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'G.I. Joe' - The Latest In A Long Line Of Mediocre, Nostalgia Mining Blockbusters

August 5th, 2009 9:55am EDT | Kris King By: Kris King favorite Add to My News
G.I. Joe: Rise of CobraIt's been over a month since Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen raked in $62 million on its opening day. Michael Bay's second installment to the Transformers series went on to make much more than that, currently cashing in over $796 million worldwide. Despite a phenomenal performance in the box office, Revenge of the Fallen was ripped apart by fans and critics alike. Critics balked at the movie’s obtuse premise that stretched for over two hours, while fans cringed at incomprehensible fight scenes, sloppy storytelling and dull characters. Even though Revenge of the Fallen suffered near unanimous ire, a third Transformers movie will undoubtedly bash its way onto the screen within a few years.

This weekend, Hollywood is dusting off another relic from our toy box with G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. Based on the toy line dating back to 1964, Rise of Cobra draws influence from the toy’s most lucrative 1980s era, when the figures were accompanied by the popular Saturday morning cartoon and comic book series "GI Joe: A Real American Hero." Judging by early footage, fan reaction and good old fashioned intuition, this new GI Joe film is nothing more than another entry in a long line of mediocre, nostalgia mining blockbusters.

Stephen Sommers, the director of The Rise of Cobra, is a veteran of several bad but successful blockbusters. GI Joe is Sommers’s first stint as director since 2004’s Van Helsing, a movie described by critics as being "contrived," "tiresome" and "generally terrible." But still, Sommers's films make money, and because he directed the wildly successful remake of The Mummy in 1999, studios still expect that the forty-seven-year-old director has the potential to churn out likable films, despite him spending the last decade proving otherwise.

Sommers' involvement is just the first sign of trouble for GI Joe. Everything about the film, from the cast to the plot to the action, raises an equal amount of concern. Rise of Cobra stars Channing Tatum, a multiple Teen Choice Award winner known for his role in the Step Up series and last year’s Stop-Loss, and Marlon Wayans, widely regarded as the Wayans brother that everyone hates the most. The two play Duke and Ripcord, the two newest members of the GI Joe team, who find themselves fighting against a fledgling terror group that threatens the world with matter devouring nanomachines.

Nanomachines, for those who don't know, are microscopic plot devices of limitless potential, and are noteworthy in their ability to add an air of ridiculousness to any story. They play important roles in many a bad movie. In Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever, they act as tiny assassination devices; in Jason X, they rebuild the teen slasher Jason Voorhees into Super Jason; and in Metal Gear Solid, a series renowned for making absolutely no sense, practically every character has nanomachines swimming around their blood streams. In GI Joe, Cobra uses nanomachines to control people’s minds, filling out the group’s ranks with a relentlessly loyal army of cannon fodder. If that weren’t enough, like any good super-weapon, these tiny bots can also eat famous national landmarks.


That ought to show the Parisian tourist office.


How these machines manage to both chew through steel and control your thoughts will undoubtedly be explained with a healthy dose of movie science. To be fair, GI Joe has always been a medium for impossible technology. Machines that control the weather, serums that turn people into snakes, laser blasters you can affix to a dog--GI Joe doesn’t exactly tread in the realm of realistic science. But when the best a movie can come up with is bulky body armor that lets you run around and punch missiles, you get the feeling they could have done something more fun. Sadly, accelerator suits (that accelerate you) sound better on paper than they look on screen.



It’s unlikely that GI Joe will be able to match the rabid success of Revenge of the Fallen, but its place in the heart of children of the 80s and Paramount’s marketing blitz guarantees it at least some success. Which is a shame, considering it’s probably not going to be very good. The massive amount of profit generated by movies like GI Joe or Revenge of the Fallen shows studios that moviegoers will see anything as long its branded with a familiar license. It feeds into a profit loop where studios cash in big on recognizably without the stress of making a movie that actually satisfies the audience. It’s the reason why there are plans for a fifth Indiana Jones film despite a lukewarm reception for Crystal Skull, or a sequel to Alvin and the Chipmunks, a film that somehow made over $200 million. It doesn’t matter that the original films were bad, they made boatloads of money. We, the entertainment starved public, are essentially rewarding studios for the release of bad movies, and as a result we only get more bad movies in return.

While the failure of GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra won’t stem the tide of blockbuster rehashes, it would guarantee that we never see the likes of GI Joe: The Revenge of Cobra. It could even hold up the release of other nostalgia heavy projects like "Thundercats" or "Masters of the Universe." It would show Hollywood that a transformer with testicles made from wrecking balls and GI Joe wearing Halo power armor just isn’t going to fly anymore.

Kris King
Story by Kris King

Starpulse contributing writer


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