This blog is part review and part response to a blog
from Beantown's finest, the illustrious and praiseworthy Dart Adams
. Unlike a traditional review where the use of personal pronouns "I" or "we" doesn't happen, this will take largely place more as a personal narrative and essay ... largely because I'm not being paid for it.(1)
Also, fun fact, there may be a gang of spoilers
in here and in the links. You've been warned.
Anyhoo, on Sunday afternoon, my wife and I braved the retail lunacy of The Bridge (what the heezy does "Cinema du lux" even mean?) to take in the 1:20 showing of G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra.
Fair warning: I was a huge, huge G.I. Joe fan as a child, belonging to a fan organization based on the series ("Codename: Hunter Gold" -- I was on
one), owning scores of figures and vehicles, possessing every single issue of the brilliant Marvel Comics series
and most of the ancillary side stories (and yes, all of Order of Battle
even though that stuff's all gone after a great grandmother allowed cousins to loot my stash). So if you ask me the legal name of Stalker (Lonzo Wilkinson, rank E-5) or what Joe and Cobra members had a doomed romance in an episode of the cartoon (Mainframe and Zarana in the surprisingly nuanced David Schwartz-penned "Computer Complications
" in season two), I won't have any problem hooking you up, maybe even tossing off quotes from the Oktober Guard while I'm at it ("Re-education through superior firepower!").
Coincidentally, my wife couldn't tell you the difference between Snow Job and Frostbite if they were standing in front of her.
That said, I shared Brother Adams trepidations about the film's red flags. I hadn't seen Cobra Commander(2) at all, and he was played by that weird kid from Third Rock From The Sun
for spirit's sake. Most concerning of all, there was a Wayans in it.
After the Skids and Mudflap atrocity from Michael Bay(3), Hasbro was on thin ice in my brain anyway. Traditional critics were not allowed to pre-screen the film (although "fan" media was -- Latino Review
and Ain't It Cool News
were pleased about the film pre-release, but there's no telling if they were getting lapdances while the screening was happening), which normally is a bad sign. All admitted concerns, which was why I was at a matinee (which hurts a little less if things go wrong).
I was worried for no reason. Stephen Sommers is a really, really good director and the script takes lots of potentially dumb things about Cobra and G.I. Joe and makes them smarter and more effective for a twenty-first century context. With a story that was global in scale, special effects that were top notch(4) and fantastic action(5) this movie delivered on every possible level. It's not "Malcolm X" or even "The Dark Knight," but it's among the finest action films ever made, subtly injecting characterization and nuance in between lots and lots of blowing stuff up.
My wife was similarly
pleased with what went down
Which is not to say there aren't problems. The Baroness, Storm Shadow and Duke step out onto arctic tundra wearing no more than I'd wear on a June gloom day in Pasadena. That's dumb. Marlon Wayans has two or three sadly unavoidable cooning incidents, so I could have done with a little more soldiering from him and a little less Jar Jar-ing it up. That may have been something he writes into his contract, so, sorry. The guy who plays Duke is unavoidably wooden in his acting, seemingly a poster child for botox as he can't manage more than one facial expression. Also, Snake Eyes, despite never speaking, has molded lips on his mask. Famously dumb. I personally don't like the look for Joseph Gordon-Leavitt's character at the end -- I just didn't enjoy it aesthetically. Also, rumor has it that Brendan Fraser was not Flint, as I assumed, but Gung Ho, which ... well, he had a shirt on, so that's less a problem and more a "let's keep it under control," but I can't confirm online who the heck he was.
None of that matters. The movie was fun from start to finish, and has no fewer than eight "holy sh**" moments. For fans, there's a good number of call backs to things they knew while acknowledging that this is a complete and unapologetic reboot. Fantastic stuff.
Here, I need to step into Brother Adams' analysis for dissection. Before I start, he did less of a review of the movie as a retelling of it with snarky comments, like a mean-spirited book report. Not my standard for journalism, but whatever, I'm doing it the easy way too now. Here goes ...Considering how deep the back story of the G.I. Joe & Cobra teams is it would only make sense to start at the beginning. That would mean to start with the initial first couple of generations of the G.I. Joe/Cobra toy run, Marvel comic book storyline or the cartoon's first season. Nah, f*** all that! Let's just make something up that'll completely piss off the only people that even cared to see it at first. The fans of the original source material.
