Friday, August 7, 2009

More 'Oh No' than 'Yo Joe': Arturo vs. G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

The most surprising thing about G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra? It could've been worse.

But make no mistake: if this film doesn't make a Lusitania out of what could've been a fun franchise,the first three elements to go from any sequels should be writers Stephen Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett, with director Stephen Sommers not far behind.

At least the marketing team is in on the joke: using Kid Rock in the ad campaign is a warning that G.I. Joe is years behind its' time – it really belongs alongside Street Fighter and The Crow: City of Angels in a Rifftrax '90s Film Festival; why else would the first words we see on the screen be “In The Not-Too-Distant Future”?


Like another bloated '80s revamp (to be named later) laced with bad CGI and no-dimensional heroes, Rise is crippled most by the attempt to “humanize” its' core characters. In this case, it's done through a romantic subplot between Duke and The Baroness. It doesn't help that, as an action hero, Channing Tatum makes John Cena look like The Rock. But the real disservice is done to the Baroness, who in Sienna Miller's hands goes from a magnificent '80s she-bastard to Girl Gone Mild-ly Bad - with a heart of gold, of course.

Other than the spayed Baroness, the villains in this film fare better than I'd expected. The flashback sequences used as backstory for the men who become Cobra Commander (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Destro (Christopher Eccleston) actually work, and both Eccleston and Gordon-Levitt manage to wring something out of their cartoonish inspirations. Gordon-Levitt, in fact, stole the film – petty larceny, I know, but a feat I'd expected out of Eccleston. JGL's voice-acting was the film's most pleasant surprise; it holds up admirably alongside Chris Latta's original work.

Unfortunately for the film, the Joes' characters – especially Dennis Quaid as General Hawk – fare as badly as the Cobras' do well. The Army recruiters setting up shop at my local theatre would be much better off showing characters like Ripcord, Scarlett and Breaker in either the film's source material or Warren Ellis' more recent G.I. Joe: Resolute series, where they were naturally cool, rather than the generic grunts we see here.

The only hero to escape the creative team's clutches is Snake-Eyes, proving Ray Park's intelligence as an actor – bad writers can't hijack your character if they can't write dialogue, so Park is left free to do what he does best: the “Ninja Thing,” playing off Byung-hun Lee's Storm Shadow, re-imagined here as a metrosexual assassin. But, as with CC and Destro, at least Stormy isn't a buffoon. And, hey, he also makes with the beefcake, to balance out the "hot quotient" with Miller and Rachel Nichols, I guess.

In the end, though, G.I. Joe will be remembered most as a spiritual cousin to – you guessed it – Transformers 2: a co-tenant at the low point of American summer cinema, separated only by its' lacking Michael Bay's sense of xenophobia. I envy the marketing flacks who have to find positive pull-quotes for this film, but they can have this:
The Rise Of Cobra is better than Revenge Of The Fallen ...
... but not by much. Yo, Stay Home.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have to say I disagree! Transformers 2 was SOO much worse than the G.I. Joe film. While the plot was not entirely accurate (at all) it was nice to see the rivalry between Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes play out on the big screen.

I would have liked to see more one on one action between those two characters, personally.

Great analysis, though, great review!