Category Archives: syfy
GI Joe is an easy to digest summer action flick with its heart set on proving the overcoming powers of the individual and of love. Don’t expect anything of actual merit in the film, but the full realization of the Doctor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, ironically working beside Christopher Eccleston) is quite a treat. The film holds together better than Revenge of the Fallen, but The Rise of Cobra still comes out feeling just as vapid and ill-conceived.
The premise of GI Joe is supposed to be very simple: Cobra is a terrorist organization hell bent on some world conquest, and the Joes were established to minimize and prevent any offensive effort made. The movie pretty much writes itself given the simplicity and the post-911 climate. For some reason, Paramount did not want to go with that. Why jump into a story of a world already in motion when you can give the viewers a lame entry point into the story that requires a number of contrivances that don’t really work? That’s a question that was not mulled over very long by the studio executives.
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is the story of Duke, a young ground soldier with an aversion to being away from the battlefield, as he enters the secret organization known as GI Joe and finds his past ties him to the terrorist threat that’s on the rise. Therein lies my problem with the movie – it’s about Duke and not about the team. Duke demands to be added to the Joes rather than asked like anyone else, he scores within the 99.5th percentile on the Joe tests, was previously engaged to the woman who would become the Baroness, and failed to prevent the horrible disfiguring that would come to the man who would become the Cobra Commander (who, coincidentally enough, is also the Baroness’ scientist brother). The joy of the old cartoon and the toys was that there was a Joe for every situation and every kids, whereas the joy of the movie is in the importance of one.
Fortunately, tying the movie to the performance of Channing Tatum was not a poor decision. I believed him as a reserve yet also intense Duke. It’s not as if the film hinged on the performance of Marlon Wayans, whose character’s, Ripcord’s, reason for joining the Joes wasn’t because of the (fixed yet) botched operation in delivering a warhead but rather for getting close to Scarlett. All of the other Joes were ancillary at best, except for Snake Eyes, whose story was the coolest because it was revealed through his antagonist’s eyes. But it was difficult to forgive the fact that the American ninja was supposed to be so much better than the Japanese one.
With the title’s inclusion of The Rise of Cobra, one might think that there would be some focus on the formation and structure of the Cobra terrorist organization. Sadly, instead the movie delivers an unnamed criminal element involved in the creation, theft, and horrible use of high tech weaponry – until the end when a deranged scientist assumes himself into the position of leader and dubs himself the Commander. Then they get captured. The end.
Given my background as a huge fan of The Transformers and Starscream, I’m probably predisposed to dismissing anything following the brilliant Chris Latta’s work as Cobra Commander. Joseph Gordon-Levitt, however, managed to make me a believer in his Cobra Commander. I even enjoyed the character’s evolution into the maniacal head of Cobra. His being the Baroness’ brother is dismissible and stupid, but his being a scientist brought onto the battlefield to acquire hidden data (about nano-machines for use in mind control and performance enhancement) and subsequently finding himself caught in an air raid ordered by Duke gives the character an appropriately tragic air. His hiding from his sister in plain sight as the mysterious Doctor and also mind controlling her reveals just how sinister and twisted the character was – especially as he was not even out for revenge. The true goal of the Commander has yet to be revealed, but simple world domination cannot be too far from the goals of a man who found the secret to mind control right before the man he used to be died. It’s just disappointing that they created a completely stupid mask for the Commander instead of opting for a blue or black hood. Or even the domed helmet.
One might think that with this praise I liked the movie. I would not go that far. I enjoyed the movie much more than I had expected to, and the plot was much more coherent than that of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen; but the film was your average summer blockbuster drivel that cashes in on a pre-existing property. I’m just surprised that it wasn’t a total train wreck and managed to realize a single character. (Literally, one character.) The movie is decidedly flawed.
Like previously mentioned, linking everything to Duke is a weak move writing-wise and cheapens the experience. Duke’s knowing the future figurehead of Cobra makes his fight a personal one rather than merely an altruistic one. His connection to the Baroness cheapened her character drastically, as she fights off her mind control for the sake of love beyond all else. (Note: While free of mind control, she repeatedly overhears that her supposedly dead brother is part of the terrorist threat and an enemy, and she does not respond. Sure, we saw her crying while knocked out to somehow signify that she overheard the truth, but there was no indication of a cognitive response to the information.) One character should not be the linchpin in a movie that supposedly establishes a team.
So, speaking of the team, can anyone remember the name of the black guy who wasn’t Ripcord? Did Brendan Frasier’s unnecessary cameo have a name? Was General Hawk really necessary? What was the French guy’s name? Was Scarlett’s character supposed to be perfect in almost all ways with the shortcoming that she is unemotional? And Ripcord’s is that he’s flawed but emotional? And the attraction being that opposites ultimately attract? Were the power suits there for any other reason than a cheesy gimmick for use in a chase? (And why the joke about the price of something that would ultimately be a frontline weapon? That’s like telling me not to shoot a $2000 bullet. Don’t give me the bullet then.) If Snake Eyes doesn’t talk, why even go as far as to put lips on his mask? Where did he keep the extra black mask when he was wearing a white one initially when going into the arctic – and why bother bringing more than one? And if the governments ultimately know of the existence of the GI Joe team, why couldn’t they have received a secret pardon rather than dismantling?
