Friday, October 29, 2010

Oh, No Joe!

So it was a slow movie week for The Latest Issue. Tired, lazy, and with mediocre weather waiting outside for me, I decided to spend the day in the apartment, where I slowly went stir crazy for want of things to keep my interest. It was with this mindset that i decided that watching GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra on Netflix streaming was in fact a good idea, especially since the hype for last year's blockbuster hit did draw me in somewhat, if not enough to see it in the theaters.

Baroness is as deadly as she is seductive
Let me say first that I'm no GI Joe fan. I never had the toys as a kid, never followed the shows or comics, don't know much about the characters. I simply didn't grow up with them in my life, although I did know several kids who did and you could say I know what little I know about the toy line from them. I was more of a fan of other big 80's toy franchises: TMNT, Ghostbusters and Transformers were more up my alley. While Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and the Baroness may be iconic characters to many, that simply is not the case for me. Perhaps that's why I thought I'd like Joe, since the expectations of the franchise's fans would not necessarily affect me in the same way it would others. Contented that I could not be disappointed in the film because my expectations were not high, I laid down on the couch for what I knew to be a mindless film but determined to see it through.

I should have set my expectations lower.

Oh, you two are fighting again SNORE
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a jumbled mish-mash of character interactions wrapped around a terribly cliched plot involving experimental warheads created by James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston), a weapons dealer whose family historically tended to sell to both sides in armed conflicts. Naturally, of course, when this charismatic weapons dealer makes some warheads for the US that use nanotechnology to strip molecule by molecule whatever it comes in contact with, the military wants it and these weapons become the central plot point of the story, as soon they're stolen from us by the terrorist group COBRA, who intend world domination. The only ones who can stand in their way? A covert, multinational military force known only as GI Joe.

Rachel Nichol's direction: "Look attractive!"
I won't go on too much about the story since just thinking about Joe's simplistic plot starves my brain, but after being rescued by Joe after their convoy carrying the warheads is attacked by a COBRA unit, Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are recruited into the Joe program by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) since Duke recognized and could supply information on the leader of the assault, the Baroness (Sienna Miller). The rest of the film has the two opponents fighting one another while decked out in form-fitting leather outfits while Ripcord puts out the occasional one-liner. Heavy Duty, indeed. The plot is a retread of better action films, but the filmmakers are hoping you're too entranced by the classic Joe characters that you'll hardly notice how an elite unit like Joe could be staffed for the most part by nameless cannon fodder easily taken out by a small COBRA strike team. It's plot holes like that that cause wrecks to form.

Poor Breaker, nobody loves you!
While acting is hardly the main focus on films such as this, you still want talented performers doing their jobs well. Tatum was one of the considerations to play the hero in 2011's Captain America film, and I can now see why - despite having the right look for the part - he wasn't offered the job. While perhaps not as wooden as some reviewers might think him, he certainly doesn't show the charm and talent required in your leading man. His Duke is supposed to be the ultimate hero of the tale, but we just keep wishing it had been someone else. If Miller did nothing more than look amazing with black hair, a leather catsuit and dual-wielding pistols, I frankly would have been just fine. Thankfully she does more than that, weaving a cruel and vindictive character that is unfortunately ruined by the script's story. Still, she correctly portrays the type of villain the Baroness was meant to be, when she is allowed to do so. Eccleston is both charismatic and sinister as the man who would be Destro. The actor, who's biggest role to this date is that of The Doctor in the first season of Syfy's Doctor Who, doesn't seem to be stretched too much in his performance. It's almost as if the role was written with him in mind, rather than him necessarily earning the part. Wayans can be a talented actor, don't get me wrong. His role in Requiem for a Dream opened a lot of people's eyes to his potential as a performer. He always picks the same parts in the same type of films, however: silly sidekick who can back up his talk. Typical Wayans role. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje left Lost because he didn't like the material but ended up making Joe instead as Heavy Duty. He basically plays the character most dismissive of the new blood, Duke and Ripcord. Yeah, that ain't a step up. Better is Rachel Nichols as Scarlet, though she does little more than play up her looks than display anything worthwhile character-wise. Storm Shadow (Byung-Hun Lee) and Snake-Eyes (Ray Park) are explored far too much as the director decided that they needed an epic flashback backstory to explain to the audience why they hate each other so much. Park is the kind of performer Hollywood calls on when they need a physical actor who says little to nothing in dialogue and must express himself in his actions, and Park does more of that here. Lee talks more, but for all the interest we invest in his character it doesn't come out to much, and by the end we're sick to death of their feud. Quaid actually has a pretty small role as General Hawk, he just appears every few minutes, for a few minutes, until the end of the movie.Anyone else is either passable or not worth mentioning.

A few other Joes make appearances: This is Cover Girl... COVER GIRL???
All of this might have been forgivable if the film had at least top-notch special effects, but it seems like even that was out of reach for a $150 million film. Though six special effects studios worked on the film, none were especially good, with the worst resulting in obvious CGI outdoor scenes involving futuristic airships or other paraphernalia. Though the scene of the missile attack on the Eiffel Tower is gorgeously-rendered, this example is the exception, not the rule. Fight scenes are also sub-par, with only an early Scarlet-Baroness fight resembling anything remotely entertaining, and anything involving Storm Shadow and Snake-Eyes droning on more of the same. Far too much of the action is shot so close that you can't tell what's happening on the screen. And when you add all this on to the fact that the film has very little in the realm of original thought (inventive character origins don't count), there just simply isn't anything to recommend this film to anyone besides die hard Joe fans, and even many of THEM would be upset by the fact that many of their favorite heroes didn't make the shortlist for the team's roster.

Storm Shadow or the Baroness: Who will get voted off the island?
Okay, I made a mistake. GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is fun for about as long as it takes you to realize that the film has bad special effects, bad directing (Stephen Sommers' previous projects included The Mummy and Van Helsing, hsssssss), poor acting and lousy character development, with mediocre special effects and an ending that both tidys up things too much AND leaves too much leeway for a sequel (explain THAT one), one expected in the next year or so. I won't see that one in the theater either, though the fact that the screenwriters from Zombieland (which I loved) have been brought in to pen the next chapter makes me at least slightly hopeful. I may not be a GI Joe fan, but I am a movie fan, and when movies this bad are made it hurts, especially when I feel I could have spent that time watching something infinitely more worthwhile.

1 comment:

Opinioness of the World said...

Not surprised it was wretched. Besides poor acting and plot, any G.I. Joe movie without Lady Jaye (who kicked way more ass than The Baroness or Scarlett) is NO Joe movie.

I detest when films shoot action shots up close so you can't see what's going on. 'Salt' suffered from that problem too. Isn't the whole point of an action film, ahem, the action?!