11 August 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: Reboot or straight to video from here on out.

Here is the thing. I grew up on G.I. Joe. I was one of the Marvel comic book fans that only tolerated the atrocious cartoon. The comic book while clearly action adventure, and resembling real counter-terrorism teams like Indiana Jones represents real archeology at least tried to keep most of the problems real world. There were martial arts masters too, but not as many lasers, and implausible sci-fi weapons. The characters were provided interesting backstories, and shockingly the characters developed. The cartoon was another matter. It was an attempt to capitalize on the huge popularity of the toys, and comic while ignoring the fact that it was about military operations. It, the cartoon, was bloodless and boring while also being a craven attempt to sell new toys. There were no bullets in the cartoon, just infinate lasers, coupled with shocking inaccuracy on the part of the allegedly highly trained Joes, and their Cobra counter parts (I am sure both teams have shooting ranges and kill houses in which might train a little?). It was a bloodless, hollow shell of the comics that ignored the fascinating dynamics of the comic books.

And that note brings me to the new movie, which has decided to follow the tradition of its 80's cartoon predecessor. Like the cartoon it ignores the depth of the comic book source material. If there is anything that comic book movies can teach us about adaptation it is this. When directors and producers think they can do better than the comic book source material a bad movie is in the offing. As such the Joe show has no where to go but directly down. In flames, joined by the sound of twisting metal and screams. If you were fan of the comic book, hell if you just liked the bio-files on the back of your 3 3/4 inch action figures, you are going to think one thing. And that one thing is this.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a terrible movie.

Even if you aren't a fan you may think the above though. Because this is a terrible fackin' movie. And here is why.

1. The entire premise. This is a movie that was put together in a board room full of dis-interested people looking at the toys. An arms deal whose family has been double dealing since the mid-1600s, wants to topple world leadership with his new and completely implausible, super-weapon, so the world will turn to the most powerful man left standing. "Why will any accept you as their leader?" Shouts a Joe offended by such a preposterous scheme. "Not me." He says. Uh...okay.

Both Joes and Cobra are a little too well kitted out with super duper advanced gear for the film to work as even remotely plausible viewing. In fact it is so far over the top as to get in the way. But more on that later.

2. Marlon Wayons. For a guy who comes from a fairly progressive family of comedians the man perpetuates black stereotypes almost as well as a white actor in black-face would. We see glimpses of a good actor underneath his autopilot performance but only enough to be disappointed in him.

3. The lack of early Joes. The starting line up I grew up with consisted of Snake-eyes, Scarlett, Stalker, Rock-n-Roll, Zap, Breaker, Flash, Grunt, Short-fuze, Hawk, Steeler, Clutch and Grand Slam. The Cobras consisted of nameless, Cobra grunts, Cobra officers, and of course, ole hissy voice himself, Cobra Commander. Of that line up, it is an absolute necessacity that you have Snake-eyes, Scarlett, Stalker and Hawk. The cobras definately need filling out, so Destro, and Baroness are a given. As is Storm-Shadow and maybe Zartan. The comics spent most of their time on those characters and the amount of source material for them was astoundingly good. But even if they went with my line up, it probably wouldn't have mattered because they chose to ignore the source material anyway, and instead offer up this failure explosion.

4. The god-damn exosuits. Amid all the the goofy techo-nonsense, two of the Joes (why only two, and the newest most inexperienced two at that) get issued battle suits that enable them to run after cars, leap through and over buses, launch missles from their arms, move cars and generally just annoy me with all their can do. What I find shocking is that even equipped with these super suits borrowed from Heinlen's Starship Troopers they cannot keep up with or match Snake-eyes, who seems to be able to do every thing that a person in one of these Exosuits can do, and then some. Perhaps a commitment to cost effectiveness is in order? Instead of any more suits which accomplish nothing but lots of collateral damage, the Joes should hire from Clan Arashikage. It would be vastly cheaper than the suits, and more effective to boot.

5. Snake-eyes costume. Okay I do understand this a film based on a comic book and a cartoon that was based on a toy, but...I mean..come on, a foam rubber suit with fake looking muscles? And instead of a balaclava, he wears a foam rubber face complete with foam lips? Foam lips? Whiskey Tango Foxtrot as they might have said in a better movie. What the hell does he need his foam lips for while on a mission? When I saw the lips, I thought to myself, This movie is soooo going to suck. And as usual I was right.

6. Storm-Shadow. A husk of the character in the comic book. He is even a shell of his 80s cartoon instantiation. Terrible origin story. Okay acting.

7. Snake-eyes. Character: Oh yeah, he has none. He exists to swing a sword around, pose heroically with said sword and do martial arts and acrobatic things.

8. Stalker, oh right that character wasn't in the movie.

9. Paper thin characters. I've singled Snake eyes and Storm-shadow out, but the paper thin quality of all the characters completely took me out of the film (Scarlett's science stereotype is something I could have singled out for its utter stupidity as well, but there is only so much time in a day). I probably could have taken the new spin on the mythologies, but they didn't even want to work for it. The whole effort assumes that G.I. Joe fans are more abundant than they really are, and that we will overlook any short comings simply because there are live action Joes on the big screen. And they assume that the non-fan will look past the general crappyness of the film. They may be correct. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is still at theaters and it did well.
However...They will have to do better to get any more of my money.

I had fogotten about the following important points.

10. The three tier climax, huge underwater battle, small group of heroes carrying out specific missions, and huge jedi, I mean ninja battle, is a complete Star Wars rip. And not terribly well done. The battle between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, the live action treatment of which I have been waiting for since about 1984, was absolutely...what is the word...boring. Style and flash when it should have been From Russia with Love. And by that I mean vastly more realistic, mean and rough, not the choreographed grace of a kung fu movie. The Golden Eye Fight isn't bad to think about either.

11. During the big underwater battle, also under a massive ice sheet, between the rebels and the empir....I mean between the Joes and Cobra, involves a massively stupid thing. SPOILER Cobra orders the ice sheet destroyed, a kind of round about self destruct sequence to destroy the, also massive, underwater Cobra base.
"The ice is falling, we've got to get out of here before it destroys the base." Duke yells at the Baronness. The Baronness nods in agreement.

"Uh..daddy, ice floats." My daughter said to me immediately after the brain dead dialogue. She remembered, as did I that they were in fact deep underwater.
"Yes, Ani, yes it does."

And so for the rest of the climax, ice from the ice sheet above the massive, and massively improbable, Cobra base falls down from above through the water. That is to say it sinks.

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