Bidula’s Last Word – GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra

My wife caught me off-guard when we decided to go see GI Joe Monday night. Especially because it was at her suggestion that we actually went to see it. I honestly felt kinda bad because I knew that it was going to be a two-hour explosion-fest and the last movie we saw (Transformers 2) was relatively the same thing.

Regardless, we went. We saw. I now review.
There aren’t many people who are unfamiliar with the name GI Joe. Even my 90 (almost 91) year old Grandmother probably knows the deal with GI Joe. It’s all about oversaturation and brand marketing. If you were a kid of any age in the 80s (and of either sex, probably), you played with GI Joes at one point in your life. It’s got to be at least the second most successful toy line in US history, probably even beating out Transformers and I’m sure right behind Barbie.

The thing is, not everyone followed the story of GI Joe. I know I watched the cartoon when possible, but I never really read the comic books until later in my life (when I got the chance to sit down and read some collecteds and backissues). Let me tell you, the comic book gets much deeper than the cartoon.
The more fleshed-out comic book continuity explains the origins of the few more mysterious Joes and Cobras as it goes on, delving into much more character and plot development than just having big vehicles and guys with guns shoot blue/red lasers across a non-descript desert(ish) battlefield from each other. Of course, everything you may have known from either the comic or the cartoon continuity is quickly dashed, disregarded, disfigured, or destroyed. Such is the fate of most established other-medial properties when reaching moviedom.
We see the “origins” of Snake-Eyes and Storm Shadow. We see the McCullen family legacy begin (that’s Destro, in case you didn’t know) which is maybe the only piece of actual continuity backstory to make it through. We see Duke and Ripcord (WTF, really? Ripcord?) as they’re brought in to the Joe fold and we also get the backgrounds of Cobra Commander and the Baroness. More on that later.
If you’re not a fan, even a peripheral fan, of GI Joe, this movie will play like any other summer action blockbuster.
It retains the fantastic aspects of the original premise, so if you’re going for a straight up military vs. terrorist thriller, don’t see it. Matter of fact, if you’re expecting anything to be serious or believable about this movie, don’t see it. This is mother fucking GI Joe and there are gigantic, ridiculous explosions everywhere and sometimes for no particular reason. There are people who wield pistols who cleave vehicles in half. There are species of aircraft that play more like UFOs. There are massive amounts of submersible vehicles that the world would never see, ever.

To me, all of this was awesome.

It does strain credulity to the realists in the audience to say that this is happening in the not-so-distant future (which is explained by a title card at the start of the movie). Holograms, VTOL hover planes that turn on a dime in midair, rail guns, nanobots, sub-arctic underwater bases, personal accelerator suits… Sure, they’ve all got their roots going on right now, but do we really think we’ll hit that target within a decade? Within three?
Just remind yourself that this is complete fantasy. You’ll have more fun that way.

The plot plays out like a million other action movies before it. Group of highly trained soldiers vs. group of extremely dangerous and apparently well-funded criminals and terrorists in a race to save the world or bring it to its knees. You didn’t really expect to come into the GI Joe movie with another plot point, did you?
Sure, you get some of a love story, a bit of a triangle or trapezoid or something freaky weird, but it’s not the main focus. Sure, you see the resentments that a few of the Joes and Cobras harbor which made them the way they are by the time the movie strikes. None of these points are anything spectacular or new.

