Thursday 6 August 2009

Review: G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra

Year: 2009
Director: Stephen Sommers
Screenplay: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot
Starring: Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Randy Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

One of my problem with the Transformers movies has always been their cynicism and pompousness. Michael bay is a master of filming pyrotechnics but his toy movie adaptation have always seemed to be more about posturing and self-indulgence more than anything. "I make movies for teenage boys. Oh dear, what a crime." So he says but it's hard to tell with some of the product placement and over long running times that litter his robot saga.

While I've been fine with the director in the past, signs of his own smug self-importance have started become even more clear to me. An example of this would be the email he sent to Paramount bemoaning the "lack of promotion" of Revenge of the Fallen. His worry about a near profit proven promotion over his actors says more about him than it should.

It's probably one of the reasons why I enjoy G.I. Joe Rise of the Cobra a lot more than either Transformer movies. A Bay movie thinks they're better than they are, while G.I Joe knows exactly would it is and runs with it. I may be wrong, but Revenge of the fallen takes over two hours to say nothing at all. G.I. Joe is 40 minutes shorter and is far more interesting.

The film is utterly preposterous is almost every way, but it wears it's silliness proudly. It constantly winks at the camera and has an energy that truly reminds me of an dodgy 80's cartoon, something that the other aforementioned movie could not do. This stems from Steven Sommer's sense of humour. He seems to understand the absurdity of the source material a lot more and delivers to us a film that appears to have it's tongue clearly in it's cheek. This is only way I can comprehend a film ripping off (paying homage?) to Team America: World Police.

Nothing is taken seriously and the film works because of it. Not to say that it hasn't got some of the basics right as well. For a summer blockbuster, I'm not expecting intricate, detailed screenwriting on display but the conflict within the screenplay goes much further than what's been placed than its "bigger brother". The contrivances can be spotted a mile off, but the film is still far more engaging because of what happens to the characters within the (paper thin) plot.

Whereas Revenge of the fallen as the edge when it comes to acting (top character actors + cardboard characters = some energy) G.I wins out when it comes to character development. Don't get me wrong, this is not Macbeth, yet the people here are more fleshed out than the 294 minutes of both those Robot movies combined. Also, to Sommers credit, despite having what could be considered "lesser actors" Sommers manages cox a watchable performance out of most of them...EVEN MARLON WAYNES!!!! It is said that Waynes has given decent displays in the likes of Above the Rim and Requim for a Dream. Here Sommers manages to place Waynes in a role that doesn't make you want to punch him in the face. Quaid looks slightly embarrassed to be there but takes it all on the chin, while Christopher Eccleston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt ham everything up to works considering the movie is a silly one. A performance of note I may add is Sienna Miller. Usually an actress I care little about, Miller may have found her niche as an near emotionless villain....(lol). The less to say about the dull displays given to us by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Channing Tatum however the better.

Sommers directs G.I. with enough pace to stop the film from being boring and enough humour to distract us from the patchy plot. The action still suffers from the modern day hyper editing that has plagued many a action film but still manages to have fun moments. Sommers scores the most points by winking at the camera and nudges us in the ribs when the film hits the heights true heights of stupidity. The film is brainless but Sommers wants you to enjoy it for what it is. Many could say the same about some of the other blockbusters I've trashed, but Sommer keeps the tone just right. Like the rest of his back catalogue, Sommer's understands that this is nonsense, not a moment of it suffers from the portentousness that has struck other "event movies". This alone makes such a bizarre (and unbelievably violent) watchable.

The Summer of 2009 will not be the most memorable film season but at least at the end Stephen Sommers manages to bring out a guilty pleasure which brings about a sugar rush high that will help you forget the Angels and Demons of the year. But don't say I didn't warn you about the come down.

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