G.I. Joe, the new film by Stephen Sommers, is an attempt by Paramount Pictures to woo that most lucrative of all Hollywood demographics: the children of the 80’s who refuse to grow up. So with their eye on the prize (another Transformers-like box office return) Paramount (in conjunction with Hasbro) has dug G.I. Joes out of obscurity and repackaged them as a summer blockbuster. Of course the only problem is that they have a bomb on their hands and they know it. The film is light on characters and plot (things that critics like) and heavy on guns on explosions (things that kids like), and perhaps that is why Paramount refused to screen the movie for critics, save for a few select bloggers they could virtually guarantee would be favorable.

Of course they had to have some excuse for all of the destruction that ensues and theirs is a flimsy story line involving a dispute between the US military and a high powered weapons manufacturer, MARS, who is preparing to launch their new “nanoweaponry.” MARS wants to use the weapon to inspire fear and panic amongst the world’s citizens and ultimately (gasp!) take over the world. This is where our heroes, the GI Joes, come into play. They are a secret elite crew of soldiers – "the best of the best" – who set up camp amidst the sands of Egypt. From there the two organizations spend the rest of the movie fighting over the weapon, all the while leaving a huge trail of death and destruction in their wake.

As a centerpiece for the film Sommers presents a brain numbing car chase through the streets of Paris. All in all around a million cars along with the Eiffel Tower itself are destroyed. No law of physics is left unscathed and it would have all looked really cool had the special effects not been so obviously flawed and outdated. Also, the good guys find time to shout short, chest pounding rhetoric that is clearly meant to rile up the crowd but just ends up sounding downright sophomoric.

But maybe that’s the whole point. People are going to be willing to shell out a lot more good money to see this simply because those things are in it. And as bad as G.I. Joe is, you can’t deny that it pushes our patriotic buttons and forces our attention. We, as a people, love seeing things blown up and this movie has tons of it. Sommers does make an effort to provide context for this mess via flashback, telling the back story to some of the characters such as the rivalry between ninjas Snake-Eyes and Stormshadow. The main thread involves Duke (Channing Tatum, born to be in the G.I. Joe movie), the newest Joe recruit, and his former lover/current MARS big shot, the Baroness (Sienna Miller). The death of her brother and Duke’s lack of support for her during the aftermath sent her fleeing into the arms of MARS’s owner James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston).

The Transformers movies, horrible as they are, at least had state of the art special effects on their side. Here we get what is presumably the bargain bin variety as this film only cost $170 million compared to $200 million for the latest Transformers. And yet Sommers and company seem to be very proud of the effects. At one point, for no good reason, they insert a substandard CGI polar bear, just because. Later, in a scene demonstrating the power of this new advanced weaponry the camera zooms inside an open snake bite wound, down the victims arteries and right into an internal war going on between nanobots and snake venom. It is stunts like this that will inevitably lead to it being called a "good bad movie" by those too ashamed to fess up to their own horrid tastes. But it’s not. It’s a bad movie pure and simple. About the only prayer it has is if there really is a worldwide crisis brought about by nanotechnology, because if that does happen then this film will be prophetic. As it stands now it’s just pathetic instead.

Starring: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Director: Stephen Sommers

Runtime: 118 Minutes

Distributor: Paramount Pictures

Rating: PG-13

 

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