Tuesday, August 11, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

For the most part Hollywood has done nothing but bastardize almost everything I loved as a child.  Let’s run down the list.  Star Wars?  Check.  Transformers?  Check.  Friday the 13th?  Check.  Daredevil?  Check.  Texas Chainsaw Massacre?  Check.  Red Dawn?  The remake is set to be released next year.  Indiana Jones?  Indy may have been flushed farther down the crapper than any of them.  All that is really left for them to fuck up at this point are “Magnum P.I.” and Lego’s.

Because of this track record, I was taken aback when I first heard they were making a G.I. Joe movie.  However, I do have to admit that the resulting film, G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra, isn’t as bad as I anticipated.  The movie is not good.  I don’t want to be misunderstood on that point.  G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra is not good.  It is simply not as bad as it could have been.  I didn’t hate this as much as I felt like I should.  I’m conflicted on that matter.  I am sure it will take years of intense therapy for me to fully come to terms with these feelings.

The vast majority of the acting is atrocious.  That’s what you get when you fill a movie with the lesser Quaid (just for the record Randy is the superior Quaid), Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller (who, to be honest, I only know from my subscription to US Weekly, not actually from any acting work), and a Wayans.  Sure Jonathan Price is there, but he’s only onscreen for a minute or two, and doesn’t play much of a role except as a set up for the inevitable sequel.

The story is stupid.  The plot bounces all over the place, and from one minute to the next the script can’t decide whose story it actually is.  It is like they are trying to make this an ensemble piece with main character, and failing miserably.  There are flashbacks all over the place, and the fucking movie even starts in France in 1641.

But you know what?  You didn’t pay your ten bucks at the multi-plex to see masterful acting.  You didn’t say, “Hey, let’s go see G.I. Joe” to get a coherent, tightly written plot.  You want to see shit blow up.  I know this.  You know this.  And the filmmakers are well aware of this. 

Stephen Sommers, who directed the Mummy movies, which I also didn’t hate as deeply as I felt I should, doesn’t waste a lot of time.  The entire movie is action action action action action.  This movie is about shit happening.  They can’t be bothered with things like making the audience care about characters.  No.  There is a chase scene to choreograph. 

G.I. Joe succeeds here where movies like Transformers totally fail.  There is action.  They’re lucky if they get to fit in a character’s name.  I don’t care what the big dude with the machine gun is named.  Do you?  Of course I could get into the nitpicky, they-left-this-character-out, they-shouldn’t-have-done-this-with-that-character stuff, but I’ll leave the fanboy minutia to someone else.

As opposed to so many recent action movies, G.I. Joe has a lot of action, and it isn’t bad.  What I appreciate about the chase scenes is that they feel real.  How often do we see a silver Mercedes chase a black BMW through crowded metropolitan streets, and neither one even gets a scratch?  Here when they barrel through a crowded intersection in the middle of rush hour, you know what happens?   They get hit by a car.  When they weave in and out of traffic, sometimes they don’t quite make it and get nicked by the fender of a Chevy.  There is an actual sense that the characters are in danger, or that something bad might actually happen to one of the central characters.  No one in this movie feels like too big a star to die.

I actually really liked the Snake Eyes vs. Storm Shadow fight sequences.  There is a very simple reason why, because they got people who can really fight.  Ray Park (X-Men) and Byung-hun Lee (A Bittersweet Life, and one of the most physically beautiful men alive) actually know how to fight.  So instead of getting quick cuts of Jason Statham throwing a punch and an extra reacting to said punch, we get something that closely resembles two guys actually fighting and actually trying to kill each other.   I love that.  There is woeful lack of that edge in most modern action cinema.

One more thing that I have to mention is that the climactic scene, where the Joes attack the COBRA base, is really just one long homage to Return of the Jedi when the Rebel Alliance attacks the Death Star.  Seriously, think about it when you watch this scene.  I’m not going to go into the specifics, and at first I thought it might just be me, but no, it is one thing after another, and I’m pretty sure that’s what they were going for.

I know I sound like I really liked G.I. Joe, but I didn’t.  It is not a good movie.  Trust me, there is a bunch of dumb ass shit I can, and probably will, rant about for years to come.  At best it is a decent summer popcorn movie.  But here is my main point.  G.I. Joe:  The Rise of Cobra is not nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be.  I admit that I was pleasantly surprised.  If you have the choice between this, and the new Transformers movie, go Joe.  You’ll enjoy the experience more, I promise.