an early ancestor of Christopher Eccleston’s character – who got spanked pretty seriously for being dead set on fulfilling his family’s right to… “TAKE OVER THE WORLD”. Actually, it’s never really stated like that – and honestly, I’m not a real fan of this flashback.
That said, when we flash forward to “The Not Too Distant Future” - we meet Channing Tatum’s DUKE and Marlon Wayans’ RIPCORD. Now… I have to confess, I was terrified of these two. I’d seen Tatum in two films that I haven’t liked this year – and the first, FIGHTING – I outright hated him. GENERATION KILL was the only thing I was holding on to really. And Marlon Wayans. Oh God. If Jar Jar were a real live human, he would be Marlon Wayans. And yes, I’m aware that I like Jar Jar, but that doesn’t mean I want EXTENDED TIME WITH HIM CONSTANTLY. I was terrified by Marlon Wayans’ presence.
Well, when we get introduced to these two, they’re heading up a military convoy guarding 4 crazy dangerous high tech Gort bugs that eat everything, sort of like a warhead with miniature me’s in them. Anyway, they haven’t been weaponized yet, but Duke’s elite special forces team in 3 big Humvee things and backed up with two Apache helicopters are heading to some unknown location… When the BAD GUYS strike – led by The Baroness.
Now – this opening sequence, it is actually kind of intensely scary, but in a VERY COOL WAY! Essentially, the pre-Cobra flying ship comes swooping in, using some energy weapon to completely wipe out the Apaches – and laying scorched Earth pimp slapping of the Humvees. This ship swats the missiles fired at it out of the skies. This one segment of the film, tonally, is just so much fun. Because when you’re the best trained American Soldier… getting your ass handed to you by an enemy that makes your weapon systems seem like Bow & Arrows… that’s a new situation.
Duke has history with the Baroness in this film, don’t remember that in the series, but hey… Spock is fucking Uhura – at least they’re not treating these characters like the plastic Eunichs from which this all sprung. Duke is saved by SNAKE EYES, SCARLETT and HEAVY DUTY, who drive off the Pre-Cobras.
Before we get too much further – I have to say, I’m not a huge fan of the GI JOE cartoons, the comics were better, but the toys were incredibly fun to play with. I’ve been watching the toons recently – as I was sent the entire series of GI JOE and TRANSFORMERS a couple of weeks back – and there’s a lot of fun in the JOE cartoons, but the idea of no fatalities, the extremely corny dialogue and non-stop puns and cheesy dialogue. Well, it didn’t age as well as I had hoped.
I was expecting this movie to be far more jokey, tons of cheese and really serious eye-rolling while groaning. Instead, what I got was a fairly straight adaptation of the script, which I always thought would work as a serviceable all-ages GI JOE movie. Although, this is a bit more violent than I was expecting. Blades can cut, death does happen in this universe, but it isn’t anything out of whack with the rating. I don’t believe there’s any foul language – and all flirtation is kept in very good tastes (ahem, BAY!)
After that opening intro to the JOES and Pre-Cobras – Duke and Ripcord are taken to “THE PIT” aka GI JOE Headquarters. Which, in the not too distant future is in Egypt. Guess all this Middle East stuff works out. Anyway, THE PIT is crazy gadget cool. You know how in the comics – there were those CUT AWAY maps that showed you where various things happened. The elevator ride down to where their orientation and induction into the ranks of GI JOE… well, it is like the most inflated cool Q scene in a Bond film.
As Ripcord and Duke get tested – you get to see them doing all manners of cool JOE drills. And honestly – I could’ve just spent the entire first movie just training with these characters in THE PIT. There’s so much cool stuff in there – and as it is – we just get an extended whirlwind through it all.
Now how “goofy” is the tech of the film? It really isn’t. As a geek, I read about as many military inventions and crazy tech as I can get my hands on. So their INVISIBLE SUIT – I read that story last year in the papers. The accelerator suits, the Army has absolutely been heading in that direction. Energy weapons? Yup, they’re working on it. So this NOT TOO DISTANT FUTURE – I give it to them. And as any dog tag wearing JOE freak will attest, there’s so much tech that didn’t exist in just about every episode. That’s what I loved.
The other aspect of JOE that Duke and Ripcord get introduced to is the conceit that GI JOE is made up of the best soldiers from around the world. That was another of my favorite aspects of GI JOE. The only real problem that I have with the film is some of the design conceits. It’s almost like HASBRO ordered them to disregard all of that, so they’d have a whole new line of figures to sell. I’ve given the JOE redesign a lot of thought – and there’s a part of me that kinda agrees that it’d look a little VILLAGE PEOPLE to go with their original looks. That Scarlett has red hair and that Cover Girl was HOT – and HEAVY DUTY was no nonsense and BREAKER was cool… I was happy. SNAKE EYES – I’m still not sold on the molded look, but what Ray Park does in that suit… it’s crazy cool.
