There was a time when I absolutely loved the summer movie season. But this summer broke me of that. I've seen horrible, horrible things that no person should ever see: Wolverine... Land of the Lost... Transformers 2 (which was so bad that it made me seriously consider never doing a movie review ever again)... Star Trek was the only thing that kept this summer from totally bottoming-out. Until G.I. Joe.
I've been blasting this movie since its inception, but I actually ended up enjoying it. There's a lot for a toy geek like me to love in this movie. That said, there are quite a few fails in G.I. Joe and when it fails, it fails EPIC. I'm a list man, so let's take a look at how each component of the movie performed in terms of EPIC WIN and EPIC FAIL:
Action: EPIC WIN
A movie like this needs to center itself around action. And there are some great action sequences in G.I. Joe, the Paris battle standing out as the best. There's a bit too much of the shaky cam happening, and the final submarine battle is a poor man's version of the space battle in Return of the Jedi. But for the most part it was fun, accentuated by really cool Joe and Cobra equipment like the Accelerator Suits and a nifty Cobra hover ship.
Plot: EPIC FAIL
The plot had all the depth of a Saturday morning cartoon. Truthfully, it's not even substantial enough to do a plot summary. All you need to know is that Cobra is trying to destroy cities and the Joes are trying to stop them. And Storm Shadow was a jerk as a kid. I would have liked a bit more depth but at least the plot didn't get in the way of the action.
Joe Toy/Cartoon References: EPIC FAIL
Every once in a while one of the characters would work in a reference to the toyline or the cartoon. "And knowing is half the battle!" "Kung fu grip!" Every time, the phrase was so out of place it made me cringe.
Duke: EPIC FAIL
You know when a rabbit looks at you with those blank, glassy eyes and you realize that there is no intelligent thought behind them whatsoever? That's Duke. Channing Tatum is a brainless dullard as Duke, exhibiting less emotional range than Keanu Reeves. This really detracts from the movie because he's the central character. Fortunately, some of the other characters take up the slack.
Baronness: EPIC WIN
Surprisingly, the Baronness had the most depth of any of the characters. A personal tragedy led her to crime; she's in the middle of a love triangle; and you're not quite sure how many of her actions are dictated (spoiler, highlight to read)by the mind control bugs or her desire for revenge.
Ripcord: EPIC WIN
I wasn't too thrilled to hear about the casting of Marlon Wayans in this movie. He's such a goofball that I thought that he would end up turning the movie into a joke. But he actually does pretty well. His character is likable and although he's comic relief, he isn't over-the-top with it and he brings some much-needed personality to the movie (especially given the dull performance by Tatum).
Destro: EPIC FAIL
Most of what makes a G.I. Joe character interesting for me is his/her costume. In this movie, Destro is a little twerp with no mask throughout most of the movie. He has an interesting backstory, but he just doesn't have the look to make him a cool character, especially when you compare him with the super-cool vintage Destro design.
Storm Shadow: EPIC FAIL
Piggy-backing on the importance of the costume design mentioned above is the epic failure that is Storm Shadow. The character in the movie is actually pretty cool. But what I love about Storm Shadow is his awesome ninja suit. Here he has a ninja mask that's kind of cool, but a little tuft of hair peeks through that totally screws up the look. And there's no ninja suit, but instead some sort of white trenchcoat with slacks. FAIL.
Snake Eyes: EPIC MONDO WIN
For me, Snake Eyes is the epitome of G.I. Joe awesomeness, so if you're making a Joe movie, you'd better nail Snake Eyes. And they did. Snake Eyes stole the show: not only does he have a super-cool outfit that draws heavily from the toy designs, but he's clearly the most awesome-est of the Joes. When everyone else is standing around wondering what to do next, Snake Eyes is the first one to take action. When everyone else needs robo-suits to take down Cobra, all Snake Eyes needs is his sword. There were times when I had to stop myself from cheering out loud when Snake Eyes was busting tail. Sure, that admission exposes my dorkdom, but that's the type of feeling they needed to evoke.
G.I. Joe is a mixed bag. There are some great action sequences but the plot is inane. Duke is an abject disaster, as is Storm Shadow. But Snake Eyes saved the movie. I'm even considering a Blu-Ray purchase when it's available solely because of Snake Eyes. I wouldn't say this movie is nearly as good as the recent G.I. Joe Resolute cartoon, but I must admit I had a blast!