It was that bad?
Well… it wasn’t nearly as bad as Transformers 2. G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra actually had some good moments and had some good performances, believe it or not. And it moved briskly, with no tortuously long scenes of utterly useless bullshit, such as someone’s mom wandering around a college campus while drugged. But it was not, overall, a good movie, nor was it a good G.I. Joe movie.
Wait. So should I see it or not?
I don’t know. I can’t recommend it, but at the same time, it wasn’t so terrible that it was a totally abysmal experience. Think of this way — you know how the flick’s currently got a 39% freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes? That’s how much of the movie you’ll enjoy, versus 61% that was bad. But please keep in mind that even during the good bits, the movie is very, very dumb.
Continued after the jump! There couldn’t be more spoilers, so consider yourself warned! And bring a snack! It’s much too long!
Let’s just start from the beginning. What’s the plot here?
Well, evil arms seller Destro has created four nanotech bombs that basically eat metal and buildings and possibly people. He has sold these horrible new weapons of mass destruction to… er… NATO, I think.
What? Wait – really?
Yes. I’d say NATO was trying to keep the bombs out of bad guys’ hands, but Destro makes it clear that they ordered them. Apparently, NATO has some serious shit about to go down. I think Sweden’s about to get its ass kicked, frankly.
That makes me uncomfortable.
No matter, because while a small group of U.S. soldiers is transporting the bombs from Destro’s super-hi-tech research facility in Kyrgyzstan, the Baroness and some Cobra troo–
Kyrgyzstan? The hell? Destro is making cutting-edge weapons of mass destruction in Kyrgyzstan? Is it known for its military research or something?
Er… no, but I can’t prove that it would be ludicrous to put a billion-dollar military weapons research facility there. It just sounds ludicrous. So maybe it’s fine.
Uh-huh. Please continue.
Destro plans to steal these bombs, because —
Now wait just a minute.
I’m never going to finish if you keep interrupting me.
Destro tries to steal the bombs? His bombs? He just had them!
Yes, but he doesn’t want to get caught stealing them. He wants to look like a good guy.
Okay, but — no, wait. What’s he going to do with the bombs?
Blow up several major world capitols.
Wouldn’t that ruin his “good guy” image anyways? Wouldn’t it be far easier to skip that middle step and just go right to the bombing and world domination?
I’m sure Destro has his reasons. Anyways, Destro sends the Baroness and his Vipers — and let me just cut you off here because no, there is no Cobra organization yet, but Destro is still calling his super-soldiers Vipers — to retrieve the bombs. Duke, played by Channing Tatum, and Ripcord, played by Marlon Wayans, are the only two soldiers who survive the attack until the G.I. Joe team shows up and saves their asses (and the suitcase with the bombs). Snake Eyes in particular looks pretty cool, except when you see the massive lips sculpted onto his mask.
What possible reason would a combination-soldier/ninja include sculpted lips on his mask? For that matter, what possible reason could the filmmakers have had?
I don’t have the faintest clue. To continue — since Duke has never heard of G.I. Joe, he refuses to give them the briefcase with the bombs, and the Joes reluctantly bring him and Ripcord to the Pit, the massive G.I. Joe headquarters underneath the Sahara. It’s awesome.
Really? You aren’t being sarcastic?
Nope. There are thousands of soldiers there, training for every military situation; there are hangers, there’s a preposterously large pool to conduct underwater training, and more. Admittedly, all the soldiers are generic white guys in the same camoflauge uniform, so there’s none of the variety of the original Joe team, but at least it’s all suitably epic and badass. It’s genuinely cool, and actually well-suited to G.I. Joe.
Likewise, when the Baroness, Storm Shadow and some more Vipers show up in Mole Pods, blow a bunch of shit up, kill a lot of people, nearly kill Dennis Quaid, and escape with the bombs, it’s also cool and very reminiscent of the original cartoons. I mean, the tech is bizarre, the fight is pretty action-packed, Storm Shadow and the Baroness escape with the bombs by stealing a jetpack — it truly made me feel like I was watching a live-action G.I. Joe movie.
Am I on the right F.A.Q.? What the hell’s going on here?
Oh, the scene isn’t not perfect. For instance, Zartan comes with the bad guys, needlessly hangs around Storm Shadow and the Baroness while they injure Quaid and steal the bombs from his safe, but then disappears… only to show up as a camel driver directly above the Joe’s HQ. This might be a more cunning disguise if, you know, he wasn’t the only non-Joe in a 10-mile radius and the corpse of the real camel driver wasn’t three feet away.
