Capone is on board for G.I. JOE's first mission and has a blast!!!
Published at: July 30, 2009, 12:53 a.m. CST by Capone
Hey everyone. Capone in Chicago here.
I'll admit it, I don't get people sometimes, especially people who feel compelled to tear something down they haven't even seen. Case in point: G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA, a film that very tiny number of non-studio people on the whole planet have seen. You can now add one more person to that list. I guess what I don't understand is why people seem so ready, giddy in fact, to see this movie be terrible and fail. Except for Harry's rather enthusiastic review (which I will read for the first time in its entirety after I finish writing this), there has been no advance buzz on this film--positive or negative--generated by anyone who has actually seen it. Yes, the first trailer was terrible, but it's hardly the first poorly cut trailer in the history of cinema. And I actually thought the second theatrical trailer was a much better effort and got me charged to see what the film was about.
I have zero stake in seeing this movie succeed. I don't own stock in Paramount or Hasbro (as can be seen by my pretty scathing review of the recent TRANSFORMERS film), and I don't know a single person personally who had a hand in making G.I. JOE. I heard all the same rumors as you did about the troubled production and post-production, about Stephen Sommers getting fired after the film tested ridiculously low (the testing portion of this story I know to be 100 percent false, by the way) and then rehired. I still don't know if there's any truth to the stories about Sommers, and you know what, I couldn't give a shit. Plenty of very bad movies have been made under the best of circumstances, and loads of good movies have been made on tumultuous sets.
I saw G.I. JOE last week during my time in San Diego, and although I was given permission to post my thoughts immediately after seeing it, I decided Harry's review would stand alone for a while and that I would post mine a little closer to its release date. But two things made me change my mind: the first was, I was beginning to suspect that the film would not be screened for critics; second, I saw an article in Wednesday's USA Today that made me very angry. This is a non-story. There's no actual news here, in fact. Look at how much of the article is the opinion of the writer, Anthony Breznican, disguised as fact. Read the piece carefully, and you'll see that he is essentially speaking for the "fans" in his assessment of the film's trailer and the anticipation level for the film. It's a snarky piece of journalism that belongs in Us Weekly and not USA Today. The one aspect to the story that is correct is Breznican's assessment that Paramount is keeping the film under wraps. Well, I've seen G.I. JOE and I'll tell anyone that works for the studio that hiding this film is a whopper of a mistake that I hope isn't too late to correct.
This is not going to be a glowing review of a flawless film. What this will be is a very good review of a movie that most critics will shit all over upon release because they didn't get to see it early, and most audiences will devour with both hands. If I were the kind of critic that rated films on a 1- to 4-star scale, I'd give G.I. JOE a solid three stars. I'm not much of a fan of Big Dumb Action Movies; I don't enjoy turning off my brain for any cinematic experience. And fortunately I didn't have to to enjoy this movie. I was a regular viewer of the old "G.I. Joe" TV show, where this film seems to have gotten its basis, but if you'd asked me to name five characters from that show from memory before seeing the big-screen version, I wouldn't have been able to do it. What I dug about the series had nothing to do with character development or intricate plot. I liked the missions, the colorful villains, the weapons, the technology, the special armored outfits for every occasion. I guess I was a bit of a military buff as a kid; I read a lot of Tom Clancy at the time as well. So shoot me. Either way, I don't think I was particularly pre-disposed to like this movie. In all honesty, when I heard they were making it, I couldn't have cared less. Director Sommers is also hit and miss in my book. I liked his earlier retellings of THE ADVENTURES OF HUCK FINN and THE JUNGLE BOOK, and I was impressed with his sure-handedness on DEEP RISING and THE MUMMY. But everything since then has been underwhelming for me.
So what is there to like on G.I. JOE? Let's start with the film's most impressive asset: the cast. By hiring a group of actors who are actually pretty much across-the-board solid actors, they are able to rise above some of the dopey dialogue. Channing Tatum (A GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS), Sienna Miller (FACTORY GIRL), an almost unrecognizable Joseph Gordon-Levitt (it doesn't help that we don't hear his actual voice for most of the film), Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje ("Lost"), Rachel Nichols (STAR TREK), Marlon Wayans (REQUIEM FOR A DREAM), Jonathan Pryce, and Dennis Quaid all put in pretty impressive performances that kept me glued to some of the more outrageous scenarios and sequences. And weirdly enough, I think I spotted Brendan Fraser in one early scene. I've deliberately put down the titles of films next to some of the actors' names, in case you have trouble recalling why I refer to them as solid actors. These aren't necessarily the actors you'd expect to be in a movie like this; they're actually better than who you'd expect.
My love of all things gadgetry was in no way disappointed. There is some truly cool stuff on display here from both the bad guys and the good. Beginning with a nano-technology-based missiles that can destroy anything and are being transported for safe keeping as the film opens, to massive military strongholds built under the desert and the polar ice cap, there are enough blinking lights, switches, big guns, and flying machines to keep everybody happy. The body armor in G.I. JOE looks like Robocop and Iron Man had hot monkey sex all night and gave birth to these metal suits. There are explosions, vehicle flipping around in the air, more explosions, and one chase scene after another. You will be thoroughly entertained by this movie that simply never lets up on the action. For the most part, I thought the effects were solid as well, far better than I thought they'd be given Sommers' previous films (come on, the effects in VAN HELSING and the second MUMMY movie were god-awful).
As you might know, I'm kind of a stickler for plot, and one thing kept running through my head as I attempted to figure out the rather complex/sometimes convoluted plot of G.I. JOE: this film makes about as much sense to me as your average James Bond film, which is to say, I get most of it, and what I don't get probably doesn't matter anyway. As for my great love of some amount of character development, even in action movies, there actually is some in this movie. A few of the characters, including Baroness, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow, and Duke, are given fairly interesting backstories, something I was not expecting and something I'd like more of from some of the other characters in future JOE installments (which are set up quite nicely at the end of this first in a clear franchise). I'm not going to go into the plot of G.I. Joe because there are a few surprises that I don't want to bump against and ruin, but the film does indeed show us how COBRA was formed.
What's not so good about G.I. JOE? Some of the so-called plot twists are particularly difficult to figure out, and so moments that are designed to be big revealed won't exactly have you gasping for air in shock. Also, I was a little put off by Dennis Quaid's performance. I've always gotten a kick out of having him around in just about any size role in any movie, but he is barely going through the motions as General Hawk, who barks out a few orders every so often but largely adds nothing to the proceedings. Whatever you do, don't underestimate Marlon Wayans. While he does seem to take on the role of comic relief from time to time, he's actually pretty great when it comes time for ass kicking. Your entire liking or not liking of G.I. JOE may come down to whether or not you like the nano-weaponry at the heart of the threat against the planet. I thought it was fairly scary stuff, and the destruction of Paris sequence is one of the film's best.
Bottom line from me is that you shouldn't be dreading G.I. JOE. I'm not going to rush out and see it again, as Harry's headline indicates he will, but I will pay the film a serious compliment by saying I can't wait to see where Sommers and the characters take us next. Here's a crazy thought: actually go see the film before you decide whether or not to hop on the negativity bandwagon. There is a great deal to enjoy in this movie; if you don't believe me, go see for yourself.