You're never too old to play with toys ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Saturday, August 8, 2009

You're never too old to play with toys

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
My rating:

As a toy/cartoon franchise, G.I. Joe is actually very similar to Transformers; both are all about a glut of characters with funky names that didn't so much have personalities as they did gimmicks - all the better to turn them into toys. But the Joes were never as popular here in Malaysia. That whole American jingoism thing was a bit of a turnoff, and on the scale of what's cool to 9-year-olds, robots beat human soldiers easily.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, this year the Joes win.

When terrorists attempt to steal four warheads containing deadly metal-eating nanites, the elite multinational anti-terrorist task force G.I. Joe swings into action. They are joined by Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) when Duke offers information about the Baroness (Sienna Miller), one of the terrorists - she used to be his fiancee. And so the battle lines are drawn - the Joes who comprise Duke, Ripcord, Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Breaker (Said Taghmaoui), and Snake Eyes (Ray Park), versus Cobra - Baroness, Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-Hun), Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), and the Doctor (Joseph Gorden-Levitt), all led by James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston).

As you can see, I got bored halfway through writing that plot summary and just decided to list down the characters on both opposing sides. That's really all you need to know; the plot is damn near inconsequential. This isn't to say it isn't fun - it is, more so than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. This being the other big dumb summer blockbuster based on a toy from the '80s, one can't help but compare the two. And although I gave them both the same 3-star rating, I enjoyed this one more. The humour is less annoying, the plot moves faster, and the action scenes never get boring.

The reason why I enjoyed Transformers 2 is because I was able to do precisely what people often say about movies like it - turn off my brain. I'm happy to report that with G.I. Joe... well, you still need to turn off your brain, but not by as much. It's still a pretty dumb plot, but director Stephen Sommers at least does a workmanlike job of hitting all its beats, and he keeps the pace fast enough to make you overlook the dumbness. With Michael Bay, you often got the impression that he's really not as interested in telling a story as he is at blowing things up. And at a good half-hour shorter than Transformers 2, it's a lot less self-indulgent too.

Still, you wish the movie would spend a bit more attention on other things besides the action - like acting and characterization and dialogue. Tatum was virtually a block of wood; without the benefit of a strong script like in Fighting, he's an utterly boring actor. I suppose I should be thankful that Wayans isn't annoying; he's a comic relief who gets to kick some ass instead of falling down all the time. However, his little romance with Scarlett doesn't work, and their flirtation scene in the gym is an eye-roller. The Snake Eyes-Storm Shadow flashback scenes are pure padding, but Park and Lee give us a few good fights. Miller and Nichols are both easy on the eyes, and Miller in particular looks like she's having a ball. Eccleston adds some class, but Gordon-Levitt is sorely wasted.

All in all, it's a rollercoaster ride that never lets up, never lets you get bored, and doesn't make you queasy while trying to keep you thrilled. In fact, I'd say this is pretty much the best big dumb summer blockbuster based on a toy/cartoon franchise from the '80s so far. If I may be permitted one last comparison between this and Transformers 2: both movies are like 9-year-old boys excitedly showing you their toys. The difference is, where Bay gets too caught up playing with them by himself, Sommers invites you to join in the fun.

Update: Rating revised to reflect my new five-star rating scale.

NEXT REVIEW: damned if I know. Just waiting for District 9 and Up.


McGarmott said...

Heh, at least we can agree on something ... to a limited extent. I would never have given Transformers 2 as high as 3 stars, but yeah the Joes beat the robot movie in terms of enjoyment value.

Just came back from Up, it's as good as they say. District 9 tomorrow night. Aliens In The Attic after that ... sigh ...

TMBF said...

Damn. How did you get to watch Up early?

McGarmott said...

Hehehe, I got in the sneak preview.

Just got back from District 9. I swear, it's ... screw it, won't say anymore. Please watch it asap and before reading anything about it. Trust me.

Anonymous said...

I wouldnt give Transformers 2 as high as 3 stars either. It is such a boring and dissapointment. But GI JOE has rather surprised me a lot, i enjoy the new tech shown in there. Vicole.