And for the bad guys, why couldn’t the Baroness recognize her brother? Was it the mind control? Why couldn’t Duke when he was captured? What was the point of the hairpiece in light of the fact that it made him look more like Gordon-Levitt? If Dr. Who/Claude from Heroes/Destro had so much money, why couldn’t they have simply purchased a facility for the purpose of weaponization rather than seducing and killing someone to get in (and drawing more attention to themselves)? So, was the Commander planning on Destro’s eventual facial scarring? If the Commander was planning on taking control of the entire operation, why did he wait until they were discovered and had to flee their facility? Are we to simply accept that Storm Shadow is dead simply because he was stabbed and fell into sea? (And, with his saying to Snake Eyes that their master “was killed” but not taking credit for it, is the suggestion that he didn’t do it?) Was the Baroness even supposed to be threatening, what with her utter lack of stature, substance, or even adult-sounding voice?
The best part of the movie, though, is the subplot with Zartan. Zartan is Cobra’s master of disguise, and the movie shows him as being extremely good at that. Then, at the end, he assumes the role of the President of the United States of America. The sequel must therefore show the deck stacked dramatically against the Joes, since the President will then have information about them and the ability to pardon the captured Commander and Destro. I look forward to that, if done well.
But I can’t recommend this movie to anyone. Not even as a rental. It’s an adequate action movie, but that’s it. It’s overall shallow and uneventful. One might think that a movie involving the destruction of a national landmark might hold some sort of weight emotionally, given that we want to protect the world and the beautiful things we have put in it. No. It happens, then we never talk about it again. Is this GI Joe or is this Team America?
Bechdel Rule: FAIL! Like Transformers, there were only two women in the entire movie who had names. Fortunately, they did share a scene together, but they were fighting and not talking. Quipping doesn’t count as a conversation. But let me get back to the fact that there were only two women in the movie. The underrepresentation obviously proves how woman-friendly the film is not.
Additionally, even though the women are on the battlefield similarly to the men and shown to be extremely capable, they were objectified quite blatantly. The standard issue Joe uniform for women includes a push-up brassiere and a jacket that doesn’t zip up completely. Don’t believe me? Look at the first scene in the Joe headquarters. Hell, even the armor is form fitting – and involves a greater focus on shaping rather than protecting. The Baroness wore similar outfits, and I don’t know how effective high heels are on the battlefield. Not unless the point is distracting the enemy with accentuated calves.
But how woman-friendly can this movie be with its casting average waif-thin women who have no distinctive looks unto themselves? I’m getting tired of it, and doesn’t fit for a movie like GI Joe anyway. The Baroness should be imposing in some way, and Scarlett shouldn’t be covered in obvious makeup when she’s just one of the guys and supposedly rushing around to save a world in drastic need of saving? Women don’t always need to be prettied up in movies, especially when the roles don’t demand or even suggest it.
Lite Review: It’s about robots who tear parts off of each other and battle to the death. If you are into that sort of thing, then this movie is perfectly acceptable. If you prefer a reasonable plot, likeable characters, and a story that actually goes somewhere; then why the hell are you going to a movie that advertises that it’s based off of Hasbro toys? It’s a decent enough movie to watch once.
Before I get to the real bulk of this review, I must direct you to Brian Lynch’s “How to Survive Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. It’s far more informative than I could hope to be as far as movie survivalism is concerned. Also, read Roger Ebert’s review of the film for something totally scathing. He’s not alone. As I write this, Rotten Tomatoes currently gives the film a 21% freshness rating.
I absolutely loathed the previous Transformers film. The only good thing about the film, in my view, was that Starscream got to wreck a squadron of fighter jets and look cool while doing it. The first spoiler I must release about the film is that Starscream is noticeably less badass, as are most characters who are not Optimus Prime. What this film lacks in Starscream badassery, it makes up for in strides with robotic violence.
I have now seen a Transformer stabbed directly through the chest, another get its face ripped off after a very violent and un-Prime line, a robot burst out of another’s face, and a host of inhuman characters get shot straight through. There were a few times throughout the movie when the only comment I had was, “That’s fucked up.” This movie made no pretense about the fact that they were performing acts of violence that would have gotten an R rating had it been performed by humans – or creatures for whom we were given a chance to care.