The design problems bugged me in advance on the COBRA side. In the script, I got that they were essentially doing the COBRA origin story. It isn’t till the end of the film that COBRA is actually born. So… Hopefully – if this film succeeds, as it should, we’ll get a sequel with the correct Cobra uniforms… I love that blue.
In my opinion this is a vastly superior adaptation than either of the TRANSFORMERS movies. For one, this really is a GI JOE story, not a story of a teenager with grandpa’s glasses. Here, the world is in peril in a coherent way. It isn’t just MEGATRON on a building screaming insults at a boy. But these bad guys, they seriously want to rule the world, not give life to Mountain Dew machines.
Now where there will be a divide on GI JOE is here. The fans that want a “hardcore badass GI JOE, where SNAKE EYES slips out of a shadow to slit a character’s throat as he goes all DEADPOOL-mime style through hordes of Cobra ‘red shirts’ – well, that ain’t happening here.
This film attempts to tightrope walk between that and something that is accessible to kids – and if you have a kid around the age of 9, he’ll come out of this movie like a raving lunatic. There are so many cool things that any boy that has ever turned a cardboard box into a Mach 8 vehicle or an underground drilling assault vehicle, or some permutation of those badass Drop vehicles from ALIENS… it is here. The energy weapons and what they do is crazy cool. The SHARKS (underwater vehicles) are also crazy cool. There’s a lot of that sort of thing in the film. This is the antidote for people going through gadget needs after the relaunch of JAMES BOND. Here, there’s so much coolness – that if you’re a tech-fetishist – you’re likely to smile really big.
They do delve into the whole SNAKE EYES and STORM SHADOW origin – via their childhoods training to be the men they become. Watching those kids beat the tar out of each other was pretty damn awesome – and had the least obvious CG – and just looked cool!
I’m not a particular fan of Joseph Gordon-Levitt here – mainly due to how Snidely Whiplash he is in the final act, but I do like Christopher Eccleston, and yes – he gets what you want to him to look like, but not till the very end.
There’s tons of cameos here. Lots of former Sommers performers. The only one really missing was Rachel Weisz. Dennis Quaid is a grit and smile General Hawk. Arnold Vosloo as the awesome Zartan is used sparingly, but I’m betting he plays more in the future of this series.
You know that Paris, accelerator suit stuff you’ve seen in trailers? Well, you’ve seen Slow Motion stuff. When the Accelerator suits are going in real time… oh my god, they’re so crazy fun. The way stuff goes boom, the wanton destruction, the cars that go flying… It really makes you want one. The motion is almost impossible not to giggle at – and by the end of the destructive run – I was laughing like a kid. It was so fun.
It was very much just a chase scene, but unlike any that I’ve seen. It was just crazy to watch. I can’t imagine how much loss of life is going on in this chase. All I know is it was so bad, that France has banned the JOES involved from setting foot on French soil. But Man, what a way to get banned, that’d be so much fun.
This isn’t an exact translation, but there feels like more of the spirit at play, than there was in the TRANSFORMERS movies. GI JOE doesn’t take itself deathly seriously. These guys are gung ho for stopping the bad guys, the bad guys want to blow shit up and kill people – and they do it in crazy future tech ways.
Though the scariest thing that I’ve ever seen is the concept of Mr Dark as U.S. President! Really? They elected Peron as President of the United States? Jesus that’s scary.
I was really stunned watching the film. If you’re not at least feeling this movie working after the first action sequence – there’s probably little hope for you, but to me – getting to tour JOE HQ, getting to try out new JOE tech, a crazy awesome trial run in Paris that goes huge big, then Pre-Cobra Command assault. The last act follows action in multiple locales, but while it does require that you pay attention, I really enjoyed it.
But ya know what? It IS a G.I. JOE movie and it was pretty damn cool! What makes it cool is that these are still men and women operating amazing technology that WE created ( moderately fictitiously) and that isn’t GIVEN by Aliens, Future Beings, etc. That’s what makes it cool, that and the notion that we work with a Global coalition of cool folks that are capable of crazy awesome with this stuff.
That was the dream of the G.I.JOE relaunch. Now that a lot of “HISTORY” is out of the way – hopefully the films will be unencumbered by explaining the history and we can just have JOES and COBRAS beating the boogery snot out of one another.
Of the BIG live action SUMMER films – this is one that you should have quite a bit of fun with. But now I’m really curious how hardcore JOE geeks react – along with noobs. I do know that my Commie Liberal sister (if you think I’m liberal, you really have no idea how conservative I am by comparison) – she went in wanting to hate it as Militaristic Propaganda to program our youth to “Go JOE” – but instead she came out loving how science fiction it was. How it really departs from the here and now. This is a pretty wild ride through a kinda hopeful not too distant future. More science fiction than military or war. Here's hoping we get to see S.H.I.E.L.D. vs A.I.M.!!!