This is what is commonly called "fan myopia," and it saddens me to no end. This movie was never intended as a period piece. You wouldn't see a character named "Dialtone" since millions of people don't know what that is. The idea of a gun-toting team of Americans going in to shoot up the place is offensive in lots and lots of markets. Using the cartoon or the comic would mean starting many of the characters -- Hawk, Snake-Eyes and so on -- in Vietnam. Fine for a period piece, but running around in a VAMP jeep when you can see a Hummer roll by in traffic would be lame. I say that as a man who owned two VAMPs and loved their clean lines and easy figure loading. Spirit forbid you try to field a Sky Striker or a Cobra Rattler after people have seen modern air combat.
Moreover, this movie isn't about selling to the people who watched the cartoon nor the readers of the Marvel comic. This is a mass market movie.
It shares DNA with those properties, but as much as the cartoon and comic book ignored each other, this launch into yet another media strikes its own ground. Why wasn't Brother Adams taking Devil's Due to task for their "reboot" of the comics? How about IDW's version? The European ones, with Big Ben? G.I. Joe Extreme?
No criticism there? There's a reason for that -- franchises can live in multiple forms.
It'd be like blaming Beast Wars
for Skids and Mudflap. Moreover, this movie wasn't produced out of a sense of love for some nostalgic property, it was made to sell DVDs and toys and product. It's a business.
So sure, products were placed (Cisco got crazy love).
So that argument is essentially denied.
Next up ...The story starts out with a ridiculous sequence involving the ancient Destro in France, in arms dealer named McCullen that was caught dealing arms to both sides in a battle.
For such a fan of the source material, he must have forgotten that Clan McCullen has been arms merchants for centuries. Larry Hama's comic work as much as said so after the introduction of the Iron Grenadiers and Cobra's combat at Castle Destro (which was a bit before the Cobra Civil War, IIRC). So calling that "ridiculous" seems a bit like flamebait off the bat for me, as it gives no reasons as to why it's "ridiculous." Brother Adams criticized the accents (maybe they have more linguistic experts in Boston than they do in Los Angeles, but I can walk around my office in Pasadena and find people with accents like virtually everybody in the movie, as we've got a surprisingly diverse staff). Moreover, this is not the comic, cartoon or anything else that's gone before since Snake Eyes isn't a Vietnam vet -- reboots change the rules, ask JJ Abrams with Star Trek.
I will admit that nanotechnology is becoming a bit of a cliche, which Brother Adams noted. No beef there, I can allow
that ... sort of. Y'see, all the way back to Audie Murphy, I'd say that "super talented US soldiers who kick butt and save the day" are a cliche as well, so that's kind of a "pick your battle" thing there. I won't so much argue that one as say that I'd consider that like "how dare those cops in this movie use guns! That's so overdone!"Count how long you usually go without meaningful dialogue as loud noises and explosions accompanied by pounding music happens in films like this (red flag #5).
Given how well Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow's relationship is fleshed out, how thoroughly the Baroness' origin is done and how many threads are woven together to create the plots Kansas City Shuffle(6) I'm not sure what kind of "meaningful dialogue" he wants here. Should Destro have talked about how his father raised him around guns and steeped in the lore of his Scottish warmongering clan? Maybe Duke should have discussed his heroism on high school football fields? No, he probably wanted Snake Eyes to have a dissertation on the global economic crisis. While taking such a scenic route could be fun, I'm sure, I believe that just enough was done here to get the plot where it needed to go. I've been criticized as a "plot first" writer many times, but I have a good idea about most of the characters here (I will allow
that I don't know Zartan's or Heavy Duty's story at all, but I got some for Breaker, Scarlett, Rip Cord, Destro, the Commander, Baroness, Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and Hawk ... not bad, and I could probably reference scenes and maybe dialogue on each for as long as they stay in my short-term memory). Argument denied.Duke also recognized his leather clad female attacker as "Ana" (red flag #6). What is this "High School Musical" bullsh**? Duke doesn't know Baroness! His chick is Scarlet ... What's going on here?