The characterizations for the titular robots in disguise were either lacking or racist, with nothing in between points. Optimus Prime’s character is that he’s a leader and he fights hard, Ironhide likes to pull out guns, Starscream is suddenly a coward, Megatron is violent and subserviant, the Fallen is old and revenge-driven, Sideswipe is a badass (which wasn’t unpleasant to find), Arcee is a girl (or is girls), Wheelie’s a pussy, Soundwave is there, and the twins are niggers. Sorry for dropping the N-bomb, but that’s what it was. They had big eyes, big lips, gold teeth, had particularly bad speech patterns and made heavy use of slang, and they admitted to not knowing how to read. The reading part is what really came to upset me. The producers of the film are racist, and I’m sure they felt they could get away with it because they figured “those people” wouldn’t get it. With all of the unsavory racial stereotyping and noise filling the screens in Hollywood these days, it’s not unlikely that many would gloss over those twins whose names were likely Boy! and Buckwheat.
In watching this film, it’s easy to see just how far from creative the Hollywood machine is. What the movie presents to us is a race of aliens from space who somehow match nicely with Earth cultures and stereotypes. Did the twins have to be stupid negroes? Was there any purpose in all of them using Earth slang? Why was the old Seeker known as Jetfire a Brit? I guess this is what we call humor. Giant robots riffing on our stereotypes and blatant racism is family fun. That is certainly good to know.
On another note, why the hell was Jetfire made to be so useless? He had everything going for him – he was a jet and could teleport (despite not being Skywarp). Instead of being the scientific tactician and badass that longtime fans would recognize, he was an old curmudgeon with a British accent and a lack of loyalty to his former cause. He makes a heroic sacrifice in the end, though, but it’s negated by the fact that he wasn’t given enough screen time for the audience to care what about him. Also, I realize this film wasn’t made for fans of other Transformers stories or toys that actually look good, so I’m attempting to write this review from the lens of someone who actually likes good, fun movies. I learned from the first movie that the actual fan in me was not the target audience.
There was also a human element to the film that was totally useless. I don’t need to know about Shia the Beef’s long distance romance while my robots are getting eviscerated. I don’t care that his mother ate a pot brownie while visiting and tackled a guy. (Note: People who are high don’t tend to tackle others. The thought would probably scare the shit out of them.) It was a cool idea to see soldiers fighting side-by-side with the Autobots in the beginning of the film, but it lacked any sort of logic. It’s like they didn’t watch the first movie. We know that bullets don’t hurt Decepticons, so why send the humans out first with guns? Why send the humans out first against killer robots when you could more reasonably match them up against your own killer robots? That was beyond unreasonable. It was stupid. But at least it was a moment for Sideswipe to shine.
Fortunately, it’s not always true that a movie is only as strong as its leads. Megan Fox can’t act. Her purpose in the film was to induce masturbatory fantasies in
Michael Bay the audience. This was made clear by her first appearance on the screen, hunched over a bike. If you never before considered the motorcycle a phallic symbol, then maybe this makes it easier to think about things you want Fox to ride. Then there’s Shia the Beef, whose claim to acting fame is repeating the same word in succession. I don’t recall a “No no no!”, but there were other repeat words – don’t worry. He’s best scene in the film involved him screaming like a girl for comic effect. Good job. And his character, Sam, apparently had “The Touch”. Yes, I have a problem with that. Then again, I was also thinking that Sam might have had an intersect in his head.
I was thinking after that maybe Sam could become a Powermaster, just so long as the obvious joke about Fox’s character would be made. Yes, combine her with Arcee and make her a Headmaster. Sam would then say, “She sure is.” Laughs would ensue. By the way, this is still family fun.
Other issues I had that aren’t worth a full commitment to writing out: Optimus Prime’s death and resurrection is a worthless Transformers trope, no explanation for female bots, many unnamed and uncharacterized bots, Soundwave jizzed on our planet and no one noticed (seriously, we have a Transformer stuck to a satellite and no one even bothered to consider the possibility of intelligence’s being compromised), Devastator was present just for the wow factor of a gestault, not enough Sideswipe, not enough Starscream, not enough jet fighting, Megatron served a previously unmentioned master, no one thinks less of the Transformers for having a history of blowing up stars for power, the revelation of who is fighting on which side of the war was revealed to be a choice but still not used to provide character depth (it just let Wheelie jump sides so he could hump Megan Fox’s leg in peace), and the shaky cam was just goddamn annoying.
Despite all that, I am shocked to say that I liked this movie better than its predecessor. It was fun. I would say that I like it a little less than I enjoyed 2009 Film, which means I similarly see it as a film seeing at least once but not owning on DVD. The movie has a lot of crazy action and just has a certain energy permeating through it. Just don’t expect anything deep or to walk out of the theatre with comments on the plot. It’s ironic, but there certainly isn’t more to this movie than meets the eye. However, what meets the eye is pretty thrilling.
Bechdel Rule: FAIL! There are only two actual female characters in the movie, aside from two robot women. Mikeala and Mrs. Witwicky share screen time but never talk. One might think that Mama doesn’t approve of her little boy’s choice in woman. I mean, why wouldn’t she care for a hot, stupid girl with no good prospects for the future?
Yeah, I’m still bitter.