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Old August 18 2009, 03:45 AM   #222
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Re: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra - Grading & Discussion


Went and caught a matinee yesterday afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I didn't hate it. Mind you, that was largely due to going in with very low expectations. I had read a not-quite-final draft of the script, and wasn't impressed with it. They fixed some of the things I disliked, though, and I think they made as good a movie out of that basic script as they possibly could have.

(The biggest changes I can recall: in the script, Hawk was British rather than American--but I had already figured they'd changed that with the casting of Dennis Quaid. From his accent and uniform in the trailers, it was clear he wasn't meant to be British. The other thing--they had Snake Eyes speak after he defeated Storm Shadow. I'm glad they 86'd that.)

I thought Channing Tatum was the real weak link in the cast. He was just so dull-eyed and lifeless. This does not fit with the conception of Duke that I had always had--a natural-born leader, whose troops will follow him into hell without a second thought. This Duke... if he were a clerk in a supermarket, I don't know if I'd follow him to the canned vegetables even after I asked him where they were.

(I'm also annoyed by characterizing Duke as a commissioned officer instead of a veteran First Sergeant, but what can you do?)

Marlon Wayans was far less annoying than I'd anticipated. Rachel Nichols was competent and likeable as Scarlett, if nothing special (though she was very, very decorative :P ). The guys playing Heavy Duty and Breaker were pretty decent, too. Ray Park as Snake Eyes? Well, he was clearly the right guy for the job... if you're looking for someone to not speak and to be a total badass martial-arts-wise, Ray's got that niche sewn up beautifully. He was probably the single most perfectly cast character in the film.

On the other side... Zartan and Storm Shadow were pretty nicely played. And Sienna Miller was really quite enjoyable as the Baroness (and not just in a visual way). I got a good laugh out of "That redhead is starting to piss me off" and "Get out (of the elevator)! GET OUT! ...nice shoes". She was one of the highlights of the movie.

Ironically, the actors who were arguably the three biggest names in the film didn't really do much with their roles: Dennis Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. They're all three solid actors, and I was expecting a lot more from them than I got. Quaid in particular seemed to be phoning things in. Eccleston was probably the best of the lot, but his Destro wasn't a tenth as engaging as his Ninth Doctor. Gordon-Levitt? Well, the heavy makeup, costume, and voice treatment didn't do him a lot of favors, I guess.

There were some fun easter egg-type moments for the hardcore fans, though, and I think those gave me the most joy. For instance, using some of the names from the old toys for some of the vehicles--like the Night Raven, or the SHARCs. (They even spelled it with a 'C', god bless them!). If they named the Joes' snowmobiles, I missed it--but they evoked the old Polar Battle Bear at least enough.

(More of this kind of thing would have done a world of good, I think--given all the nameless Joes seen in the background at the Pit, it would have been awesome to namecheck a few of them. Even something simple and subtle, like the last names of classic Joe characters on nametapes on the uniforms, would have gone a long way.)

Brendan Fraser's cameo as 'Sgt. Stone' was fun. Apparently he was supposed to be some sort of vague homage to Sgt. Slaughter (I assume the Slaughter name was not used because no one felt like paying Vince McMahon a pile of money for the rights). With his beret, though, he clearly evoked Flint much more strongly, and had I been making this movie I'd have said, "Screw it--he looks like Flint, and the fans'll love that: let's loop the dialogue where they call him by name and have done with it."

Breaker stealing Duke's last piece of bubblegum made me grin, too (Breaker's love of bubblegum was his signature schtick in the comics).

Tiny detail--apart from it appearing on his sword, we see that Storm Shadow has the Arishakage hexagram tattoo on his forearm where it was supposed to be (blink and you miss it). Loved that.

I also loved seeing the classic Cobra sigil on the Commander's sub at the end.

All in all, it was a fun if substance-free afternoon at the movies. And it did capture enough of the feel of G.I. Joe (striking a nice balance between the sci-fi silliness of the cartoon and the more gritty military tone of the comics) to make me recall the Joe-loving days of my youth. There were a few moments where I really found myself enjoying it on the basis of it being something I would have loved to see when I was ten years old--an honest-to-God live action G.I. Joe film. I actually would kind of like to see a sequel, in hopes that they can bring more of the characters and concepts in--stuff enough easter eggs in there, and I might overlook more of the film's flaws.

My wishlist for the sequel: Joes--Clutch, Flint, Gung-Ho, Roadblock, Stalker, Shipwreck and Wild Bill (and they mostly have to be as close to the originals as possible--no internationalizing here. I don't object to how Breaker or Heavy Duty were handled, but Clutch HAS to be a motorhead/greaser from Jersey, Gung-Ho HAS to be a crazy Cajun US Marine, Shipwreck HAS to be a living, breathing homage to Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail and Wild Bill HAS to be a Texan Air Cav chopper-driver complete with US Cavalry hat.) Cobras--Major Bludd, Wild Weasel, and the Dreadnoks. And something more like real Cobra troopers--blue uniforms with red Cobra insignia on the chest; the rest is negotiable.

So yeah, anyway, it was not a film of any substance, and it had its flaws... but I will admit that it was good dumb fun with just enough nostalgia to keep me from being pissed off.


EDIT: One more easter egg I can't believe I almost forgot--seeing the USS Flagg at the end really brought a laugh of sheer joy. That was an unexpected but very pleasant surprise.
Long Live The Legion!
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