Screenwriters: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett
Starring: Channing Tatum (interview), Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols, Dennis Quaid, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Ecclestone, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jonathan Pryce
Running time: 118 mins
Stephen Sommers's latest supermassive action movie GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra brings the Hasbro toyline, comic books and '80s cartoon to cinemas in a tornado of vacuous heroes, moustache-twirling villainy and underwhelming spectacle. It would be foolish to expect The Godfather, of course, and it's not the depraved sensory violation of the Transformers sequel, but surely blockbusters can be a little more finessed and imaginative than this?
Battling strike deadlines, scripters Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett's hastily assembled story feels like something from the minds of men who've only ever watched James Bond movies and high octane '80s action vehicles. Expect expansive underground lairs, a megalomaniacal arms dealer bent on world domination, granite-jawed boys and form-fitting leather-suited girls battling it out in the names of good and evil. The plot is driven by the theft of some high-tech 'Nano-Bite' warheads by terrorist organisation Cobra and the efforts of a crack special forces team to retrieve said weaponry. It really doesn't get any more complex than that.
GI Joe is so riddled with blockbuster clichés, lousy gags and cardboard characters it stumbles effortlessly into self parody. Team America duo Trey Parker and Matt Stone will no doubt raise a chuckle - this is the dumb jingoistic action flick they spoofed so precisely with marionettes in 2004. Montage fans can look forward to a training sequence soundtracked to T-Rex's 'Bang A Gong' with Brendan Fraser in a pointless cameo barking out orders to new recruits. The fact that the movie unwinds in a generally straight-faced manner makes it all the more silly and unintentionally funny.
Having to accommodate multiple action figures is a hurdle that's never cleared. Bludgeoning in the likes of Duke, General Hawk, Snake Eyes, The Baroness, Destro and The Cobra Commander, Sommers doesn't have time to develop their personalities so resorts to lazy stereotypes. Tatum's Duke is a motorcycle-riding army hero, Wayans a wise-cracking black sidekick, Nichols the frosty ice queen who thaws, Akinnuoye-Agbaje a cockney geezer ("I'll give ordurs frum 'ere!" "It's nah or nevah!"), Ecclestone the charismatic Scottish Eurovillain, Miller the duplicitous femme fatale and Gordon-Levitt the disfigured evil genius who looks alarmingly like Michael Jackson.
All these characters are inexplicably linked, with the movie succumbing to flashbackitis to add dramatic weight and pathos. Streamlining the roster would have benefited GI Joe greatly, but in this case a quality end product is secondary to selling toys. Mummy helmer Sommers is well-versed in marshalling effects-driven crowd-pleasers and his use of accelerator suits in a breakneck chase through Paris is mildly exhilarating. The fact that it culminates in the Eiffel Tower collapsing, then a White House lackey bluntly informing Jonathan Pryce's President that "the French are upset" gives it a hilarious denouement. It is, perhaps, the truest line spoken in GI Joe, a movie that aspires to be awfully entertaining but has to settle for entertainingly awful.
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