Movie News & Reviews

'G.I. Joe' combats adolescent script with adult violence

Even as a kid, I thought it was pretty ridiculous how no one ever diedin a G.I. Joe battle.

Scores of soldiers on both sides, missiles flying this way and that,tanks and helicopters exploding like steel-plated popcorn, and it'snothing but soldiers parachuting to an injury-free landing. You haveto wonder how evil COBRA can really be when they place that muchemphasis on personal safety.

-- Trailer, times, theaters.

Maybe it says something about me that I desperately wanted amputationsand flag-draped funeral services at 8 years old, but the drama is muchless life and death when there's no death involved. I would hardlycall G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra a grownup movie — not to say itdoesn't try — but at least on the violence front it's aiming for moremature tastes.

Arms dealer Christopher Eccleston has just sold NATO his latestinvention, nanomite warheads that can destroy everything metal in anentire city. Soldiers Channing Tatum and Marlon Wayans are entrustedto deliver the warheads, and en route their caravan is attacked by asquad of near-invincible soldiers with advanced weapons.

Before the attackers can make off with the warheads, the classifiedG.I. Joe squad shows up to drive them off. Tatum and Wayans join upwith the Joes to keep the warheads safe — but Eccleston is the onetrying to steal them back, and if he gets his hands on them, he'llthrow the world into chaos.

Here's my impression of how that plays out in practice: boom kablamack-ack-ack erk dead double-boom!! G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobrabasically exactly replicates how violent it was to play with the toys,only instead of whacking plastic dolls together while makingmachine-gun noises it's there on a huge screen and your imagination hasbeen replaced by tens of millions of CG dollars.

And unlike certain other unnamed toy-movie franchises about morphingforms of transportation and also boomboxes, G.I. Joe's actionis lively, coherent, and thoroughly entertaining. Veteranexplosion-wrangler Stephen Sommers doesn't bring any special style tohis set pieces (he even breaks out the bullet-time more than once), hejust puts a lot of spectacular images together in well-editedsequences that speak for themselves.

This puts it well ahead of the writing. I would question why you'dspend several vaults worth of cash on special effects, then budgetseven cents, a dead moth, and a ball of lint on the screenplay, butthe script has five different writers. That's a basketball team.That's so many writers the reason they had to wait 20 years tomake this movie is not enough children knew how to write yet. "NoChild Left Behind" wasn't about national standards, it was aboutmeeting G.I. Joe's insatiable hunger for screenwriters.

So when Tatum and Wayans need to prove they're tough, they do so bysaying they're tough. Love interests expose their emotional states inprecise detail. They try to make the characters interesting withbackstories and flashbacks, but it all feels like something we'vealready seen.

Same deal with the "vengeful madman threatens world order" plot.G.I. Joe does make an effort to be better than it should be;they made some interesting choices for the supporting cast, and theyinvest a lot of time building some depth for their main players.

If they're looking to take the sequel up to the Batman orSpider-Man levels they seem to want to rub elbows with, I'dsuggest starting with dialogue that doesn't belong in a lumberyard and thengo from there.

Grade: C+