Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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At The Picture Show
August 2009

'Team America' without the puppets

Makers of 'G.I. Joe' apparently think this is an actual movie

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Paramount Pictures
Director: Stephen Sommers
Screenplay: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett, based on the Hasbro action figures
Starring: Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnouye-Agbaje, Byung-hun Lee, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Dennis Quaid
Rated PG-13 / 1 hour, 58 minutes
(out of four)

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is not, and should not be confused with, just another dumb summer blockbuster. Rather, it is a movie so oblivious of itself that parodying it would be redundant.

In fact, the parody has already been made. Five years ago. And it starred marionettes. Yes, Trey Parker and Matt Stone's Team America: World Police made a movie like G.I. Joe look foolish . . . only a half-decade before this one was even released. Watching G.I. Joe now, it's alarming how close Parker and Stone actually came. If I didn't know better, I'd assume they actually used a rough draft of this script as their template for Team America.

But don't just take my word for it. Let's consider the evidence.

It's understandable enough that the basic focus of both films - a ragtag group of elite, highly-advanced military personnel working for a powerful and secretive government syndicate - is similar. ( I mean, what else could G.I. Joe have been about?) So the filmmakers get a mulligan there. The rest of the similarities, however, are too uncanny to be forgiven.

You know the young hotshot stud in Team America who's recruited to join the team, only he's harboring a guilty conscience for having caused the death of a loved one? Yeah, G.I. Joe has the same main character (only he's not a Broadway actor).

In both movies, all the members of the team are identified by one specific characteristic, and our newcomers are indoctrinated into their respective teams through their cunning use of a cheesy '80s "training" montage. Didn't Team America completely destroy future use of such montages with their unforgettable "Montage" number? Well, nobody told the makers of G.I. Joe.

Remember the scene in Team America where terrorists destroy the city of Paris, even knocking the Eiffel Tower to the ground? Yeah, that happens in G.I. Joe, too. And how about the hilarious Face/Off-style Advanced Science-Fiction Face Surgery scene from Team America? Remember that? Yeah, that same scene somehow finds its way into this movie, too. Don't ask.

Last but not least, perhaps the funniest and most over-the-top dialogue exchange in Team America comes when the blonde insists she won't sleep with our hero unless he promises that he will never die. He solemnly obliges: "I promise - I will never die."

If you thought G.I. Joe was above something so ludicrous, you'd be wrong. That's right, in a flashback, we see Ana (Sienna Miller) telling our hero, Duke (Channing Tatum), that she'll marry him on one condition - that he promises not to let her dear brother (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) die at war. She says this with a somber face and the hint of a tear in her eye, and Duke indeed obliges: "I promise."

And . . . scene! And royalties to Messrs. Parker and Stone, I presume.

But enough with the comparisons, as impossible to ignore as they may be. It's one thing to be a standard-fare action flick, a movie without lofty ambitions, a movie designed simply to entertain an audience - but it's another thing entirely to exhaust all of the worst cliches of the summer blockbuster, especially at a time when those cliches have been lampooned and exposed beyond all credibility. G.I. Joe is a movie so thoroughly behind its time, you can't even say it's ripe for satire - because we're even beyond that.

One can't even make the argument that the movie is just silly fun - the drama is played too straight and earnest. G.I. Joe certainly doesn't take itself seriously as a drama, but it does take itself seriously as an action movie. The filmmakers seem to be blissfully unaware that their film is a two-hour self-parody.

In fact, it's been reported that there was originally going to be a scene at the end of the credits in which the silent member of the team, Snake Eyes, tells a joke to the rest of the crew - only the filmmakers decided against it, as it would "detract from the seriousness of the film."


G.I. Joe is made up of relentlessly one-note characters acting out relentlessly banal action sequences with relentlessly amateurish writing. This is a movie whose one-liners have their own one-liner addendums, just to make sure it's dumbed down enough for everyone to understand what was just said.

This is a screenplay in which the best response any writer could come up with for the city of Paris being destroyed is, "The French are pretty upset."

And then there's Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols, whose performances consist of looking smoking hot in, respectively, a skintight latex bodysuit and an anatomically correct rubber bodysuit.

This is not a complaint. On the contrary, I think more movies should be based around that general premise. But when the most interesting and creative aspect of your entire movie is the size and shape of a pair of body-armor breasts - and the noticeable aesthetic decision not to include nipples - well then there's really nothing more that needs to be said that a cast full of puppets hasn't said already.

Read more by Chris Bellamy

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