Dare I say it? Not only is G.I Joe a just apology by Steven Sommers for Van Helsing, it’s also a reminder why Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise is so forgettable.
McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) is a weapons maker about to deliver four next-gen warheads to NATO, trusting the US Army with their safe delivery. Duke (Channing Tatum) and his buddy Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are in charge of the mission… and all that remain when an unknown force with superior firepower nearly destroys the entire convoy. Fortunately, a group of equally mysterious specialists arrive before the warheads fall into the wrong hands: Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Breaker (Sa?¯d Taghmaoui), and Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), all lead by a decorated commander, General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). The two soldiers and their payload are spirited to a hidden location, the international base of operations for a well-equipped, secret team of elite fighters called “G.I. Joe.”
There’s plenty this movie gets wrong, but far more that it gets right. While we are seeing the G.I Joe team in action, their enemies aren’t quite “Co-BRA!” just yet. The plot follows the same rhythm as the series: bad guys try to steal something, Joes show up and thwart it but don’t know the whole plan, bad guys do or steal something else, and so on until the Joes win, someone gets captured (they’ll escape in the next installment), and someone usually gets away. Unlike the Transformers films (in which Michael Bay demands chaos for even the most docile scenes), the final editors of this film should be thanked for reigning in the silliness and tweaking the flow to make two hours of popcorn-munching not-so-covert military action fly by on the screen. Then, there’s the nitpicking…
Scarlett, less rouge, please. Does Snake Eyes need a plastic mouth? Could Storm Shadow look any more like a poser with that turned-up white-leather collar? And what ranking military operation would be allowed to continue when half of the good guys directly or indirectly have history with the bad guys? At one point, you half expect General Hawk to reveal, “My God… I’m my own grandpa!” with all the other revelations in this film. Also, much of the history established here differs completely from the classic cartoons (and even comics) that inspired the film, so the purists will have plenty to lament. Speaking of which, lines that call attention to the fact that the filmmakers took it upon themselves that G.I Joe is no longer “a real American hero” stings like lemon juice in an open wound. And seriously, as the only black man on “Joe team alpha,” is it absolutely required that Ripcord call attention to the fact with some snide or half-bigoted racial reference? We know you’re proud to be black, now please sit down.
By the film’s end, the stage is set for the required sequel or two to follow, and with plenty of characters to draw upon instead of making up stuff (are you listing, Michael Bay?) the sequels could be just as entertaining if not better. None of the principle villainous characters, of course, suffered any setbacks they couldn’t come back from for those sequels as well, so old scores (complete with on-screen baggage) can be settled yet again. The worst atrocities committed toward this film included showing trailers that revealed too little setup and too many special effects. For your next film, might I suggest a little subterfuge on the part of Cobra Commander in the form of viral video and recruitment? You’ve got a good thing going here, Mr. Sommers. Keep smiling, don’t blow it. (with apologies to Robert Preston)
(a three skull recommendation out of four)