07 August 2009

At the movies: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Not nearly as racist, sexist, or insulting as Transformers 2 (which seems to be the standard comparison being bandied about), the latest film sprung from a toy line is a bizarre collision between Reagan-80s nostalgia and contemporary bloodthirsty anomie. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra depicts an elite military force drawn from countless nations across the world, bound only to the idea of a common good and their unyielding love for Double Bubble bubble gum (easily the most harebrained product placement of the year, standing out from the rest of the film’s cacophony like sore thumbs.

Director Stephen Sommers has made a couple of films that I rather enjoyed (The Mummy, Deep Rising), but he also made Van Helsing, so all bets are off as to what we’re actually going to get with any of his films. This time, it’s the audience, rather than a conscientiously mute ninja who comes up snake eyes.

Christopher Eccleston (who’ll always be The Ninth Doctor) is the latest in a long line of Scottish war profiteers. We know this because the film opens with us being introduced to one of his ancestors in the fifteenth century. And is there anything more disheartening than an expository prologue set five hundred-plus years in the past at the beginning of your multimillion dollar toy/armed forces commercial?

So, elite force versus a loosely-knit terrorist organization led by Eccleston, with several notable lackeys: The Baroness (truly suffering via comparison with her butch goddess cartoon incarnation), Storm Shadow (evil ninja), and the mysterious Doctor, played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Now if you’re one of those people (like me) who think that the presence of Joseph Gordon-Levitt is indicative of some quality and hidden depth in this production, you are wrong and should save yourself the time and money.

There’s an unbelievable amount of violent death (several impalings, lots of impact trauma, and five or six exploding heads- in a PG-13 film) and some ridiculous romantic subplots. As our ostensible lead, Channing Tatum (who was good in A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints and little else) comes off like a wannabe Jensen Ackles, and other than a nice cameo from Sommers regular Kevin J. O’Connor as Dr. Mindbender, everyone is pretty much flailing around in a sea of special effects.

Again, better than Transformers 2, but what does that really say?

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