What's going on, my dear brother, is that you're unfortunately placing your own prejudices (which are themselves sadly under informed) on a work that doesn't need them. Scarlett and Duke are an item? Really
? Hh, so I should ignore all those comic books where Snakes and Scarlett lived together in the mountains, when they dated
, or times when she declared her love for him, in not just the Marvel series, but implied in IDW and Devil's Due runs also? Oh, sorry, you must have only caught the cartoon after you got home. Or never Googled it. Or not bothered to pick up a trade paperback. Or forgotten, once again, this is a freakin' reboot.
You (nor I) own the characters, we don't decide what's canonical. So arguing what you (or I) "know" about the characters and their pasts doesn't matter, since this is a whole new canvas to work with. Scarlett likes Snake Eyes here, which happens to coincidentally be like the comics. Nothing we "knew" has
to happen -- you didn't see a HISS tank roll out, did you? Just saying ... oh, argument denied.Baroness is supposed to be Destro's chick. She isn't.
The Baroness is a spy. She kisses and manipulates whoever she needs using whatever she has to. Oh, also, she totally sucked face with Destro before Duke headbutted him in the arctic base. Also, mind controlled, as shown near the end. Moreover "supposed to be" dies in a reboot, or Spock wouldn't have sucked face with Uhura. Argument denied.Destro doesn't rock a mask.
That's not really true, given the last scenes in the submarine. Argument denied.There is no Cobra Commander.
That's not really true, given the last scenes in the submarine. Argument denied.
Did you see the whole movie?Wait, this is supposed to be the ORIGIN of Cobra and G.I. Joe as we know it now?
No, it's supposed to be the origin of Cobra (it's not "The Rise of G.I. Joe"), and certainly not "as we know it now," which was "without a movie and in no fewer than four incarnations drawn by people." Argument denied.
Brother Adams had an unspecified problem with Quaid's performance, who (IMNSHO) was partially channeling Scott in Patton
and mostly sticking with an old soldier shtick that -- again -- may not be new but did what was needed. Argument denied,
but not aggressively.Duke is the straight man, an all American hero type. Ripcord is the wise crackin', cocky Black guy that's his best friend who provides the comic relief. Dean Martin sings, Jerry Lewis tells the jokes, Sammy Davis Jr. dances and sings but Dean always gets the girl...that dynamic changes with Obama in office, though.
Here we almost agree. The Duke actor was, to be kind, boring. Good in action scenes, bad in anything involving being human. Maybe he coulda starred as a Terminator. Nonetheless, I won't fight this point, just so you know I'm not all about tearing him down. Just most of his review.
Brother Adams commented on the Neo-Vipers, who were not supposed to feel fear or pain. They went "ow" a few times when they got shot. I'll allow
that one, even though that could be surprise or an involuntary response.We get to see a cameo from Cover Girl and Brendan Fraser gets about two minutes of screen time as Gung Ho (Boo!)
I'll admit I don't even remember seeing Cover Girl and if Brendan Fraser was Gung Ho, I couldn't tell. However, I don't care. No argument there, since I don't remember it.There are some entertaining montages in which Ray Park in his guise as Snake Eyes shows off how f***in' super cool and awesome he is. It's essentially a showcase so all the little kids in the audience make a point to recognize that this is the guy whose toy you wanna buy.
Please see: "pay the rent." Plus, also, any chance to see Ray Park do something badass is worth seeing. Argument denied.Duke & Ripcord work under the watchful eyes of team leader Heavy Duty (why couldn't he have been Roadblock?) and General Hawk.
Roadblock had an annoying rhyme pattern thing that was part Jesse Jackson and part Dolemite. Marlon had the "black embarrassment" card filled up, so they couldn't go over quota on that unless Michael Richards, Andy Dick, Charlie Sheen or Michael Bay stepped in.(7) Argument denied.
Anyway, honestly, If there was gonna be a heavy machine gunner get subbed in, I'd have preferred Rock 'n' Roll, who always fascinated me. But any of them could pop up in a sequel. Sorry, digression.If you were Stalker instead of Ripcord you could've closed the deal with way less effort.
Duh -- Stalker was cool.
But Stalker (at least the old one) wouldn't boink somebody on his own team. Too complicated. So, given that this doesn't fit current movie canon either way ("reeeeee-booooooot"), I won't fight this point at all.About 28 minutes into the film we first see the accelerator suits, the dreaded suits generated groans from fanboys [and] fangirls alike but cheers from casual movie fans that don't give a f*** either way.
