Review – G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Knowing (that this isn’t high art) is half the battle.

Alright. I ranted a few weeks ago about the live action movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. I also confessed that I would go and look at it critically, not just as mindless entertainment.

Easier said than done.

I don’t know if I can add any more insight that hasn’t already been posted in other places before, but perhaps some people would like my thoughts (how funny!). G.I. Joe is a toy from the 60s, a 12 inch action figure that was remade into a 3 3/4 inch figure in 1982 and launched with a comic book and later a cartoon. The latter was the meat of my childhood. I devoured all the cartoons, tried to catch the comics at the local grocer, and had a fairly impressive collection of figures. They provided endless fodder for my imagination (and made for a good football team as well).

The 80s were kitschy, and that really couldn’t translate into early 21 century sensibilities. So the original got largely reworked in translation for The Rise of Cobra.

The movie starts with an eye-opening sequence, and continues to build off of that for the next 2 hours. Sure, it occasionally pauses for a little exposition or flashback to show character connections – just enough to continue to the next adrenaline rush of explosions, butt-kicking, and gadgetry.

Arms dealer James McCullen XXIV has developed a new technology with nanomites, microscopic robotic creatures that can destroy a target and be turned off with a kill switch. A NATO force under the command of American soldiers Duke and Ripcord are tasked with carrying the new weapons to the drop-off point, but they are ambushed by a mysterious force with futuristic weapons and led by a leather-clad femme fatale, The Baroness.

The G.I. Joe team intervenes and saves the warheads, Duke, and Ripcord and introduces them to the secretive team. This anti-terrorist group has a special base under the sands of Egypt, and they are charged with guarding the nanomites. From there battles ensue as both parties engage in battle several times to control the warheads and protect major cities from catastrophic damage. From the streets of Paris to an explosive confrontation under the polar ice caps, the action doesn’t stop until the inevitable setting up of the (possible) sequel in the last few minutes.

I mentioned in my earlier post I would be watching for what type of worldview the movie portrays. I think it shows the bigger explosion, the better. Actually, there are good moments of self-sacrifice, honor, and teamwork through the movie. Still, the movie doesn’t leave a lot of mental food for thought. It plays like the hyped-up modern cartoon update it is. The plot is enough to keep people moving, and the characterization is usually quick and forced, although I thought there was some attempts at delving into things.

The movie thankfully never devolves into the apparent smut-fest of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but there are some scattered curse words throughout. The action is violent, and plenty of people die, some by impaling, but there is very minimal blood loss. I guess these near-future weapons can kill without spilling blood? There are a few scenes of nanomites being injected in people that I had my kids turning their heads, but otherwise my 9 and 7 year old thought it was a blast.

The diehard G.I. Joe fan from the 80s has definite potential to be disappointed. Some of the central characters have had their origins reworked, to a hit-and-miss effect. I liked some of the back story of Duke and the head evil scientist “The Doctor,” but other ones felt hollow. I reconciled myself to the idea that it can’t stay the same, and I enjoyed it overall, but I know other fanboys have…issues with some changes. Still, they nailed important characters like Snake Eyes, and that was a must. There are also nice homages thrown in to those in the “know.”

My verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars. It isn’t great, but it was fun and I enjoyed watching it twice. It could have been a lot worse and a lot better. I think a lot of the new twists worked overall, and I would like to see a sequel done. Young kids should probably avoid it, but the 9-12 crowd would probably eat it up if the occasional language and frequent violence isn’t beyond sensibilities. If one expects “Saving Private Ryan,” prepare to be disappointed. But it’s a decent popcorn action flick, and as an old Joe fan, I am glad I saw it.

Review – G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Knowing (that this isn’t high art) is half the battle.

Alright. I ranted a few weeks ago about the live action movie, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. I also confessed that I would go and look at it critically, not just as mindless entertainment.

Easier said than done.

I don’t know if I can add any more insight that hasn’t already been posted in other places before, but perhaps some people would like my thoughts (how funny!). G.I. Joe is a toy from the 60s, a 12 inch action figure that was remade into a 3 3/4 inch figure in 1982 and launched with a comic book and later a cartoon. The latter was the meat of my childhood. I devoured all the cartoons, tried to catch the comics at the local grocer, and had a fairly impressive collection of figures. They provided endless fodder for my imagination (and made for a good football team as well).

The 80s were kitschy, and that really couldn’t translate into early 21 century sensibilities. So the original got largely reworked in translation for The Rise of Cobra.

The movie starts with an eye-opening sequence, and continues to build off of that for the next 2 hours. Sure, it occasionally pauses for a little exposition or flashback to show character connections – just enough to continue to the next adrenaline rush of explosions, butt-kicking, and gadgetry.

