This review contains spoilers. Well, as much as there can be for plotless nonsense.
Some of you might remember that several months ago I wrote a piece entitled Hopes and Fears for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in which I rather foolishly allowed myself to get far too excited by a movie that really didn’t look like it was capable of delivering anything other than brainless fun.
Still, as one reader commented, “Quite frankly, I think you’ll love this movie. Why? Cause there’s no way this movie can be any worse than Vantage Point, and you like Dennis Quaid. Which means you have an extremely high tolerance for sh*t. You’ll be fine for G.I. Joe.” And they were right, well, mostly.
I do have a tremendously high tolerance for cinematic excrement, I make no apologies for that and I do like Dennis Quaid (actually, it’s more of a love). I really enjoyed Vantage Point in all its awful glory and so I should have been fine. The problem is, I really wasn’t.
So, with the DVD about to be released into the atmosphere I decided that the time was finally right to face up the events of that fateful day, when two old friends were violated by the equivalent of cinematic blasphemy.
To briefly recap that day, my friend and I had held back from seeing it on release week so we could co-ordinate a meet up in Leicester Square. It was a lovely sunny Sunday. We sat outside a bar drinking and catching up, having a discussion about the G.I. Joe comics of such magnificent geek heights that, should any nearby ‘normals’ have overheard, they would have bled from the ears, before throwing themselves in front of nearby traffic.
We had a beer, then some more, then the nerves kicked in and we hit the shots (we weren’t that naive as to not be prepared), then decided to go all out and pay for the most expensive tickets in the cinema (about £20 each), figuring that if you’re going to do something stupid, you might as well go all out. Standing outside the entrance to the screen, we could hear the trailers, but on spotting the bar, grabbed a last beer, inhaled it and took our seats.
What followed can only be described a joke that stopped being funny half way through.
I really did want to like the film and a perverse part of me still does, which is why I found myself leaping at the chance to watch it again. Call me a masochist, but just be grateful that I’m taking a bullet on your behalf, as, if you thought the movie was going to be bad, you only know the half of it. Time to grab the nearest bottle of booze, stick the disc in the machine and try to stay calm…
The best way to start is to address the main points from my previous article, as it proved strangely prophetic in its shaping of how the film turned out. Well, err… on the positive side, Said Taghmaoui as Breaker was great. His character turned out to be the geek he should be, rather than the bad ass that all the pictures portrayed him as, and he even blew gum in one scene, so that’s one star awarded.
Strangely, the accelerator suit scene turned out to be fun, not the massive annoyance it looked like it would be and was mercifully kept to the one short set piece; all the other action was done without it.
Some of the performances were quite good too. Arnold Vosloo and Sienna Miller seemed to have fun with their characters, Zartan and The Baroness, respectively, Rachel Nichols is very pretty as Scarlett (a character I’ve always had a crush on) and Channing Tatum as Duke didn’t offend me too much. That’s it, though.
Now, on to the bad.
For anyone that’s ever read a single issue of the G.I. Joe comics, or cherished the toys as a child, avoid this movie like the plague. In the truest Hollywood tradition any hope of faithfulness to the original source material is scattered to the wind and burnt.
Almost every character is defiled and tampered with, which I forgave at first until it was stretched one step too far with my beloved Snake Eyes. For all my excitement about Ray Park studying his character, he is not only underused but completely scuppered by the empty attempt at a script.
The original story behind Snake Eyes was as follows: he and Storm Shadow served in Vietnam together. Storm Shadow saved his life and, on return to the US, Snake Eyes was informed that his mother, father and sister had all been killed in a car crash.
Left standing alone at the airport when his comrades were greeted by their families, he decided to stay with Storm Shadow and study martial arts under the tuition of the Hard Master, until their master was assassinated by what seemed to be Storm Shadow, out of jealousy for the attention given to his friend (as well as Snake Eyes being the more skilled of the two).
Snake Eyes also suffered in a tragic accident, in which he rescued Scarlett but had his face badly burnt and scarred, which also left him mute. A good story, right? Compelling, tragic, intriguing and completely bastardised in the film.
In Rise Of Cobra, Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes are kids. That’s right, little children, with Snake Eyes being homeless and scavenging for food, to then be trained in martial arts. Everything else is gone.
He and Scarlett are hinted at being close in the movie, but with no explanation as to why, but why bother when you can then make her fall for the one man fucktard that is Marlon Wayans’ Ripcord?
Even if you attempt to ignore all of those changes, there was one line delivered towards the end, in a confrontation in which Storm Shadow states that Snake Eyes took a vow of silence when their master was killed. And in one line my tolerance for the film was destroyed.
Sure, to others it might seem insignificant, but we’re geeks and it sure as hell matters to us. That one line destroys the whole point of Snake Eyes. Why bother making him look the same as he did in the comics if you don’t follow it up? Does that mean that Sommers just thought he wears the mask for kicks?
It’s yet another half arsed attempt to try and keep fans happy without having one single clue about what defines a character.
You want more? The ‘writers’ also decided to add in a whole back/love story between Duke and The Baroness, completely made up to crowbar some attempt at a human interest angle in, which then wipes out the comic history between Destro and The Baroness.
Oh, and the fear I had about Destro being disfigured in order to wear the mask is right there. I almost wept when it happened, for being so damn obvious and Christopher Eccleston is all kinds of wrong for the character.
The Cobra Commander link is terrible and when he finally dons his mask we both laughed at the poor, poor design of it. It’s right there in the comic, all you had to do was copy it. Yet someone decided it was a good idea to have another go at it.
Every aspect of the original characters and story have been abused beyond recognition, leaving a vacuous empty mess of a film that could have been based on anything. It’s a slick, shiny turd of a film that should never have been attempted by someone so clearly unattached to the material. So why in the hell Sommers even tried is beyond me.
The commentary reveals in ten minutes that they went ahead and filmed it, even though the script was only in an early version due to the writers strike, with the writer on set every day working on it (if only someone had passed him a comic to work from), as well as the filming schedule being much shorter than normal. So, rushed and unfinished, then.
Sommers also reveals that his G.I. Joe was the action man era, which means he was too old for the material and reiterates my point above as to why he should even try to make it.
As well as the infuriating commentary, which is, sadly, missing the interrupting sounds of my fists, there are two featurettes. One is a twenty minute look at all the lovely CGI (joy) and the other is a half hour ‘making of’ which is more entertaining than the film, but full of more aggravating blasphemy by Sommers as he praises the original comics, before presumably setting fire to them with money and laughing with glee as he does so.
Larry Hama praises the script, but, hopefully, he was paid to do so (I’m sorry to sound mean as I adore Hama for what he created, but seriously), while the script writer lets a constant stream of pseudo intellectual bullshit fall from his mouth like he has an iota of talent.
Oh, and please spare us the ‘I like strong women’ line, when you deny the characters their background and character and make them fight. It’s fetishism, not feminism.
Like Transformers 2, it’s an ill conceived, horribly cold and commercial mess which should never have been given the go ahead and demonstrates why films like Moon need your support and this really, really doesn’t.
Under no circumstances should this movie be watched sober or alone. If you’ve never read a comic, then you could add a gold covering to the one star I’m awarding it, as it would be a trashy night in, but I, for one, cannot recommend it. Even the mighty Quaid couldn’t be bothered to make an effort, so neither should you.
Oh, and, for the record, Marlon Wayans is indescribably terrible.
Film:Disc: G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra is released on December 7.