When I first started awful movie October, way back in the misty bygone days of this month, I could see the end coming, barreling down a dark tunnel of awful direct to my face. I knew I had to review GI JOE. I knew this had to happen. Anyone who has been reading this blog for a considerable amount of time will remember my loathing of the film. It was actually the first film I tried to review for Faceplant!, but I shut it off due to extreme apathy and watched The Fifth Element instead. It wasn’t that the special effects weren’t great, no. It was just that the film had presented me with about twelve characters, of which I cared about none of them. The plot was negligible and pretty much the plot of every other action film ever, and quite honestly? I don’t know much about GI JOE.
But here we are, the end of October and hopefully the last film I’ll review for a while, so I booted it up and sat there with my head in my hands in a stupor for about an hour and forty minutes.
This movie… is not all that great.
I’ll admit it, I’m one of the few children to emerge out of the 80s/early 90s without even a basic passing knowledge of GI JOE. I mean, I watched it growing up, sure. I remember the squeaky voiced Cobra Commander and the shiny faced Destro. I remembered a soldier who dressed like a sailor for some reason and had a parrot he probably hated. I also remember two stereotype hot women characters, one of which was good and one of which was evil. I remembered the completely silly “GI JOE LESSONS” segments at the end of each cartoon. But I don’t know a thing about a single JOE, or about Cobra and what they wanted to do.
I would have been pretty young in those days, though. All I really needed for entertainment at six years old was flashing lights and bad guys dying. …Actually, as I sit here now, I vaguely remember an episode where they fought… mummies? Is that a thing that happened? Any JOE fans out there that can verify that?
Anyway, enough nostalgia. Down to brass tacks.
GI JOE starts out with this bad guy in olden times. Like, 1600s olden times. Turns out there is this angry weapons dealer from a long line of weapons dealers who has been caught by the authorities. Treason, is what they charge him with. But instead of killing him, as would be smart, they instead sear a metal mask onto his head for some reason and let him go.
And then, “in the not too distant future,” the movie assures us, there is a press conference. Another arms dealer with the same accent as the olden times guy is showing off a new weapon that is laden with tiny robotic microbes. These microbes can instantly dissolve metal or other matters, effectively wiping out an entire city before being deactivated by remote control. These warheads were to be transported… somewhere… by… some military guys. Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are part of the unit.
Before long they’re assaulted by some flying… thing with a sonic cannon or something that lays waste to everyone but Duke and Ripcord. Also, due to some shenanigans, Duke has the case. He’s effectively apprehended by GI JOE at this point, the BADDEST OF THE BAD DUDES. Have ninjas kidnapped your president? Well these guys are such bad dudes they are actually also ninjas in addition to being badasses.
That’s about enough plot. Just know we have on one side GI JOE, which encompasses about seven or eight characters, none of whom you’ll care about, and on the other side you have whatever COBRA is called before it was Cobra, run by some bad guys who aren’t really interesting or compelling.
First, the positive. Special effects wise, this movie is pretty top notch. Explosions everywhere. So many people die, you have no idea. Actually, the action scenes were pretty solid, aside from a liberal helping of “oh god he should be dead, unconscious or brain dead now” and a smaller dose of “super suits, wtf.” But it is one of those films that is fun to watch, because it’s essentially every awesome thought you ever had as a five year old child shoved into an hour and forty minute movie. It’s like the director just went up to a kid playing in a sandbox and wrote down what he said while playing with his friends. “And then he shoots ROCKETS out of his CAR and they’re all jumping and dodging them and the missiles are hitting other cars and going KABOOM KAPOW KAZAM.”
Seriously. It’s like a five-year old wrote this. I actually got a pretty strong Axe Cop vibe when I watched this. Though the difference between Axe Cop and GI JOE is that Axe Cop knows what it is and plays up how silly it is. GI JOE takes itself for serious.
Between action scenes, it seemed like the adult writers took over. These are the points where they try, desperately, to make us care about their characters. About Duke’s lost love. About two ninja children who do absolutely nothing but fight, apparently. …. Actually that’s about all we get. The writers also sprinkle in a few catchphrases from the old cartoon to remind us that yes, indeed, this movie is called GI JOE. The one that comes to mind is “And knowing is half the battle” which usually accompanied those PSAs at the end of every episode.
Honestly, the only way I remember the PSAs is through the hilarious redubbing someone on the tubes made a few years back. This one is one of my favorites.
I’d say more about the actors, but I can’t really remember anything memorable that they did or said during the film. I… guess they did okay? I mean, it’s not like I was watching it for the plot or anything. Considering these characters exist solely to sell toys, I’m just glad the word Hasbro didn’t show up as a brand name on every badass suit of mega armor and jet in the film.
Anyway, I’m being overly harsh on good ol’ GI JOE. I guess I should give due where it belongs. GI JOE doesn’t try to be anything more than a dumb action film, and it pulls that off very well. Explosions, mans running fast into traffic and people jumping into helicopters or flying saucer things are at just about every turn. There’s even a scene where terrorists target an infamous landmark, because OBVIOUSLY that’s how you do more damage to people than by targeting useful places. … I’m sorry I said I’d be nice, didn’t I?
There are worse things you can watch than GI JOE. Robocop 2 comes to mind. Other films too, I’m sure. Just trust me on this. I can’t name any right now, but you caught me off guard is all.