Those casual movie fans, fun fact, are also known as "where most of the money comes from." Also, fun fact, Snake Eyes did almost as much without a suit as Duke did in one. Moreover, didn't your very own site run
on how military exoskeletons were in the works? Argument so powerfully denied.Stormshadow has spent the overwhelming majority of his screen time looking like a Asian pop star. I half expect him to sit at a piano and belt out a ballad to some girl in a long flowing dress in either Korean or Japanese (red flag #9) at any moment.
Actor Byung-hun Lee
can probably kick Dart Adams butt. He can probably kick my butt, he can probably kick the butts of most of my friends and most of Dart Adams' friends. He's highly trained in tae kwon do
and has been in his share of Asian action movies, kicking people's butts. Sure, some of it was fight choreography, but you can't just walk into a gig like that without some skills. So, looks aside, he's the real deal. Argument denied.... he instead hangs around with Baroness acting jealous. Doesn't Cobra have any other girls around?
Again not checking the source material? Unless you're gonna count the slightly skeevy Zarana, pretty much no
.This evil organization is a real sausage party, isn't it?
Makes me wish I could find a link to a photo of the Bush administration without my web browser getting nauseous. Most are. Would you like a cadre of Condoleeza Rices and Madeline Albrights marching across the screen and getting gunned down by Rachel Nichols? Argument denied.Before I forget, Zartan get red flag #10 for overall suckage.
This in-depth and thorough analysis has been brought to you by Details magazine. Sarcasm aside, could you be any more vague? You're right, I didn't set sarcasm aside at all, my bad. Still, argument denied
especially since Zartan's strongest note of characterization made the last scene (and sequel possibilities) so delicious.... a sequence happens that kills everything for me. During the assault, one of the Neo Vipers walks out through fire towards Heavy Duty who sticks a grenade under the Neo Vipers neck ... the Neo Viper then panicked and made noises BEFORE he blew up. Now if Neo Vipers don't feel pain or fear (as evidenced by him first walking through fire) then why did one just exhibit fear of impending death?
Hm. Well, even if I was fearless and didn't feel pain, if I was trying to get something done in a disturbingly small amount of time (say, remove a live grenade from my armor) and it wasn't going well, I'd probably scramble and move quickly, even if I failed. I'm not so sure that was "panic" (I didn't see a facial expression) as much as haste. But this could go either way, so I'll allow
this as a legitimate concern.Then we get a flashback explaining exactly what happened that could have lead Ana (Baroness) to work with Cobra. After this flashback there's a chance that 20 minutes later you can predict how the movie might end kinda like we used to 15 minutes in to episodes of "New York Undercover."
I was gonna argue this one, but in retrospect, it's kind of true. Except for the thing with the brother, which was a shock what he did (not who he was). So in that I can see it both ways, I'll again allow
it.It's a super secret Black Ops covert action team doing a "secret mission" in public during daylight hours (?). That's sorta like a ninja rocking an Ed Hardy outfit while trying to be stealthy.
This was a bit of a concern on one season of 24.
You can be covert and stealthy all you want ... until you're dealing with something that will eat an entire freaking city. There are a little over 2.1 million people in Paris
who will all either die horribly or have an extraordinarily bad day if that thing had gotten loose. That's not the time to be stealthy. The stakes were too high and no conventional forces were sufficient for the threat. I was mad they weren't less
covert, myself, because that crappy van was no match for a good flight of helicopters with chain guns. Then again, people say I often go too far. For this point, though, argument denied.Why would you send the two guys the person you’re trying to stop already knows?
The same reason they're on the team: they have intel, they're motivated, and they have something to prove. Same reason Kobe Bryant got three big shots in the last playoff game of his rookie year (although, admittedly, that didn't work as well, and started my long enmity with Mssr. Bryant). Argument denied.If Cobra is trying to go undetected and do their mission the stealthy way then why is G.I. Joe (the secret team that no one even knows exists) out in the open running through traffic in Accelerator Suits, causing accidents racking up a gang of collateral damage?
Cobra is a band of terrorists, dude. Baroness opened fire in a crowded building. Storm Shadow ran through the streets with a rocket launcher. They walked in the front door of a building and shot people to death. What possibly
gave you the idea Cobra cared about being undetected? Argument denied.Why not track Cobra then stop them when they figure out what the target is?