I have several questions about this sequence, which for convenience I’m going to ask numerically.
1) Does the Pit have no safeguards for intruders?
2) Does General Quaid really keep the world’s most dangerous weapons in an office safe?
3) Why don’t they kill Quaid?
4) Camels? Are you fucking kidding me?
1) I believe it’s supposed to be inferred that the Pit isn’t prepared for foes coming from underground, despite the facility being 98% underground. It may be a bit of an oversight. The fact that a ninja and an S&M queen can walk all the way to Quaid/Hawk’s office without raising an alarm would be another one.
2) Clearly, the military budget was spent more on the 5-trillion gallon pool and not security measures.
3) Storm Shadow tries, theoretically. His inability to kill Hawk with his normally deadly blade is explained away by Hawk being “tough.”
4) It’s actually extra weird because Zartan smugly smiles right at the camera as if to say “Aren’t I fucking stealthy?” And then Storm Shadow and the Baroness use the stolen jet pack to get on one of Destro’s jets which flies away, which leaves Zartan in the middle of the desert, alone to… walk with camels.
And despite all this, the scene is somehow good?
I think so. I can get over plot holes if there’s something to distract me from it — decent characters, decent interactions, decent action. This is the latter. Thankfully, the Zartan insanity is at the very end, because otherwise it might have wrecked the whole damn thing.
Huh. So Destro’s got the bombs back. What’s his plan?
He’s going to fire one of them at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and terrify the world.
All right. That’s not nearly as villainous as Cobra Commander murdering everyone in Moscow in the first two minutes of G.I. Joe: Resolute, but I can get behind that.
Uh-huh. First he has the Baroness force her husband to “weaponize” the bombs so they can be used.
The hell? She has a husband?
Yes. Who is a baron and an important scientist who can weaponize… things.
First of all, that’s bullshit. Second of all, who the fuck cares why they call her the Baroness? Isn’t she supposed to be Duke’s old blonde American girlfriend in this movie anyways?
Yes. My guess is that because they made the horrible, hackneyed decision of making the Baroness Duke’s ex (fianc?e, by the way, not just his ex-girlfriend) they felt they needed to explain why she was called “the Baroness.”
Why couldn’t that have just been her codename?
I promise you this will not be the last simple, obvious solution to a ridiculous plot point you will see that the filmmakers did not. The point is that the bombs get “weaponized” — by which I mean they turn glowy — then Storm Shadow kills the baron-scientist, the Joes track them to the French research lab, and they all race to Paris.
Grr. Okay. Now terrorists have a bomb and are heading to Paris to use it, right? G.I. Joe must bring out the big guns for this battle. How many troops do they send? How many jet
s and jeeps and tanks and things?
Five people. But they rent a van.
I mean, I’m assuming. They’re in a perfectly nice white van with no technological upgrades at all, such as one might rent at Enterprise.
Look, it makes more sense when you realize they’re only chasing after two people in an SUV.
?Oh my fuck that’s horrible.
At least the Baroness’ SUV has this spiky bumper thing that somehow flips cars 40 feet into the air. And the Joes do have the accelerator suits.
This is not the epic G.I. Joe battle I wanted to see on screen. Please tell me at least the five Joes put on those goofy accelerator suits —
Five? Ha ha! No, there’s only two. And they give them to the new guys, Duke and Ripcord. Ripcord falls down a lot.
This is pitiful.
Would it make you feel any better if I told you Scarlett stole some random French guy’s motorcycle and gave chase?
Good, because eventually the Baroness shoots her bike, Scarlett leaps 40-feet vertically off it (strong thighs!), Ripcord catches her, sets her down, and then she gets back in the van anyways.
Please tell me they actually manage to stop the SUV in the accelerator suits.
No, but they do cause millions in property damage throughout Paris.
Does Snake Eyes stop the car at least?
Well, it’s hit by a train. But it’s implied Snake Eyes wanted it to get hit by a train, so maybe there’s a connection there.
…uh, but Storm Shadow fires the missile at the Eiffel Tower and it gets destroyed anyways.
Of course it does.
Still, Duke manages to use his accelerator suit to leap into the departing Cobra jet, turn off the fail-safe switch on the bomb’s remote thus saving the rest of Paris, although he immediately gets captured.
In his superpowerful accelerator suit.
He took his helmet off.