You also have the classic (if not stereotypical and expected) “black guy who is the comic relief but can still save the day in the end” formula with Marlon Wayans as Ripcord. You have the same guy courting the hot chick, as Ripcord shamelessly hits on Rachel Nichols’ Scarlett (actually making some progress by the end of the flick). You have the tragedy of the main hero as you find out Duke used to be engaged to the Baroness before she was the Baroness and Cobra Commander is really her older brother Rex (insert Speed Racer joke here). This all seemed pretty contrived and convenient. Though I suppose it made for a better story, it also took away a key good guy/bad guy element which, in my opinion, puts the credibility of GI Joe as a whole on trial. The way things played out in the end, as well as the other stereotypical elements, made me believe that this movie could have been any other action movie.
You could tell that this movie was, more than likely, sculpted out of the clay of another unrelated original screenplay. The GI Joe parts were slapped on, smoothed in, and fired as part of the final project. If all references to GI Joe were removed from the movie, it would still probably be the same movie. That’s not to say anything terribly bad about it, as it’s a half-decent fantasy action flick on its own. I’m just staying that most of the Joe stuff seemed ancillary and coincidental. As if it didn’t need to be there in the first place.
To try and counteract its shortcomings, the movie tries to work in every possible bit of fan service, from the vehicles and the technology to the old “knowing is half the battle” bit. In some ways, it’s gratifying to see these things you knew as a kid in live-action (or, in the case of most of the vehicles, in CGI coupled with live-action). I was half-expecting to stay after the credits and see a live-action PSA that would end with the big banner and the triumphant “GI Joooooe!”

My wife was already sick of what she’d seen and stood up immediately as the credits started rolling (to a remix of Boom Boom Pow, and again, WTF?!?) and took off. Does anyone know if there was anything after the credits?

The plot of this flick was, as mentioned, amazingly transparent, as was the ending, that they drew a straight line to the sequel and almost laid the entire first half of the script out on the table without saying a damn word. I suppose I shouldn’t have expected something twisting through blind curves at breakneck speed as far as a plot goes, but I always hope for the best. Even with action flicks.
It was fun, but it was as predictable as any other action movie. There are constants you know about that stay true. Big guns, lots of explosions, and Snake-Eyes whipping the shit out of Storm Shadow through multiple ages, Scarlett . You’ll see what I mean. I will repeat, aside from the whole GI Joe angle, this is a typical action flick. If you don’t like typical action flicks, you won’t like this movie at all. I, personally, kinda dug it based solely on the Joe element.
And, aside from the whole Duke and Baroness thing leading into the big reveal at the end that the Baroness has been brainwashed the whole time by Cobra Commander, who was really her brother with authentic battle-damage and a hard-on for snakes (and again, WTF?). I was ok with the changes to the continuity due to the movie being its own franchise, I suppose. Except for Ripcord having a huge role and pretty much winding up with Scarlett at the end. Dude was a background paratrooper in the comic who had one measly storyarc and he was a non-presence in the cartoon, now he’s macking on who was originally Duke’s woman in the cartoon? Not only that, but she was Snake-Eyes woman in the comics? Seriously, Ripcord?? But, I guess they had to push her aside to get to the whole Duke/Baroness angle and the whole “lonely, mysterious warrior” angle for Snake-Eyes. Plus, I don’t think Ray Park should really do anything in a movie but kick-ass and take names, but only if the name taking doesn’t require him to speak or act.

So, how was the movie? I’m going to be realistic with my rating.

Bidula’s Last Word: 6/10

Now, the real question: Will this movie destroy your childhood? No.
The second real question: Will this movie glorify your childhood? No.

It will neither build up nor completely tear down anything you held sacred, friends. It is not the anti-christ. It is not Armageddon. It was just a fun action flick. It’s worth a watch if you can get to the theater on the cheap or if you are just that much of a GI Joe fan.
My wife, as predicted, hated it and declared that because the last two movies we’ve seen have been mostly about who can produce the biggest explosion that these are the only types of movies I like anymore. On that tip, you can expect my next review to be about a movie without a paper-thin plot and decidedly less explosion-laden. I’ve got no problem with that. Maybe the next movie I see will be the first truly good movie I’ve seen all summer. I haven’t been getting out to the theater enough, but I think that’ll change soon.

Also, I was hoping for a cameo from either Sgt. Slaughter or Refrigerator Perry, but hey, I guess you can’t win ’em all.

Keep fighting the good fight.

—end transmission—

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