The Never Taken Prisoner
If you had told my child-self back in 1984 or 1985 that the Summer of 2009 would provide cinematic audiences with not only a live action Wolverine movie, but live action Transformers and G.I. Joe movies, I would have pissed myself with uncontainable excitement. If you were then to have told my younger self that all three movies would suck Cobra Commander's hairy, unwashed, and sweaty ballsack I would have called you a "filthy fucking liar," and probably tried to kick you in the shins or between your legs out of anger and despair.
I've got to stop myself right there. Yes, Wolverine and Bayformers 2: Revenge of Devastator's Wrecking-Balls Scrotum are awful, awful movies that should never have been made (let alone made and had way too many unsuspecting viewers pay their hard-earned cash to see and line the pockets of uncaring millionaire studio heads), but G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra really isn't that bad. Really.
No, it's not a great movie — it missed a LOT of easy opportunities to make itself really cut-ass rugged — and I personally hoped for a lot more out of it (with my unrealistic expectations making me think "Man, they made Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl based off a ride at Disneyland... Just think what they can do with G.I. Joe! They have 150 issues of Larry Hama comic book-written goodness, and like 95 episodes of cheezy 80s cartoons to base something pretty sweet on"). In all honesty I could easily write a giant G.I. Joe Versus Cobra and Physics page out of this flick, but when I first thought of doing something like that, that's when it hit me: They actually made a live action G.I. Joe cartoon. And it's actually really fun... IF you're in the right mood for it. This is NOT a realistic take on G.I. Joe and its never-ending battle with the terrorist organization known as Cobra. This is a cartoon. A cartoon with over the top action scenes, no explanations for giant bases hidden in Egypt and under the polar ice-cap, kick ass villains and heroes stabbing and shooting the tar out of each other with the soundtrack kicked up a few decibels louder than it needs to be... only with real actors instead of painted pictures.
When I took a step back and thought about what I had just seen it occurred to me what director Stephen Sommers (of The Mummy and The Mummy Returns... There never was a Van Helsing) actually did with the material: he recreated the feel of one of the G.I. Joe mini-series of days gone by. There's two sides to the battle (one good, one evil — in this case Destro's MARS weapons firm and G.I. Joe); there's a super weapon that could cause global destruction or anarchy if activated (in this case the useful-in-many-different-ways NANObots); there's globe-trotting adventures wherein the Joes try to stop the bad guys from stealing something or setting their plans in motion; and then there's a big showdown at the enemy's super-secret, super high-tech, heavily-guarded base where the good guys give it their all to stop the final threat to mankind... Sommers actually made a live action G.I. Joe cartoon. Unbe-fuckin-lievable.
Personally, I would have gone for something a little more serious and a little more realistic, but I have to admit that it's G.I. FUCKING-JOE. Sitting in the theater I quickly forgot all my initial fears and hopes for a more sensible flick; while watching it all I could think was "Cool! Zartan! Baroness should have bigger tits, but she's hot... Destro rocking the Scottish twang! Snake Eyes IS AWESOME! Fuck me, Storm Shadow ain't half bad either! Holy FUCK, the PIT! Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow kids are fucking brutal to each other! That kid from 3rd Rock from the Sun actually has a decent Cobra Commander voice. Wait, did that Night Raven just flew 1/4 around the world in 18 minutes? Is Mach 6 really that fast? Oh fuck yes! Zartan rules in the end! I am so ready for G.I. Joe 2!" It ain't Schindler's List, but it sure beats the hell out of all the garbage we had to put up with this summer. And dammit, I want to see it again.... And then go out to Toys R Us and buy me some toys.
Now I've got a long list of things that this movie did right and wrong. I'll talk about the things it did right first, because the wrong catalog is a lot more obvious and it can wait.
What G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra did RIGHT
- They brought the brilliant Larry Hama on board as a consultant. Larry, for the uninformed and retarded (seeing as I just talked about him above), was the guy responsible for making a credible, fun, epic, gritty, and unbelievably awesome comic book out of a toy line that featured soldiers who dressed in bright colors. Yes, Hasbro kept forcing him to include every new action figure into his well-crafted plot, but he did it with dignity and zazz. And Larry also kept the film crew from making Snake Eyes talk at the end of the movie. That would have really been lame and cringe-worthy.
- Snake Eyes was just as bad ass as he ever was in the comic, and just as willing to use a gun as he was his sword. Ray Park was the perfect choice for the mute warrior.
- Zartan is one bad motherfucker. No, he doesn't have the KISS-face make-up/tattoos in this, but he's just so smooth and in control. Yeah, his participation in the Pit sequence was totally unnecessary, but who cares... It just meant MORE Zartan.
- The weapons and vehicles are straight out of the 80s toyline (minus any bizarre paint jobs). Some may count this as a negative, but they fit in perfectly in this universe.
- Unlike Michael Bay's abortions (his live-action Transformers movies), the featured characters in this flick were the title characters: G.I. Joe... NOT some annoying virgin pussy teenager who's trying to tag Megan Fox. And the plot was actually somewhat solid and didn't focus on a disastrously ridiculous MacGuffin device... Yes, the nanobots were a bit stupid, but the end game made it clear that Destro/Cobra Commander actually had a, get this, REAL plan, and Zartan pulled it off. This is obviously act one in a bigger play.
What G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra did WRONG
- G.I. Joe! A real North Atlantic Treaty Organizational Hero!.....
