Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Real American Heroes

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra(2009)Directed By Stephen Sommers
G.I. Joe is the first summer blockbuster this year, that hasn't completely and utterly disappointed me.Star Trek, Terminator Salvation, Transformers 2 and Wolverine, were worse and more unforgivable than just cliche and tired, they were boring.
The action sequences, which are the only reason for seeing movies like these, were poorly spaced out, poorly developed, and ill photographed, with the exception of an energetic moment here and there.In fact if you were to edit the action sequences together from each you might have a passing Frankenstein of an action film.GI Joe isn't great by any means, but its at least the kind of fodder that's entertaining to watch.By entertaining I mean there are some exciting CGI moments and ninja fighting, and specifically not the quality of the plot, characters, direction, music, or anything associated with art, cinema, or talent, but entertainment none the less.It is like watching a bear ride in a circle on a unicycle, but not as novel. Maybe those other films have lowered the bar so low, that the Joe's can cross it without having to raise their marching feet too far from the ground. For those not familiar G.I. Joe, it was a cartoon in the 80s like Transformers owned by Hasbro Toys and essentially designed to sell action figures. I used to own some, and I still have one of their animated movies (where Cobra tries to build a new leader by stealing the genetic remains of the world's greatest conquerors; Alexander the Great, Genghis Kahn, Montezuma, Napoleon, Ivan the terrible, etc, and is actually much more interesting plot wise than anything in this film). In 2009's Rise of Cobra, we meet two young soldiers Duke and Ripcord who are delivering some nano-bite warheads, when they get attacked by a terrorist group out to take over the world. They join up with a covert group called G.I. Joe, made up of the best, soldiers, scientists, and ninjas unlimited money can buy. The two groups fight it out, every 10 minutes or so. If they are not fighting in real time, they are fighting in flashbacks. There are at least half a dozen flashbacks, for multiple characters. There is a very convoluted plot, about double crosses, friends becoming enemies, mind control, and good soldiers breaking short-sighted bureaucratic red tape, etc. Every cliche you could expect is here somewhere. Female soldiers fighting in lipstick and make up. Scarlett in particular, who had a short pseudo military hair cut in the cartoon, now sports lovely locks which she never ties behind her head while going into combat, and why bother since it never gets in her face, or prevents her accurately firing her crossbow shaped laser gun. She is the best of the best, after all. There are things I liked about this movie however; ninja fights (executed amicably by Ray Park of Star Wars and X-Men fame, as Darth Maul and Toad respectively), accelerator suits (which are less boyish fantasy than you would imagine, or since were trying to build them in real life for the military, more boyish fantasy than you can imagine), underwater planes dog-fighting (I know, it doesn't make sense to me either), and a constant stream of things that SPLODE. There are too many obligatory sub-plots, but thankfully they never last more than half a minute, which is about all the attention span the film is prepared to invest in. There are plenty of bad-jokes (anything Marlon Waynes says), stale performances, (Conrad Hauser is without question the worst actor in a major film in the last decade.) and questions left unanswered, and answers to questions no one asks (why do I care that Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes used to be roommates?). But in the end, the presidents replaced with a doppelganger (no, it is not worth the spoiler warning), and the Eiffel Tower is destroyed (what would an action film about the real American heroes be without at least one middle finger to the French?), and the film safely and organically prepares us for a transition into a sequel (and there will be). When all's said and done though I put this just under Speed Racer, in terrible FX movies I would happily watch again. Nothing learned, nothing gained, and nothing felt, but...uh..ninja fights...and dumb fun (provided you find these kind of big budget's assaults of eye candy amusing). If your just in it for the BLAM and BANG this will suffice, until something better comes along(not sure if there will be anymore Dark Knight's on the horizon any time soon), but if you watch it after the films I mentioned at the opening (don't watch those though) or consider it in that context, it is a ray of light in a dark room, even if that light is from a cross bow shaped laser gun, being fired by a sexy super scientist. Or maybe that's just the nano-bites of low expectations talking for me.

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