Wait, I thought Destro just wanted to destroy the Eiffel Tower anyways. So did G.I. Joe just fail utterly?
Not exactly. At some point the bad guys’ plan morphed into annihilating Paris.
Then couldn’t Storm Shadow have just fired his nanomite rocket launcher anywhere in Paris? Wouldn’t that have worked perfectly fine, and gotten to the Eiffel Tower eventually?
Yes, but it’s the principle of the thing.
Cobra has principles?
Evil principles. Now, hush, child, because I’m about to blow your mind. The Baroness and crew take back Duke to their super-secret under-Arctic-waters headquarters, where he meets the Doctor, the dude responsible for all of Destro’s crazy nanotechnology, who is actually… Rex!
Yes! Rex! Duke’s former best friend and the Baroness’ brother, thought dead in battle! He’s alive!
I heard about that. It’s a really, really stupid twist, and an utterly unnecessary addition to the story, let alone the franchise.
Ah… but what if I told you… the Doctor was…cool?
I wouldn’t believe you.
Well, maybe not cool, but he was perfectly fine. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is actually a truly good actor, and even when he’s playing a character as ridiculous as “The Doctor,” he chews just the right amount of scenery. He plays the mad scientist card perfectly, does a great job with the other actors, his motivations are good–
Well, not his origin, specifically, which consists of him being an incredibly brilliant guy and soldier taken into combat as “the science guy” on some mission with Duke. He’s sent into some bunker to “do his thing” (seriously, that’s all the script gives us) and it blows up. Everyone assumes he died, Rex immediately turns evil, joins Destro, and makes nanotech. Since Duke effectively killed her brother, he dumps the Baroness and never faces her, just like a Real american Hero would. At some point Rex injects her with nanotech and makes her evil.
So the Baroness is a good person?
At heart. Yes.
And what was the problem with her character just being evil?
I could not say.
Sigh. Wait, what are the four Joes who are apparently left on active duty doing?
Oh, they’ve been arrested by the French.
For fuck’s sake. Maybe G.I. Joe doesn’t need to be a top secret “non-extistent” world military organization then.
It could be argued. The French release them after making them promise to never come back.
That’s very kind of them.
Sure is. At any rate, Breaker shoves some metal rods in a dead Viper’s skull and figures out that Destro’s base in in the arctic.
He shoves what into a dead guy’s skull?
Some metal rods.
Dude, that’s fucked up.
I just work here, man. It ends up leading to the final act where Joes attack Destro’s base.
Is it epic?
Well, yes and no. There’s a huge underwater battle between two types of ships that look pretty much identical. None of these pilots are seen on screen except for Heavy Duty. There a big Joe submarine that gets damaged and we can hear people on it, but we never see them.
And the epic part?
Oh, that is the epic part. The other part consists of the same remaining three guys — Snake Eyes, Breaker and Scarlett — entering the base through some sort of lightly guarded ice cave with an elevator, which is when Destro launches the three remaining nanotech bombs in missiles aimed for major cities. Snake Eyes jumps on some sort of skimobile and shoots one down, then Ripcord gets in one of Destro’s conveniently parked jets to shoot down the others, which are head to Moscow and Washington DC.
Arrgh! Utterly ignoring the jet parked in the ice garage, I assume the other three Joes go to rescue Duke?
No, not exactly. Snake Eyes finds and fights Storm Shadow for a while. Breaker and Scarlett go and look at a monitor which shows the missiles. For some reason.
What about Duke?
Oh, he escapes on his own, burns Destro’s face off, gets the remote control to the Baroness, and escapes with her, although they both decide to chase down the submarine containing Destro and Rex instead of really escaping. Oh, and the arctic headquarters is detonated at some point. It really doesn’t affect anybody.
And what about the bombs?
Ripcord shoots the one headed to Moscow down, then flies to DC — he’s apparently going Mach 6, so it’s semi-feasible if you don’t think too hard about it — but can’t shoot the second one. It explodes, but Ripcord kind of catches all the nanotech on his plane and flies it into the atmosphere.
Although that sounds ludicrous, why can Ripcord even fly this Mach 6 jet? Isn’t he airborne infantry?
I think the producers just assumed “Ripcord” was referring to something to do with planes, not parachutes. Although he does eject from the jet somewhere near the upper reaches of the atmosphere.
Then he would die.
Probably. But it’s kind of cool because when he ejects, the plane throws this protective outfit around him, whic
h looks like the old Wild Weasel figure.
Huh. That is kind of cool.