G.I. Joe isn't an American highly trained special mission force dedicated to stopping the ruthless terrorist organization known as Cobra anymore... Now it's a Global Integrated Joint Operations Excrement (or some such acronym). Really? Who do you think you're fooling? It's a 40-year-old world-renown toyline. You're not duping your intended international audience by removing everything "American" in this thing... It still SCREEEEEEEAMS "American made." Why fight it?
- They KILLED my favorite Joe ever! Poor *********... One of the originals, and what a brutal way to go.
- Accelerator suits... What the fuck were they thinking? Luckily only used for the Paris chase scene. But then it brings up the question "Why weren't they used in the big final battle?" They made the soldiers move faster, allowed them to take a whole lot of punishment, and had a shitload of weapons built in... Did the French confiscate Ripcord's after he was arrested in Paris?
- Oh yeah, the Joes were ARRESTED in Paris, France. That's... Wow, that's pathetic.
- No Shipwreck, no Lady Jaye, no Dreadnoks, no Flint, and no Tomax and Xamot.
- Marlon Wayans. Yeah, he's not a tenth as annoying as the commercials make him out to be, but he's still an unfunny, dickless hack.
- Scarlett's relationship with Marlon. Painful.
- Why does Snake Eyes' rubber mask have a molded mouth? And why is it rubber in the first place?
- The relationship triangle between Duke, the Baroness, and Rex (the Baroness' brother). Gay. Stupid. Retarded. There were at least 50 other better ways they could have fit these characters into the script without connecting them this pathetically from the start. And most importantly, making the Baroness American means that she doesn't have her sexy trademark Eastern European accent. Fuck!
- The reason why Duke and the Baroness (back then known as Ana) originally broke up... Captain Duke was engaged to Ana, but she told him she'd only marry him if he kept her annoying twat of a brother Rex (the only family she had left) alive on their next army operation in East Africa... Well, Rex was in an enemy lab when it got blown up, and Duke took that to mean he had to stop banging the grieving Ana without even a word of explanation... Let me state that again: Duke promised he'd keep Rex safe IN THE MIDDLE OF A WAR ZONE, and when Rexy got all explody Duke just stopped calling Ana because fuck if I know. Yeah, she just lost her LAST REMAINING FAMILY MEMBER... Might as well make her totally alone.
- We have to wait for the sequel to see Cobra in all its glory. Well, if this gives them time to absolutely NAIL Cobra Commander's hood or mirror mask, the blue-uniformed Cobra troopers, and maybe bring in Firefly, then I'm there.
- And really, in this already kind of goofy world would it have made that much of a difference if Zartan had those black markings on his face and his hood? And why give Cobra Commander that dorky-looking plastic helmet instead of one that is already ICONIC? That mirror mask is absolutely awesome, as is the blue hood. Stick with what is awesome, please, Mr. Sommers. Really, how hard is a goddamn blue hood with eye-holes? I've seen chubby cosplayers perfect the outfit and still look good in motion without it flopping around like a schoolgirl's skirt.
Other than that, I think the only other thing to talk about is all the lies and made up rumors that some fired studio lackey started letting loose in internet land just a few months before The Rise of Cobra came out in theaters. The mainstream media was having a field day with the purported news that Sommers was fired from the production after a disastrous test screening of the film ("the lowest in Paramount's history"), and that studio heads were rushing around trying to find some editing genius who could cut together something that could give them at least SOME of their investment back.
Well, those rumors were denied up and down by everybody still on the project, but the damage was done. Along with some of the SHITTIEST TV ADS EVER MADE (featuring the HIGH-larious comedy stylings of Marlon Wayans as the "wacky black guy," and a terrible 30-seconds of an ear-bleedingly bad Kid Rock song), Paramount decided not to screen their Joe opus for critics (well, this decision was pretty much based solely on the fact that critics tore the shit out of the very deserving Bayformers 2, and the studio was afraid that yet another toy-movie would receive the same treatment, even if it wasn't half as bad, or to be honest, 1/1,000th as shitty). This caused some bad press, and I just wonder what this production COULD have done on its opening weekend if they had simply taken my advice and made some awesome viral ads, shades of the old Public Service Announcements ("Knowing is half the battle," and all that), only with the live action actors and actresses... Fuck, throw in a "porkchop sandwiches!" or a "Hey, kid. I'm a computer!" and they would have had the fanboys eating out of their hands from the start! Holy fuck! Imagine if they just made some live action PSAs featuring the Fensler Films' lines from the beginning! "Give 'im the stick... DON'T give 'im the stick!" *Sigh*... Maybe they'll wise up if we ever get a G.I. Joe 2. And maybe the Baroness'll get nekkid.
Code Name: Barren Whore
Brilliant idea, Hollywood. Take a 25-year-old toy and make a $170million movie around it. Ugh, I know that this philosophy actually paid off with Michael Bay's Transformers, but that doesn't make it right. Toy movies are stupid and pathetic. They're just a sign that writers have NO ideas left. They're tapped out, and they seem to be proud of that fact by hyping these pieces of filth up on the general public during the prime summer months, expecting, and usually receiving, an ass-ton of cash for below sub-quality work.
And even though I've been pushing for a Jem and the Holograms live action movie for years... Well that's different. That could be like a rock concert movie to show young girls today that woman can accomplish anything if they try! Boy toys are stupid, but Jem would be very outrageous. Truly, truly, truly outrageous.