Part James Bond and part Fast and Furious, this movie is every bit as corny and silly as you’d expect. I mean who could watch the cartoon series from the eighties and seriously expect a dark and hard edged movie? This movie is every bit the Saturday morning cereal fodder it’s predessesor was.
Still, this is a critique and as such deserves a nit picky eye and most likely an absurd penchant for quibbling on the small stuff.
The poor performances are almost alarming given the adequate cast, but hardly surprising when you listen to the dialogue the actors have to spit. There are big names here like Dennis Quaid who plays general Hawk and Joseph Gordon Levitt (the kid from 3rd Rock) who gives us our Cobra Commander. The lead, Duke doesn’t have as much presence as his annoying comic relief/sidekick played by Marlon Wayans. Rachel Nichols is Scarlet and is fantastic in her slinky outfit while Sienna Miller plays a confused Baroness; more confused by the writers as to who she is as a character than anything else. Chris Eccleston (my favorite Doctor Who) is a silly Destro and looks the part better than he plays it and Ray Park (Darth Maul) is the silent Snake Eyes, nearly perfect if not for a silly mold of his lips onto his ninja mask. There are plenty more in the cast worth note like Mr. Echo from Lost, Arnold Vosloo and Jonathan Pryce, but the list is lengthy and readily available on imdb for those who wish to peruse it. Of course the Joes and the villainous Cobra agents are treated more like superheroes than any kind of military unit. (An interesting statement if you think this is the kind of movie that makes statements.)
Every camera shot seems to be crammed with some kind of special effect, from holograms to underwater battle simulations. It’s doubtful whether there is one realistic set piece in this entire film. The pacing is fast, but almost to the point where you feel like you’re watching a string of video game vignettes. Well of course the movie is busy, if it were to slow down, even for a moment, you remember how ridiculous this entire affair really is. And who wants that when you’re having so much fun? The movie is so ambitious, it tries to tell Duke’s, Destro’s, Snake Eyes’ and Storm Shadow’s, Baroness’ and Cobra Commander’s stories while still making room for twenty other characters, some with bigger story points than others, but all getting screen time and name recognition.
So who better to bring this ball of insanity to you than the man behind the Mummy Returns and Van Helsing; Stephen Somers? Being able to tell big adventure epics loaded with special effects and keep a tone that is both family friendly action packed is going to earn him the director’s chair, but this is a current or (as the movie states) near future tale that carries much more technology than his usual flicks. Not a stretch apparently, Somers flies through the big tech sets and military bases as though he born there. Sure he signed up with a ridiculous script and gets some questionable performances out of his cast, but most importantly; he maintains the tone of humor and sappy antics throughout the movie with out fail.
I had previously posted my expectations for this beautiful mess and it was pretty much as bad and as glorious as I thought. I’m sure there are many who would put this film right next to Batman and Robin as one of the worst, but try to remember that Schumacher‘s movie was a sequel and it will always be compared to the 89 Batman and there in lies the ultimate tragedy; you could see what it should have been and how it through away all of the conventions and tones that had worked so well for the earlier movies. GI Joe never betrays itself. Throughout the movie it is consistently stupid and action packed. So leave your brain at the door and maybe smoke a bowl before you see GI Joe to give it it’s best chance at success, it’s not impossible.