Arms dealer James McCullen XXIV has developed a new technology with nanomites, microscopic robotic creatures that can destroy a target and be turned off with a kill switch. A NATO force under the command of American soldiers Duke and Ripcord are tasked with carrying the new weapons to the drop-off point, but they are ambushed by a mysterious force with futuristic weapons and led by a leather-clad femme fatale, The Baroness.

The G.I. Joe team intervenes and saves the warheads, Duke, and Ripcord and introduces them to the secretive team. This anti-terrorist group has a special base under the sands of Egypt, and they are charged with guarding the nanomites. From there battles ensue as both parties engage in battle several times to control the warheads and protect major cities from catastrophic damage. From the streets of Paris to an explosive confrontation under the polar ice caps, the action doesn’t stop until the inevitable setting up of the (possible) sequel in the last few minutes.

I mentioned in my earlier post I would be watching for what type of worldview the movie portrays. I think it shows the bigger explosion, the better. Actually, there are good moments of self-sacrifice, honor, and teamwork through the movie. Still, the movie doesn’t leave a lot of mental food for thought. It plays like the hyped-up modern cartoon update it is. The plot is enough to keep people moving, and the characterization is usually quick and forced, although I thought there was some attempts at delving into things.

The movie thankfully never devolves into the apparent smut-fest of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but there are some scattered curse words throughout. The action is violent, and plenty of people die, some by impaling, but there is very minimal blood loss. I guess these near-future weapons can kill without spilling blood? There are a few scenes of nanomites being injected in people that I had my kids turning their heads, but otherwise my 9 and 7 year old thought it was a blast.

The diehard G.I. Joe fan from the 80s has definite potential to be disappointed. Some of the central characters have had their origins reworked, to a hit-and-miss effect. I liked some of the back story of Duke and the head evil scientist “The Doctor,” but other ones felt hollow. I reconciled myself to the idea that it can’t stay the same, and I enjoyed it overall, but I know other fanboys have…issues with some changes. Still, they nailed important characters like Snake Eyes, and that was a must. There are also nice homages thrown in to those in the “know.”

My verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars. It isn’t great, but it was fun and I enjoyed watching it twice. It could have been a lot worse and a lot better. I think a lot of the new twists worked overall, and I would like to see a sequel done. Young kids should probably avoid it, but the 9-12 crowd would probably eat it up if the occasional language and frequent violence isn’t beyond sensibilities. If one expects “Saving Private Ryan,” prepare to be disappointed. But it’s a decent popcorn action flick, and as an old Joe fan, I am glad I saw it.

Nostalgia and the Fanboy

I am a child of the 80’s. I can’t help it. From Cabbage Patch Dolls to Michael Jackson and parachute pants (thankfully I never owned those), from Bon Jovi and hair metal to Smurfs, it all resonates with me. Some is more dissonance, but I digress.

The marketers are smart. I have been amazed how so much from my childhood has been recycled now that *I* have kids. First it was the resurgence of Star Wars: Revenge of the Merchandising (I sound like the all-powerful Yogurt. Fear the Schwartz!!!). Now other childhood favorites are being brought back, first Transformers and soon G.I. Joe.

It has worked in many respects. I kept all my Joes and a few Star Wars items, and since I have 3 boys, it has been very easy to continue in that vein (my poor baby girl is already getting cast as Princess Leia). The boys think Star Wars is The Clone Wars, but I blame George Lucas for that. Overall, we have a very boyish household, with hordes of Clone Troopers and a veritable platoon of Joes.

Toys are one thing. The big screen debuts of these childhood icons is quite another. I know there has been plenty of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by rabid fanboys who were afraid their childhood would be ruined if Transformers or G.I. Joe is mishandled on celluloid.

I don’t think I’m rabid (checks mirror, no foam, good sign…). I would love to see an epic production of these worlds. But I also look at things now from a Biblical worldview, and from someone who watches pop culture. I’m grown up (somewhat), so I do view these things differently.

I was massively disappointed in Transformers 1. The movie is marketed to kids, but it has some highly inappropriate content for the under 12 set, and the movie supposedly wasn’t for its “target” audience, as it had a PG-13 label. Even on a technical, quality level it is a let down. The special effects are cool when visible, but so much of the action is rolling together, you can’t tell which giant robot to root for.
After reading reviews for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, I didn’t even bother seeing it. My understanding is that the director took the sexualization and inappropriate content to an even higher level, and that there is little plot. Now, you won’t get Shakespeare with a yellow Camaro that turns into a robot, but it sounds like there wasn’t much to recommend it. Again, it is so marketed to kids that I get really frustrated when the producers make it so unfriendly for kids. Of course, it is the blockbuster of the summer and I know kids who have seen it, so I am likely in the minority. As usual.

