Most children of the 80’s remember getting home from school and turning on the TV to watch a double dose of “Transformers” and “G.I. Joe” cartoons. In retrospect, these 30 minute time-wasters don’t hold up too well in the modern day of computer generated animation and not so easily impressed pre-teens. That didn’t stop Michael Bay from creating two mega-blockbuster “Transformers” films, nor did it discourage “The Mummy” series director Stephen Sommers from attempting a live-action “G.I. Joe” adaptation. For a big, dumb action movie idea, I’d say they hired the perfect director for the job.
U.S. Special Forces soldiers “Duke” (Channing Tatum) and “Ripcord” (Marlon Wayans) are commissioned to escort a potential doomsday weapon to a secure location when a mysterious woman known as “The Baroness” (Sienna Miller) ambushes them with the help of experimental weaponry and indestructible super-soldiers. Duke and Ripcord are soon thrust in the middle of a secret battle between a high-tech military force called G.I. Joe and a clandestine terrorist organization, specializing in perversions of science and illegal arms development. G.I. Joe, lead by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), recruits Duke and Ripcord provisionally to help recapture the doomsday weapon, but Duke becomes conflicted when he discovers The Baroness is his former fiancé, Ana.
With an large ensemble cast of characters originally created for a toy line and a comic book series, you can’t expect a lot of time to let the actors show their best stuff. Tatum once again proves he’s little more than window dressing amongst greater talent. Wayans walks a thin line between goofing off and acting tough, but does so with polished skill. Quaid hams it up so thickly I’m starting to doubt his acting abilities. The only three characters worthy of a substantial story arc are The Baroness, Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee).
I may have underestimated Sienna Miller in the past. If she can take an insignificant bit-player from an action figure line and turn her into the most watchable character in a film full of tongue-and-cheek heroes and villains, she must have talent. She makes a fetching brunette, and balances perfectly between demure and aggressive personalities. I dare say she might show more promise as a rising action star than as an indie film darling.
Ray Park (Darth Maul, Toad from “X-Men”) gives another outstanding silent martial arts performance as the Jedi-like hero ninja, Snake Eyes. His conflict with his evil brother Storm Shadow results in one of the most mythic, crowd-pleasing moments for fans of the comics and cartoons. Their side story, complete with flashbacks of their origins, felt spot on.
Some of the supporting characters were simply awful. Although usually fantastic, both Christopher Eccleston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt play villains about as intimidating as Snidely Whiplash. I still hope filmmakers will soon realize Channing Tatum’s not good for anything but hip-hop dancing and underwear modeling, despite his showing some miniscule improvement in this film. Even worse than Tatum, Rachael “Scarlett” Nichols should probably never get another acting job outside of a throwaway bimbo role.
Nuts to the acting. Was “G.I. Joe” any good? I wouldn’t say good but words like fun and action-packed comes to mind. Director Sommers knows how to create a spectacle and with “Joe” he constructed a competent tale full of exciting action scenes. He also managed to please purists by including many of the outlandish gadgets, vehicles and characters from the original source materials. As a living version of the cartoon, the film functions as intended. As long as you don’t expect any level of realism whatsoever, I doubt you’ll go home disappointed.
(P.S. Brendan Fraser gets a cameo as Gung-Ho. What’s up with that?)
3 out of 5 stars
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