Because if they fired that thing (or even dropped it on the street) it could kill hundreds in minutes. There's no telling how many got whacked from that falling tower due to the small and too-covert team that did
get sent. Argument denied.Because there would be no explosions and no way to exhibit the cool ass CGI and special FX, that’s why!
Well ... okay, yes, that too. I'll allow
that.At the end of this head stratching [sic] explosion and casualty filled 13 minute sequence, Paris is kinda saved, Duke gets kidnapped and G.I. Joe is directly responsible for injuring thousands and THEY get arrested.
No, that's not right at all. Joes didn't fire the weapon. Joes didn't take down the tower. That's factually inaccurate, so argument completely denied.Snake Eyes didn’t need an Accelerator Suit to do the improbable, he also managed to avoid arrest and slipped away as his peeps got tossed in the bing.
You mean "brig," except you don't, because that's on a ship. We hope they didn't get thrown into Microsoft's search engine. Again, Ray Park is badass. No argument there, just cool to see.If you can watch a movie where a secret professional covert ops team that’s reputed to contain the best of the best soldiers in their respective fields that gets arrested by the local authorities in broad daylight for causing a gang of unnecessary carnage and you don’t have a problem with it then God bless you.
Should they have shot it out with the cops? They didn't exactly have ID they could flash that could stop the police, given that they were foreign nationals.
I need to cut this short and eat lunch, but it's easy to sum up. Brother Adams has some factual inaccuracies, some vague insults (the "undersea Cobra base" shtick is a wonderful tribute to Larry Hama's G.I. Joe
#5 I believe, where Cobra Commander had this massive thing underwater, just chilling out) and asks for a host of characters that would have had no time to get fleshed out (given how little Heavy Duty already got, and again, they could all pop up in sequels). He does miss some verbs and has some grammar questions, but depending on how hard I spell check this, I might do the same. One correction I need to make ...The original Cobra Commander was a scientist who undermined his own successes and micromanaged Cobra until they lost even while they had better weapons, better resources, better technologies and a head start of years of world conquest (if none of you have ever taken a History class about World War 2 or specifically Germany under Hitler then you’d never piece all that together ... even when Cobra Commander used to quote Stalin & Lenin in the cartoon).
Ah, more reliance on the cartoon, which later decided he was a member of a race of reptile people. No, my dear brother, originally
"Ol' CC Rider" was a scam artist, complete megalomaniac and pyramid sales genius who was bent on revenge. But nice try. Say it with me, children: argument denied.
Brother Adams has a very negative view of the film based on the fact he either wanted them to live-action the nostalgia-soaked 1980s cartoon
or have the movie be seventeen hours long (given his laundry list of characters -- Tomax and Xamot alone could carry a film, IMNSHO). I think that's plum crazy. But we each have our inch of digital real estate, and we each have our time to shine. I agreed with four and a half or five of his points, but found a problem with and presented evidence against ... lessee ... no fewer than 21 of them. You, I'm sure, will draw your own conclusions.
Enjoy your perspective either way ... and CO-BRAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!(8)
(1) = You want pro journalism? Pony up, pal. Spirit knows I can do and have done such reviews
but I'm not gonna work that hard for free. Today.
(2) = I'm a "cloth hood" man myself, never going so much for the helmets. Even though there's no way that napkin could have stayed so effectively on his head in all the ignorance he did, but still ...
(3) = I won't even honor that with a link, you can Google it if you must.
(4) = Three special effects companies, if I read the credits right, worked on this.
(5) = Ray Park is amazing.
(6) = Brother Adams tweeted
that "Defending 'G.I. Joe' is like trying to turn the Kansas City Royals into a winning MLB franchise....Good luck!" Therefore I'm gonna keep pounding the Kansas City Shuffle thing, as it's the smartest part of the movie and one of (IMNSHO) the best use of one of the properties' more ridiculous characters.
(7) = No, I will not let any that go. Charlie Sheen called the extraordinarily white Denise Richards the "n" word in a voice mail. Andy Dick and Michael Richards thought that same word was funny to bandy about. Michael Bay ... we talked about Skids and Mudflap. A pox on all their houses.
(8) = What? Did you really think I was on the other side? You musta forgot!
Labels: cobra, dart adams, g.i. joe, movie, review