This makes me dread G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra coming out in August. There’s been bad vibes for the movie all along, and in watching the trailers some aspects make me cring (accelerator suit – I’m lookin’ at you). My concern is more in items that often go unnoticed – what’s the prevailing worldview, what type of humor do they go for, language. As far as language and humor, I would be quite upset if they played like Transformers did, with a lot of coarse talk and jokes, since G.I. Joe is also being marketed to kids under 13 (so far there’s no rating for it). I’ve heard that it wasn’t made like that, but we’ll see in a few weeks.

The worldview has already been challenged too. G.I. Joe is quintessentially American, but even though it was fairly multicultural even in the 80’s, it didn’t seem to stand the test of pluralism in the 21 century. Initially it was said that G.I. Joe was centered in Brussels, Belgium, which had the fanboys up in arms (apparantly this is gone). Some characters have been changed to different races. But how will the patriotic, positive vibe from G.I. Joe hold up in these times of America being less popular internationally, and our cynical post-modern viewpoints? How much do values of courage, honor, and self-sacrifice hold up? These are just some of the questions I will be asking when watching the movie.

I realize it is summer popcorn entertainment. A movie based off of 80’s war toys isn’t the best vehicle for philosophising, but worldview is everywhere. So maybe I rant a little here (maybe???), but I will not shut off my brain just because Snake Eyes is finally on the big screen (though he does look awesome!).

Yo Joe!

Nostalgia and the Fanboy

I am a child of the 80’s. I can’t help it. From Cabbage Patch Dolls to Michael Jackson and parachute pants (thankfully I never owned those), from Bon Jovi and hair metal to Smurfs, it all resonates with me. Some is more dissonance, but I digress.

The marketers are smart. I have been amazed how so much from my childhood has been recycled now that *I* have kids. First it was the resurgence of Star Wars: Revenge of the Merchandising (I sound like the all-powerful Yogurt. Fear the Schwartz!!!). Now other childhood favorites are being brought back, first Transformers and soon G.I. Joe.

It has worked in many respects. I kept all my Joes and a few Star Wars items, and since I have 3 boys, it has been very easy to continue in that vein (my poor baby girl is already getting cast as Princess Leia). The boys think Star Wars is The Clone Wars, but I blame George Lucas for that. Overall, we have a very boyish household, with hordes of Clone Troopers and a veritable platoon of Joes.

Toys are one thing. The big screen debuts of these childhood icons is quite another. I know there has been plenty of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments by rabid fanboys who were afraid their childhood would be ruined if Transformers or G.I. Joe is mishandled on celluloid.

I don’t think I’m rabid (checks mirror, no foam, good sign…). I would love to see an epic production of these worlds. But I also look at things now from a Biblical worldview, and from someone who watches pop culture. I’m grown up (somewhat), so I do view these things differently.

I was massively disappointed in Transformers 1. The movie is marketed to kids, but it has some highly inappropriate content for the under 12 set, and the movie supposedly wasn’t for its “target” audience, as it had a PG-13 label. Even on a technical, quality level it is a let down. The special effects are cool when visible, but so much of the action is rolling together, you can’t tell which giant robot to root for.
After reading reviews for Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, I didn’t even bother seeing it. My understanding is that the director took the sexualization and inappropriate content to an even higher level, and that there is little plot. Now, you won’t get Shakespeare with a yellow Camaro that turns into a robot, but it sounds like there wasn’t much to recommend it. Again, it is so marketed to kids that I get really frustrated when the producers make it so unfriendly for kids. Of course, it is the blockbuster of the summer and I know kids who have seen it, so I am likely in the minority. As usual.

This makes me dread G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra coming out in August. There’s been bad vibes for the movie all along, and in watching the trailers some aspects make me cring (accelerator suit – I’m lookin’ at you). My concern is more in items that often go unnoticed – what’s the prevailing worldview, what type of humor do they go for, language. As far as language and humor, I would be quite upset if they played like Transformers did, with a lot of coarse talk and jokes, since G.I. Joe is also being marketed to kids under 13 (so far there’s no rating for it). I’ve heard that it wasn’t made like that, but we’ll see in a few weeks.

The worldview has already been challenged too. G.I. Joe is quintessentially American, but even though it was fairly multicultural even in the 80’s, it didn’t seem to stand the test of pluralism in the 21 century. Initially it was said that G.I. Joe was centered in Brussels, Belgium, which had the fanboys up in arms (apparantly this is gone). Some characters have been changed to different races. But how will the patriotic, positive vibe from G.I. Joe hold up in these times of America being less popular internationally, and our cynical post-modern viewpoints? How much do values of courage, honor, and self-sacrifice hold up? These are just some of the questions I will be asking when watching the movie.

I realize it is summer popcorn entertainment. A movie based off of 80’s war toys isn’t the best vehicle for philosophising, but worldview is everywhere. So maybe I rant a little here (maybe???), but I will not shut off my brain just because Snake Eyes is finally on the big screen (though he does look awesome!).

Yo Joe!