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GI Joe
Reviewed by Gary Mitchel, © 2009

Format: Movie
By:   Stephen Sommers (director)
Genre:   Adventure movie
Review Date:   August 13, 2009
Audience Rating:   PG-13
RevSF Rating:   5/10 (What Is This?)

"We all have something we’re sorry for." – The Baroness

Full confession up-front; I was one of the most die-hard Joe fans of anyone I knew. I read the comics, watched the cartoon series, and played with my figures long after the point I really should have stopped. I won a GI Joe trivia contest that netted me a huge box full of figures and vehicles that made me the envy of the neighborhood. I bought extra figures to take apart and put together my own new Joes. When you sent in enough Flag Points, some cash and a short bio, you got to be a Joe, with your own generic action figure, and I did that as well.

So yeah, I was a fanboy. I eventually passed my beloved Joes to someone else, but I am pretty much half the target audience of GI Joe. The other half is the new generation of fans they hope to gather up in this fight for freedom, wherever there’s trouble.

If my ham-handed way of working that line into this review makes you cringe, be prepared to keep cringing when you watch this movie.

Much like the 2009 Star Trek flick, GI Joe is a reboot that tells how the band of heroes got together. The movie opens with a look back at James McCullen, the great-something grandfather of Destro (Christopher Eccleston from Doctor Who), a double-dealing weapons dealer. This sets the tone by showing the villains, and it's a long flashback to a backstory. The movie does that for about half its run time.

Then we cut to "the near future," where Army buddies Duke (Channing Tatum from She’s the Man) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayons from Dungeons & Dragons) are escorting a top-secret McGuffin. The convoy is attacked by the Baroness (Sienna Miller from Stardust. Duke and Ripcord are saved when the Joes show up, featuring Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje aka Mr. Eko from Lost, Scarlett (Rachel Nichols from “Alias”), General Hawk (Dennis Quaid from “Day After Tomorrow”) and everyone’s fan-favorite, Snake Eyes (Ray “Darth Maul” Park).

From here it’s one action set-piece after another, tied together with training montages and flashbacks to the backstories of Duke, Baroness, Snake Eyes and his arch-nemesis, Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee from Hero.

Say what you want about the movie, but that is one sweet hat.

There is entirely too much backstory, and it slows down the movie. The plot has huge holes, and you can see most of the twists coming about a mile off. This really isn’t a huge weakness, though, as the flick is solidly aimed at the average nine to twelve year old boy who will go out and get his parents to buy the new figures based on the movie.

However, the flick also tries to satisfy older fans by tossing nostalgia bones to us, and that’s where the movie has its biggest problem.

For every nod to the past that makes the longtime Joe fan go “Yes!” there’s a matching moment to make you go “What?”

After a cursory nod to the long-running Scarlett / Snake Eyes / Duke love triangle, the flick drops it to have Ripcord vying for her affections and no more interest from her at all in Snake Eyes.

It’s full of cornball dialogue, and they shoehorn in all the catchphrases, such as “He’s a real American hero!” in groan-inducing, ham-fisted ways.

The infamous accelerator suits from movie's trailer are there just for a variant action figure and a car chase, which should have been done with a real GI Joe vehicle.

Then there’s Cobra Comander, who finally reveals himself and dons his mask at the end. A horrid, ugly, stupid mask. How hard is it to screw up a hood or a faceplate? I can understand part of the change. They want to show the actor’s eyes. But the hood did that! The new mask looks like cheap plastic crap. They go through a lot of trouble to give Destro his trademark silver head. But they can’t buy a fifteen dollar piece of blue cloth, sew a Cobra logo on it, and have the Commander wear that.

Despite all this, the movie isn’t all bad. The action is fast paced and easy to follow. The actors give solid performances. Park kicks ass as Snake Eyes. His fights with Storm Shadow are fun, but too brief. And unlike the cartoon, in the movie people get cut, shot and die horribly. Well, as horribly as a PG-13 rating allows.

There are cameos by all of Sommers' favorite actors as other Joes and Cobras. I also have to say Destro’s plan was clever, and he doesn’t explain it to Duke when he’s got him captured. It’s nice to see a mastermind who knows to keep his trap shut.

If you go into GI Joe to watch a fun, cornball action movie, you’ll have a decent time. It won’t leave you excited for more, the way the relaunch of Star Trek did, but it does a serviceable job of feeding your nostalgia while blowing up stuff.

You'll be fine now that you know. And knowing is . . . well, you know the rest.

Gary Mitchel is RevolutionSF's Snowjob.

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