No, Joe. No No No.

Posted: November 13, 2009 in Threat Quality
Tags: , ,

Sure, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra can be called loud, stupid, lazy, poorly-acted, or even just the world’s GI Joe Baronesssecond-longest toy commercial (Transformers 2 wins first ranking). But I would have been okay with all of that. The same could definitely be said about the cartoon, and this movie definitely wants to be a live-action version of the cartoon.

But the worst thing about it is that it seems to become all these things, more and more and more, as the movie gets longer and longer and longer. It is a relentlessly tedious film.

For the first hour, I was kind of enjoying it, for what it was – big dumb loud toy commercial come to life. Then Megan started to nod off, so I tried to encourage her to stick around to the end.

Me: C’mon, don’t fall asleep.
Megan: Well, how much longer is it?
Me: (checks runtime) …Apparently another hour.
Megan: Let me know how it goes. (Goes to bed.)

She had the right idea. Because without anyone to listen to me explain, “Actually, ‘Destro’ was the character’s last name, not some nickname that was short for ‘Destroyer’,” or “…I think Brendan Frazer’s supposed to be Flint or something,” the movie became a completely passive experience of explosions and plotholes and questionable decisions. It is a bad movie that one lone viewer cannot withstand (even with near-constant shrieks to the screen of “…JUST GET ON WITH IT ALREADY!”).

At first the movie’s nods to the toys and cartoon are kind of delightful. Hey, Storm Shadow’s backpack looks just like his first action figure! Oh jeez, Cobra (sorry, the unnamed organization that will eventually be called Cobra…because that’s a plot twist? I dunno) has an underwater base! Look, they’re attacking the Eiffel Tower, just like in the first mini-series!

But as it groans into its second hour, it just keeps adding larger destructive setpieces and overselling toy designs and ramping further into cartooniness than, well, the cartoon. When the Joes get to not-Cobra’s polar-ice-caps base that is ABOVE its underwater base, Scarlett walks past a jet, and less than a moment after I said to myself, “I remember that toy, that was the Night Raven,” Scarlett actually SAYS, “Wow, a Night Raven – I can’t believe they made one!” By hour two, every line of dialogue should be followed with, “Available at a Wal-Mart near you. And by the way, Rip Cord, the figures are sold separately.”

GI JoeThe bulk of the last 15 minutes is devoted to an underwater battle between GI Joe submarine-jets (which begs the question, if your team has UNDERWATER FIGHTER JETS,  would you be that impressed by a modified XR-71 Blackbird?) and Cobra submarine-jets, to defend the CGI underwater base…none of which is really there, or impacts the action up above (with the human actors and real sets). And yet despite this complete lack of point, it takes up an extended amount of screen time. It is a movie constantly begging to be asked, “Do you guys need me for this, or can I come back when the story (such as it is) kicks back in?”

There’s nothing else to say, so let’s talk about the actors.

– You might not spot Joseph Gordon-Levitt playing not-yet-Cobra-Commander under all the makeup and lifts and the voice distortion and the limping around like Dr. Strangelove after getting out of his chair. And I’m sure that barring some flashback scenes (which gives him, Duke, and Baroness a remarkably convoluted family melodrama/mind control background), he figured the same thing – he could collect big-fat-summer-movie money, and still maintain credibility as a gifted young actor. But I’M ONTO YOU, LEVITT. You’re just lucky I loved Brick and The Lookout so much. (Two far, FAR better ways to spend a couple hours than GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra, by the way.)

– Speaking of Duke: Channing Tatum is like a male model or something, right? Because that’s about his acting level. Thank god he’s only the LEAD CHARACTER IN THIS MOVIE. But don’t worry, because his anti-charisma is offset by Marlon Wayans. Who, you may be shocked to learn, ad libbed many of his lines! Which is why they feel stupid and tedious in a completely different way.

– Considering his status as the Most Popular GI Joe, Snake Eyes is actually a pretty minor character here, and yet they still make sure to do several flashback cutaways to the two ninjas as LITTLE BOYS fighting and training together. This may be cinema’s first pre-pubescent ninja grudge match. Also, in a bizarre costuming choice, Snake Eyes’ mask is so tight you can see his lips. I don’t know what purpose this served, other than to remind audiences, “Ray Park wore one VERY UNCOMFORTABLE costume for this movie, and you should appreciate his efforts.”

– Because they probably realized Storm Shadow’s costume didn’t turn out all that well, the ninja tends to fight mostly wearing a slick white suit. Which, from a distance, makes it look like Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips was destroying the shit out of Paris. (Again, a movie I would much rather have watched.)


“But Holland, I have really fond memories of GI Joe from my youth, isn’t there anything in this movie that’s worthwhile?” No. So here’s what you do. Instead of abusing yourself with this, go out and grab GI Joe: Resolute, a one-hour animated feature produced by Cartoon Network last summer and released concurrently. And oh yeah: WRITTEN BY WARREN ELLIS.GI Joe Resolute

Because it was initially offered as a series of five-minute web segments, every scene has to be a) action-packed, b) be essential to the story, and c) not dawdle doing either of these things. Ellis’s script delivers, boiling each character down to a familiar essence, wrapping up some old plotlines (Scarlett: Duke or Snake Eyes?; the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow rivalry), tossing in a few nods from the comics and TV show (the climax takes place in Springfield, USA; the muzzle flares are red or blue, just like the lasers in the cartoon) without dwelling on anything – just plowing ahead as more cities blow up, more (actually lethal) firefights break out, and meanwhile two ninjas BEAT THE LIVING SHIT OUT OF EACH OTHER.

And, because it’s Ellis, you get lines of dialogue like “OK, so here’s my cunning plan,” and “Talk to me about weapons, children.” And of course, this healthy rant from Cobra Commander:

“And this is how I win the world. This juncture, of course, is usually where the wheels come off. But not this time! Cutting the traitor Major Bludd’s heart in half right in front of you, right here in this room, should have gotten the point across. It suited me once to appear weak and cowardly, because it motivated you people to *think*. But today… is a new day. There will be no move to take over my command. There will be no mistakes. There will be none of your CRAP! NONE OF IT!”

This is what a GI Joe movie should be.

But then, I may be a bit biased. This is what Megan and I went as for Halloween:


  1. K. Liebert says:

    “LIPS.” I had to stop and back up a few times the first time they appear. Snake Eyes’ lips… why would they do that?! Did they learn nothing from nipple-y Batman? LIPS!?!

    I had no intention of ever watching this movie. A friend rented it because he wanted to watch it; “It looked good” apparently. The whole movie was a disaster of epic proportions. This was not a GI Joe movie. It was something that tangentially borrowed names from GI Joe. Brendan Frazer was a highlight though, as were scenes with Sienna Miller (I am shallow on this point, but I am OK with that.)

    I will be checking out Resolute now.

  2. Sam says:

    The correct approach towards watching a G.I. Joe movie is to view the opening sequence of the animated film ( and stop there, satisfied.

  3. Jeff Holland says:

    THAT is a very good point, Sam.

    Though I will say, while it’s completely and utterly baffling why for a feature-length movie, they’d go with “ancient insectoid race and mutating spores and what the hell, why not Sgt. Slaughter” for their plot… it is sort of weird and wild.

    Which is to say I’m going to track that thing down on DVD at some point.

  4. […] But then again, I got a little jazzed when I saw Ray Park as Snake Eyes, and we all remember how that turned out. […]

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