Starring: Channing Ttaum, Dennis Quaid, Marlon Wayans, Sienna Miller, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Ray Park
Director: Stephen Sommers
Writer(s): Stuart Beattie, David Elliot
Cinematography: Mitchell Amundsen
Original Score: Alan Silvestri
Running Time: 118 Mins.
There was a time (back in 1999) when Stephen Sommers, director of G.I. JOE, was hailed the new Steven Spielberg as The Mummy was said to be the most enjoyable and accomplished action romp since the original Indiana Jones trilogy, a slight exageration maybe, but this simply serves to prove how the great has fallen in his critics eyes. In the space of ten years and two (G.I. JOE being number 3) films, he has seemingly become one of the most critically hated directors working today, so much so that before any images or footage of G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra, to give it its full title, were relaesed it was being hailed as the worst film of the year and huge flop. All this despite a once “worthy” man behind the camera and something of a, largely, great ensemble of actors in front of it.
So, bearing others preconceived thoughts in mind I couldn’t help approaching G.I. JOE with a touch of trepidation and little to no hope for it (even though I thought the critically panned The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing were great action films that needed a bit of trimming), to my surprise I loved every minute of it. The film’s strengths are also going to be seen in many peoples eyes as its weaknesses, it may well be THE cheesiest and tackiest film of the year, of that there is very little getting round, but in this there are no attempts at a higher meaning and it knows its cheesy, everyone involved knows this, something that Michael Bay failed to recognise in this summer’s other toy originated action blow-out.
So to the cast, and what a cast, hardly stuffed with A-listers or even the kind of pulpy actors associated with blockbuster hokum i.e. the likes of Brendan Fraser (who makes a brief if pointless cameo in fact), Nic Cage, Kate Beckinsale and Ashton Kutcher. No here we have some top up and comers associated with indie fare like Tatum and Gordon-Levitt and more seasoned pros in Quaid and Eccleston, with some left field support in the form of Sienna Miller and “gasp” Marlon Wayans (who thankfully is funny and not irritating as I had feared). Each member knows they are in a live action big budget panto and act with aplomb, only Tatum seems to look a little lost at times, Gordon-Levit is the stand out, taking himself so far away from the norm that he is barely recognisible (and not just because of the make-up), hamming it up to the extreme as if he were the uber-evil offspring of Darth Vader.
Quaid is afforded some of the worst offending zingers, but given the names of characters ranging from Ripcord to General Hawk and Destro you really would expect nothing more, or less. And it is, to be frank, to the storytellers credit that each and every cast member gets his or her moment with the focus not kept on one or two cast members and leaving the rest out in the cold, as all too often happens in team based stories (X3 I’m looking at you!). What this means is during fight scenes (of which there are many) we see so many different people it is impossible to feel anything other than happy, in an admittedly guilty way.
If there is fault to be found it has to be in the needless and largely out of place flashbacks (of which there are a great many), the rivalry between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow needed no explaining and did nothing to add to theri present day rivalry and worse than being pointless they hindered the rest of the film making its pacing as off kilter as that in Van Helsing, non-stop action is great but time for a breather would be good, not a mis-timed flashback! This though is a minor setback in what can be quite easily summed up as chewing gum for the eyes of the highest order.
Even if you cant stand to listen to and embrace the cheesy script put some earplugs in and enjoy the visual feast, relish in the destruction of Paris, soemthing of a pastiche of Team America, and the blatant disregard for the loss of human life, and oh how good it feels to actually register who is hitting who, given that we are now so used to the super close up’s of Transformers and Quantum of Solace whereby fights are reduced to flurries of nothingness. Nowhere is safe from destruction by the “JOE”s”, be it on land, air or under-water, even in the ice, there is very little left for them to destroy in the name of saving humanity in the rumoured sequel…but bring it on I say!
G.I. JOE: The Rise of Cobra is the guilty pleasure of the summer, there is no denying how audacious it is in the levels of cheesiness mined, but when it’s this much fun, who cares!