Monday, August 10, 2009

Standing in the shadow of Darth Vader.

(My summer blockbuster review project has obviously gone to heck. I didn't even see Transformers 2! That said, I did manage to catch a flick yesterday...)

I like to complain about what George Lucas has done with the Star Wars franchise as much as the next guy. Maybe more. But it's hard to deny the influence of the series (especially the 1977 original) on other movies.

Case in point, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. (Hey, is anybody else tired of the word "rise" used in movie titles? For some reason, that always rubs me the wrong way. And why does a movie that is not a sequel need a subtitle anyway?) Though I assume the movie is based on the Hasbro toy line and the television shows and comic books it inspired, several of the flick's plot points are straight out of Star Wars.

For example, there's a climatic battle where the good guys attack the bad guys' battle fortress. In Joe, the fortress is underwater instead of in outer space, but all of the submarines and whatnot behave more like X-wing fighters than actual aquatic vehicles--not sure if that was dictated by the screenplay or the director or the special effects house. Inside that base, a good guy with a badass sword goes off alone to disable some problematic piece of equipment (Snake Eyes vs. a plasma cannon in Joe. In Star Wars, it was Obi-Wan vs. the tractor beam).

When one of the characters kisses another "for luck," I leaned over and whispered to Stacey that we'll discover these characters are brother and sister in the inevitable sequel.

Debts to Star Wars aside, the G.I. Joe plot is pretty decent for an action flick. The only real motivation for the main bad guys (Destro and Cobra Commander) seems to be revenge, but at least they're motivated. Not sure what's in it for all those henchmen though. It would be interesting to see what Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer (creators of The Venture Bros.) have to say about that.

As you might guess, there is a ton of action. Some of it cool (ninja fights!), some of it average. The CG effects are all over the place, usually not particularly good. I wonder if I should just quit complaining about sloppy CG. But G.I. Joe actually has lots of solid practical effects and sets and costumes. If the same effort went into the computer effects, it would have really improved the overall viewing experience.

The cast is full of good actors who do what they can with the action movie dialog--except Dennis Quaid, who seems hell-bent on chewing every piece of scenery in sight. After the early negative buzz around the flick, followed by a little last-minute positivity from guys like Devin Faraci over at, I wasn't sure what to expect. I suppose I landed in the middle. I found G.I. Joe a pleasant enough time-waster, but I don't expect I'll be re-watching it anytime soon.

It's definitely no Team America: World Police. But, then again, what is?


Anonymous said...

You are certainly more forgiving than I. I thought G.I. Joe was really bad. I wasn't expecting anything more than a fun little time-waster. But while lots of things blow up, I just didn't get any sense of fun to go with it. And I know this bothers me more than it should, but it really bothers me that the primary purpose of this movie was to set up the next movie.

On the other hand, the audience I was with seemed to be enjoying themselves. So apparently it was just me.

Chance Shirley said...

It is entirely possible I'm being too easy on G.I. Joe. The tasty movie theater nachos put me in a good mood.

Anonymous said...

Well, everything is indeed better with movie theater nachos. I probably should have tried that!