It is. Although it would be cooler if it had shown up in any of the subsequent shots of Ripcord, like when he’s falling through the sky or landing on the White House lawn.
Yeah. He apparently took it off somewhere around 10,000 feet or so.
Okay. Please tell me the movie is over.
Pretty much. Rex covers Destro’s burned face with nanomachines which replicates his evil arms dealer ancestor’s mask, then he himself puts on a new, far stupider mask and demands that Destro call him Commander. And then they immediately get captured by the Joes and thrown in jail.
WHAT THE FUCK
What? It’s what happens.
HOW HAS COBRA RISEN IN ANY WAY DURING THIS MOVIE
Well, they managed to kill the president of the United States and replace him with Zartan.
Whatever! Destro and Cobra Commander are still in jail!
Yes. Admittedly, perhaps “The Troubled Beginning of Cobra” or “The Lateral Move of Cobra” might have been more accurate.
There’s still more nonsense to go! Somehow!
What’s the worst part about the movie?
The impossibly contrived relationship between Duke, the Baroness and Cobra Commander. One of these relationships would have been terrible, but the fact that Duke was engaged to the Baroness and her brother became Cobra Commander and Cobra Commander was Duke’s best friend is just atrocious. The flashbacks that deal this nonsense are likewise awful, and just grind the movie to a halt. The whole premise of G.I. Joe is goofy enough that adding this kind of nonsense just breaks the nonsense meter. It adds nothing to the movie.
Didn’t producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura says he did it to explore Duke’s character?
What character? The hero wants to save the girl? Woo-fucking-hoo. Also, if Duke has any emotions upon meeting the thought-dead Rex/the Doctor in Destro’s HQ, he doesn’t choose to express them. Of course, Channing Tatum has all the acting talent of an underwear model, so he may have been trying for all I know.
That bad, huh?
Channing Tatum is a black hole of acting talent, sucking in and destroying every emotion that wanders into his path. In all honesty, everyone else does a mediocre to genuinely good job — Sienna Miller’s pretty good, and while Marlon Wayans is annoying, he’s at least acting. Channing Tatum is a fucking disaster. And yes, I know he could almost certainly kick my pasty, ever-widening nerd blogger ass if we ever met in real life. But you know what? As long as he wears this whisper-thin 15-year-old’s goatee:
…I’ll have the moral victory.
What’s good about the movie?
The Pit, the attack on the Pit, Snake Eyes (except for his lips), the Baroness (except for her stupid relationship with Duke). Oh, and the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow flashback, which is the most brutal battle between 10-year-olds you’ve ever seen. In all honestly, it makes the grown-up Snake eyes/Storm Shadow fights look like crap. That’s partially because the grown-up fights are only so-so, but also because the kids’ fight is that awesome. Although it’s weird that Snake Eyes starts out as a young American hobo living in Japan.
He breaks into the dojo to steal food, fights young Storm Shadow for a while, and gets accepted into the school. A few months later — a year tops, because the kids haven’t aged at all — Snake Eyes beats Storm Shadow, Shadow gets pissed and kills the Hard Master and runs away, and Snake Eyes takes a vow of silence.
Well, taking a vow of silence is something a high-strung 10-year-old might do. Keeping it up for 25 years is something a moron would do. Still, the better question is how this makes Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes brothers or even rivals. Because for all the movie shows us, they’re both just jackasses holding onto elementary school grudges.
But overall, the movie’s still better than Transformers 2, right?
God yes. But I tell you what’s maddening — there are so many simple, obvious solutions to so many of the script’s problems — and moreover, so many simple thing that could have done to make this film more appealing to the fans — that it drives me crazy.
Well, Duke, for instance. We all know his as the leader of G.I. Joe. So why in the movie is he the new recruit that learns about the team second hand? Why didn’t the filmmakers have Duke as the leader — as one might expect — and have one of the million other Joes, perhaps Flint, be the newbie? It wouldn’t have hurt anything, and it would have pleased the fans.
? And why have Destro be the villain of the movie, instead of Cobra Commander? Destro’s whole shtick is that he was separate from Cobra, and that gave him his identity. No fan wanted to see a G.I. Joe movie where G.I. Joe fights Destro. We wanted to see them fighting fucking Cobra.
? Why have Rex — a.k.a. “The Doctor” — turn into Cobra Commander? Why couldn’t there have been a Doctor and a Cobra Commander, and then there wouldn’t have had to been a lame and inexplicable “transformation” scene at the end?
