– Summary –
Director : Steven Sommers
Year Of Release : 2009
Cast : Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Sienna Miller, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jonathan Pryce, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park.
Length : 90 Minutes
Synopsis: When a wealthy billionaire steals his own bio-weaponry to hold the world to ransom, it’s up to a secret group of soldiers to save the day. Includes various moments of levity and copious logic leaps, coupled with extravagant special effects.
Review : If it wasn’t so stupid, it’d be awful. Because it’s stupid, it’s pretty decent fun in front of the TV. Sommers knows how to direct this kind of cinematic tomfoolery, and he does it well. A far cry from the Mummy movies, and a significant step up from Van Helsing, this GI Joe is a loud, dumb, fun film.
Here’s the rub. Not all films are meant to be serious examinations of the human condition; regardless of what some might suggest, cinema is meant to entertain, and that’s what GI Joe: Rise Of The Cobra does in spades. It takes a beloved children’s toy franchise and, like Transformers before it, amps it up to 11 and throws itself right into your eyeballs. GI Joe is not a subtle film, nor is it meant to be. It is simply an excuse for some amazingly spectacular action sequences and effects to give you the cinematic equivalent to strapping yourself to an ACME rocket and chasing the Road Runner. It’s all explosions and gunfire, a cacophonous barrage of inane dialogue mixed with hyperbolic action; neither conducive to reducing a headache.
Steven Sommers is born to direct films like this, and he knows it. He even states on his EPK footage that he’s never going to make a period drama or “serious” film, because he enjoys blowing stuff up too much. Some have labelled him a poor mans Michael Bay, although I think both are similar in their energetic film-making style, they are completely different in their tone and use of film. I’ll get more into this shortly, but first I want to attempt to explain the plot of this extravagant monstrosity. A megalomaniacal billionaire has invented a new type of nano-warhead for fitting to missiles, tiny micro-organisms which will eat through any metal or flesh until the off switch is pressed. When he double-crosses a military team and steals the weapons back, he intends to destroy cities around the world to gain his power. A secret team of elite military operatives, known as GI Joes, is sent in to recapture the deadly cargo, and stop the crazy man’s plans. Sounds easy, right? The tag line of this film read “When all else fails, we don’t.” Cool sounding, but completely rubbish; these bunch of GI Joes get their asses handed to them almost every twenty minutes. The bad guys always seem to win, escape or elude capture throughout the film, and it’s hard to imagine that a team of soldiers (supposedly) this good is actually this bad at what they do.
Sommers takes his cast (and it’s a pretty decent cast, including Dennis Quaid, Chris Eccleston, one of those annoying Wayans brothers, as well as several B-movie actors making sure they get a steady paycheck) and puts them into the most ludicrous situations imaginable; after all, these guys are supposedly the cream of military operatives from around the world. From the deserts of Egypt, to the streets of Paris, GI Joe takes us around the globe to battle the forces of Cobra, the army forces of our resident billionaire (Eccleston) who wants to rule the world. While having access to some amazing technology to assist them defeat the forces of evil, it never seems to be enough, resulting in global terror when the Eiffel Tower is reduced to a pile of twisted steel.
Tiny, insignificant things like The Laws Of Nature seem to be pushed aside by the cartoonish nature of GI Joe. It’s a throwback to the “realistic” cartoons of the 70’s and 80’s, where cars and people can fly through the air and people simply accept this as reality. Explosions and carnage tear across the screen in what can only be described as a sound designers wet dream. The CGI guys must have also found their eyeballs exploding when given the brief for this flick: plenty of it. Characters are thrown about like rag dolls, with explosion after explosion going off around them. Nobody bats an eyelid, throughout it all, of course. Yes, it’s “kitchen sink” film-making folks. Steven Sommers has thrown everything he possibly can into this film, for better or worse.
People with any kind of intellect will look at this film and sigh in disgust: I thoroughly enjoyed this film for what it was, an exercise in heightened fantasy. You know it’s stupid, you know you’ll never get your 2 hours back, but it’s entertaining nevertheless. Considering one of my favorite films is Armageddon, this is exactly the kind of breathless charlatanism that I let wash over me with glee.
Effectively raping the GI Joe franchise to make his film, squeezing every nuance of credibility from the source material, Sommers manages to make an enjoyable, if slightly silly, popcorn film that most will find abhorrent in the largest sense. Contravening almost every rule of quality film-making has never stopped Sommers before, and Joe isn’t the place he starts to pull his head in. The man behind The Mummy films, and Van Helsing, has delivered a solid entertainment package for the YouTube generation: a slick, hyperactive, nonsensical cavalcade of increasingly impossible sequences that defy all logic and reason.
For those looking for reality, flick on the nightly news. For those of you keen to have your eyeballs abused for two hours, set your sights on GI Joe to fulfill that requirement. You’ll have a great time.