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Old August 10 2009, 02:20 AM   #132
Too Much Fun
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Re: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - Grading & Discussion

So I went against my usually much higher standards for movies (aka snobbery) and gave this one a look. I didn't think it was a complete waste of time. It was stupid, but pretty decent for a summer action/popcorn movie. I definitely think it's good for kids.

The biggest problem is that it completely lacked substance. I was shocked by how shallow it was. Maybe it's because I'm not used to watching this kind of movie, but even in Sommers' "The Mummy", there was terrific chemistry between the romantic leads so you could love and care about them.

All the relationships in this movie were just pitifully undercooked. It was like X-Men without any heart and much less coherence. I often say characters are more important to me than plot, so I can forgive and even really like a movie with a disappointing plot if the characters are believable, interesting, and endearing enough that they're easy to root for ("Star Trek" being the best recent example of a movie I felt that way about).

With this movie, for once I liked the plot more than the characters. I liked the plot because it's more simple and traditional than the overwrought AllSpark nonsense in "Transformers". Evil villains try to take over the world, good guys try to stop them, and we get constant scenes of characters from each side squaring off, including one in each team's secret lair. It's perfect in its simplicity.

But the following things irked me...

- Channing Tatum and Rachel Nichols were awful. Tatum's Duke is probably the most bland and disappointing 'hero' of a protagonist I've ever seen. When he yelled at Cobra Commander, his hatred was completely unconvincing.

- The excessive CGI at the end. It was fun at first, but they really overdid it with that underwater stuff, which was the point where I couldn't really tell or care about what was going on anymore.

- Ripcord hitting on Scarlett and her ending up liking him more afterwards. So fake. So lame. A scene of more pathetically unconvincing wooing I cannot recall. The writing and acting in that scene was just shamefully poor and amateurish.

- I don't like how Cobra Commander totally exposed and explained his identity to Duke, revealing a connection to Duke and Baroness. I think it would have been better to leave him more of a mystery. Duke being able to call him by his real first name sucked.

- In fact, I didn't like any of the characters having past connections, except Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes (although it was weird how dialog-less, and therefore empty their flashbacks were. The story with their master might have been poignant if it hadn't had so much more action than dialog).

- Cobra Commander's two different masks were both crap. If they didn't want him to wear his traditional one because they think it looks like a KKK mask, they should have just given him the helmet with the reflective front.

Maybe the characters would have felt more real and sympathetic if there were more scenes of them getting to know each other, but since the one scene like that (the aforementioned Ripcord and Scarlett debacle) was so horrible, I guess we were better off without them. Instead, almost all character development happened in flashbacks which were so blatantly obvious, cliche, and devoid of subtly, originality, and depth, that I ended up liking them in a campy way.

The movie really does have all the depth of an outdated, lazy, hackneyed action cartoon, and I found that rather charming. I just wish it looked more like one. It was too dark, and other than the ninjas and the women, everyone had really boring costumes. It's hard to get into a movie where there's no character I can connect with, sympathize with, or even simply admire for his or her coolness (although Cobra Commander sorta worked that way to a very small degree), but there were a few highlights...

- I loved how General Hawk used the trademark G.I. Joe catchphrase so casually.

- I believe Cobra Commander's voice was as perfect a cartoon villain voice as there ever was in a live action movie. It reminded me of Optimus Prime in the new Transformers movies. If I didn't know better, I'd think the same person who did the voice in the cartoons (which I've never seen) provided it.

- My favourite moments were when Baroness pulled down her glasses over her nose and smiled at Duke (really sexy and cool) , and Cobra's delightfully cartoonish villainy (in dialog and actions) at the end.

The one big compliment I'll give this movie without any reservations is that unlike the first "Lord of the Rings" and "Transformers" movies (and please understand I'm not saying I think it's objectively better than either, although I did enjoy it more than "Lord of the Rings"), it actually made me anxious for a sequel. Part of that is because of the cliffhanger nature of the ending, but also because I see so much potential in the stories and characters (especially Cobra Commander, who only really got to shine a little at the very end) that this movie sets the stage for. The movie was dragged down by time spent establishing who the characters were, especially with flashbacks. With that out of the way, they might be able to tell a much more streamlined story next time.

While I said after "Star Trek" that I just hope the sequel gives the characters a better plot, I hope a sequel to this will give a plot better characters. If the people in this movie would just be injected with a serious dose of humanity, plausibility, personality, and resonance (instead of nanites ) and get some dialog that actually has some wit and effective humour, we could get a sequel that really rocks and maybe even approaches the fine balance of action and heart that made the second X-Men movie so exceptional.
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