Sunday, November 29, 2009

Don't Sign Up For This Army

G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Another lousy, crappy, dull, uninvolving, and unimaginative summer blockbuster.

What's it about? Good guys fighting bad guys, both with armies of troops, guns, jet planes, attack subs, accelerator suits, and other impossible hardware at their disposal. We also get silly subplots involving one good guy's past with the now-bad hot chick and one silent good ninja's childhood upbringing with another snotty evil ninja.

The acting was uniformly bad. Chris Eccleston, Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Rachel Nichols and Marlon Wayons should all be court martialed for offenses against the craft of acting. I’ve seen elementary school plays with higher quality emoting. Quaid literally appeared to be embarrassed in all his scenes, like he realized he was appearing in a movie based on a Hasbro toy. Tatum has a vacant expression that reminded me a lot of MacCauley Culkin in Home Alone. And Marlon Wayans is the human incarnation of Jar Jar Binks. He was annoying and knocked over things; the only thing he didn't do was step in poodoo, but then that's what sequels are for!

The action scenes were some of the blandest and least involving I’ve ever witnessed, filled with lots of obvious CGI doubling (especially JOE Scarlett racing on a motorcycle - her reation time in turns and spins was what made it stand out as fake). It made me long for the Raiders of the Lost Ark truck chase, which had huge stakes in it as far as the story (the Nazi’s have the Ark and Indy’s desperately trying to retrieve it), amazing, but still believable action (Indy riding up alone on horseback, jumping onto one truck and thwacking Nazis left and right, making his way along the convoy, crackerjack editing timing, all set to an incredible score by John Williams. In JOE, Tatum and Wayons done Iron Man Jr. costumes called accelerator suits and race on foot after the bad guys in their SUV on Paris streets (the baddies what to destroy the Eiffel Tower). The accelerated JOEs never catch the baddies because they spend all their time bouncing around like bionic gymnasts as they smack into and leap over cars. In the big final showdown, the JOEs attack the baddies' underwater city and their aqua-jets or whatever zip around in dogfights that aped Star Wars Death Star trench battle but weren't half as involving. It was all loud and poorly conceived, backed by a completely forgettable score by Alan Silvestri.

Come to think of it, Airwolf, a 1980s action/adventure show for which Silvestri composed a nifty theme is a much better version of G.I. JOE. Both featured secret organizations operating from hidden bases that used futuristic hardware to combat various enemies out to control the world (or at least L.A.). Airwolf’s hero was the cello-playing, wounded-to-his-soul Stringfellow Hawk, who had more depth to him than JOE’s Duke who merely lost his fiancĂ© to the bad guys. Airwolf’s action scenes were more thrilling that all the CGI nonsense of JOE, and they did it for pennies compared to JOE’s $170 million budget.

This movie grossed $150 million, so 9 year old boys had their summer movie, but that is the ONLY audience for this. Hey, I played war as a kid just like millions of other people - if the movie was done well, it should have been made for ALL of us (grown up and not just 9 year old boys).

The makers of this GI JOE movie obviously have little to no imagination (everything looked like a toy!!). Here’s how to do them one better: buy some old GI JOE figures from a discount store (12" or 3/34" it doesn't matter), grab some boxes and foam packaging molds, then find a mound of dirt or sandbox and let your imagination fill in the rest.

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