The Problem With G.I Joe

So today, against my better judgement, I said to myself "I know I already saw the G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra movie and hated it, but it probably wasn't as bad as I remembered it. I'll rent it and watch it again". Wow, what a colossally bad mistake on my part. Not only was it as bad as I remembered, but it was actually worse having to sit through it again. Why do I say this? And what's to be done about it? Well I'm glad you asked and I'll try to answer those questions after the jump. (SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE)

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, The Fall of Quality

 What a giant fustercluck of a movie this was. Let's just get that out of the way right off the bat, because that will just make it easier on all of us going forward if we can accept that this movie straight up sucked. The writing, the fact that it was directed by Stephen Sommers; but yet was still not his worst movie (Hello Mummy  Returns and Van Helsing); and the acting overall was completely flat (at best) or outright awful (at Channing Tatum... I mean worst). But the hell of it is, all of that is not even what makes this movie such an outright affront to good films everywhere. The main problems with the movie is the complete lack of respect for the source material, needless changing of things to match what they think America wants, and of course how this is indicative of the problem with action movies nowadays. The thing is, I believe that this is completely fixable and I think that as a whole action movies are going to start getting better.

The Source Material

G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra is essentially a G.I Joe movie in name only. What I mean by that is, like the Transformers films before it, we're told by the title of the movie and the name of many of the characters that it's a G.I. Joe movie, yet if you were a fan you would not recognize the characters with the way that they act on screen. Not only that, but they also drastically changed relationships between the characters, such as eliminating the relationship between Scarlett and Snake-Eyes, probably the strongest of all relationships in the G/I. Joe universe. Instead, we're "treated" to an awkward court-ship between Scarlett and Marlon Wayans playing what's supposed to be Ripcord.

But that's not the worst, as they completely change the origin of Cobra Commander so that now he's the Baroness's younger brother? And Duke almost got him killed? And Duke and the Baroness were lovers until she got brainwashed into being evil by her believed to be brother? Why would the change and ruin one of the greatest villains that G.I. Joe ever faced, not to mention probably the greatest villainness in all of cartoons just for the sake of having some stupid, bull-shit love story?! Let's not even get into the fact that the Cobra Commander is reduced to some one-note mad scientist instead of a genius bent on world domination. I'm not going to leave out how they changed the Cobra Commander's look, solely because someone thought that it looked far too much like the KKK hoods. Why wouldn't they just go with this classic look from the cartoons? Who knows, probably because since Stephen Sommers was directing it so the IQ of the production team was near rock bottom levels.

Needless Changes

If Stephen Sommers wanted to make an Iron Man movie, then he should have waited and tried to ruin that franchise at a later date, instead of trying to make what should have been a straightforward military action movie into some Sci-Fi armor wars. In the cartoons and comics, the Joes have always had weaponry and fancy gadgets, but they were always rooted in reality as to what a military super-squad would actually have. In this movie, why go for super robots that run faster than cars, dodge missiles, and survive getting hit by a train when creating realistic action scenes are way more interesting for audiences.

If you look at the best action movies of all time, like Die Hard for example, while they are still obviously not based in the real world, it is still grounded in the reality of the film that John McClain is a total bad-ass who can get roughed up and keep going. But what he doesn't do is jump through bullet-trains and leap over cars because that's so unrealistic that it makes the rest of the movie nothing more than sci-fi. (Also, where is the sense of giving the two least experienced Joes the Iron Man suits instead of soldiers that were actually G.I. Joes? Why would you trust millions of dollars in equipment to guys that aren't even on your team?! Wasteful government spending...) The simple fact is, a gritty action film done closer in style to 24 with a crack team of operatives rather than Transformers about a covert organization plotting to conquer the United States would have been way more fascinating. Hell, you could even keep the twist at the end in place but have a much more realistic threat against the country first. And for god's sake, stop casting Channing Tatum in things. I've seen bread with more personality than him, but to be fair it was Focaccia which is delicious.

Action Movies Now - The Superhero Effect

The simple thing is that nowadays action movies have completely changed since the days of Tango & Cash and Die Hard, with the impetus now on how many special effects they can cram in with action sequences that are almost entirely CGI. It seems like almost every action movie has to have what is supposed to be an ordinary human flying through the air and surviving dozens of explosions and walking away just fine. I long for the days of Popeye Doyle chasing down goons in a realistic car chase, or Keanu Reeves and Kurt Russel throwing down in Point Break. The simple fact is, that the old school 80's action films were more intense and fun to watch because it was all real. It wasn't something that looked like a video game or was so fake that you knew there was no way that any of it was real. Now obviously with superhero films it is a different story, but to be fair that is the reality that they exist in so it is not fair to hold that against them. But a film that is not about superheroes and based on a property that wasn't about superheroes or super-gadgets to now be changed so that it is solely about the high powered gadgets makes it a failure in my eyes.

Also, it seems like all of these films never plan for the future. I could have told them when they were first planning it that a mediocre G.I Joe movie would still make a ton of money, so shouldn't they have been counting on the sequel from the get-go? So why then would you end it in a situation where your main villain, WHO YOU JUST FINALLY INTRODUCED AS THE MAIN VILLAIN FIVE MINUTES AGO!, is either going to be taken prisoner by the Joes or killed. This makes him INCREDIBLY weak whereas if he was faced with an impossible situation and was clever and diabolical to get away from them. Or I don't know why they didn't just leave it when it looked like Cobra Commander had successfully diverted the Joes away from him long enough to make his and Destro's escape. And, why kill Storm Shadow?! The one villain that could fight Snake-Eyes toe-to-toe is now a one and one villain where he could have been a force to menace Snake-Eyes for future films (although since they revealed everything about their history I guess it doesn't make  huge difference except all of the fights we're cheated out of). What should have happened was Snake-Eyes beats Storm Shadow but he lives as a prisoner of the Joes, and Cobra Commander and Destro escape after the ice is brought down on the Joes. Boom. Good guys still win, but you've got the bad guys positioned to still be bad-asses.

I think that this is an ongoing thing in action moves for one simple reason: studios think that unless the good guys beat everybody then the audiences will hate the film. Despite the fact that some of the best films all time (Empire Strikes Back, Dark Knight) had heroes on the run with the villains gaining the upper hand. It builds drama and tension if a movie ends and there is still danger out there that could return even deadlier the next time around. It's how you build a franchise instead of a one-of movie. And it's the main lesson Hollywood should take from this travesty of a movie.

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