? Why force a relationship between Ripcord and Scarlett? Why not Duke and Scarlett, and avoid that horrible Duke-Baroness subplot altogether? Or if you had to have that, why not Scarlett and Snake Eyes, something there’s a foundation for in the franchise?
? Why does Duke have to give Breaker his trademark bubblegum? Why couldn’t Breaker just bring his own goddamn pack of gum, and not have Duke involved? what was possibly gained by have Duke be the guy with the fucking bubblegum?
? Why does the Doctor wear a silly wig? Why not just not wear a wig?
? Why does Brendan Fraser make a cameo as Sgt. Stone? Why not have him cameo as one of the hundreds of characters that Joe fans give a shit about instead? Or at least a character that’s not from G.I. Joe Extreme?
? Why put lips on Snake Eyes’ mask? Why make him look like he’s wearing a shitty bootleg G.I. Joe costume from Mexico?
? Why have the Doctor give Destro his nanotech mask against his will, when it would have been actually a little cool for Destro to have chosen to replicate his ancestors’ mask on his own?
? The Wild Weasel armor thing was cool — why have it just disappear during Ripcord’s descent to earth?
? WHY HAVE THE FUCKING ACCELERATOR SUITS? Seriously — these things are introduced as the ultimate in fighting technology, but they are not used in the Joes’ first mission. They are used in the Paris mission… although they’re given to the goddamn rookies. And when G.I
. Joe stages their massive assault on Destro’s base, THEY AREN’T FUCKING USED EITHER. The accelerator suits are so clearly written for some other shitty movie — assumably the generic combat movie di Bonaventura was writing before he decided to slap the G.I. Joe license on it — that it’s maddening. They have no place in G.I. Joe, and other than the incredibly stupid Paris sequence, they have no place in the movie either. You hear me? EVEN THE MOVIE THINKS THE ACCELERATOR SUITS ARE STUPID.
Can you convince people you’re not just being a huge, pretentious asshole?
Probably not, but here’s my attempt. I don’t try to look for plot holes; if there’s enough decent things going on — good characters, good scenes, good action — I can skip right over ’em, just like anybody else. I really liked the attack on the Pit, and thus the fact that Hawk kept the world’s four most dangerous bombs in his office safe or the fact that there were zero security checkpoints in the world’s best-manned military facility didn’t even dawn on me until later.
I don’t mind dumb movies, but if there’s a plot hole there has to be something that fills it so viewers don’t notice. In the Pit sequence, there was a great action scene. For most of the rest of the movie, there wasn’t anything good enough happening to distract me from the stupidity.
This thing has gone on way too long. Any last points?
Yes. Now in the movie, the Doctor is responsible for the mind control of Destro’s troops (not to mention the Baroness) besides the tech itself. His ridiculous get-up includes his little purple eyeglass thing… which I think is supposed to imply a monocle.
I am dead certain that “the Doctor” is based on someone’s concept art for Dr. Mindbender, since his original design would have looked truly ludicrous on screen. Here’s the problem — although someone in charge thought Dr. Mindbender was too stupid a character to use, they liked this new character design… and decided to use it for a pre-Cobra Commander. This would be frustrating enough, knowing that the movie could have been significantly better if the Doctor and C.C. were two separate characters, but it’s worse when some random bearded dude makes a cameo and is called Dr. Mindbender! Maybe he’ll show up in a sequel, but if he does, he’ll just look like an old bearded man when a Dr. Mindbender who looked like the Doctor would have actually been pretty cool. And would’ve been so easy to do. But they went out of their way to slam that door closed, right in the fans’ faces.
Can you sum up the movie in a single shot?
In the incredibly non-epic Paris sequence, while Snake Eyes is hanging onto the evil SUV and not doing anything and Duke and Ripcord are in their accelerator suits and not doing anything and Scarlett’s on a stolen motorcycle and not doing anything, Heavy Duty and Breaker are in their rent-a-van. When Breaker finally exits, THIS IS WHAT HE IS WEARING:
A MEMBER OF G.I.JOE.
DURING A CRUCIAL MILITARY OPERATION.
TO SAVE THE ENTIRETY OF PARIS.
IS WEARING A BULKY SWEATER.
WHILE JAMMING METAL RODS INTO SOME DEAD GUY’S SKULL.
It is absolutely hysterical. And you thought Snake Eyes’ ninja slacks were bad. [Note: Much thanks to Justin B., who sent me the pic of Inclement Weather Breaker.]