This year’s summer blockbuster, G.I. Joe, didn’t disappoint – in fact, it surpassed my expectations, ranking over Star Trek and Transformers 2 (although I did like Star Trek’s character banter more). With elements of both films, its futuristic weaponry and onstreet action sequences, it also reminded me of the new version of The Day the Earth Stood Still (nanomites) as well as James Bond plots and villains (evil doctors and shades of Thunderball). The G.I. Joes are up against the Cobra organization, maneuvering between the Egyptian desert, the polar ice caps, and Paris.
Being a non-G.I. Joe fan (‘never watched the cartoon – to me, G.I. Joe was simply an alternative to Barbie’s Ken), I came into the film with no expectation of whether or not the story stayed true to its origins. The core team certainly exemplified their characters: Channing Tatum as Duke, the down-to- earth soldier and leader of the pack, Ray Park (a/k/a Darth Maul in Star Wars) as ninja Snake Eyes, Marlon Wayans as the funny, aerial-loving Ripcord, Rachel Nichols (Gaila, the green gal in Star Trek) as tough Scarlett, Said Taghmaoui (Hidalgo, Vantage Point) as high techie Breaker, and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as battle commander Heavy Duty.
Along with the major plot of the story, the subplots between lovesick Duke and the mysterious Baroness (Sienna Miller), and between ninjas Storm Shadow (Byung-Hun Lee) and Snake Eyes, held most of the dramatic sequences of the film. Flashbacks to their histories are conveyed when once again they meet in conflict. Their stories unfold throughout the film, ending in surprise revelations and solutions.
Dennis Quaid delivers well as General Hawk, opposite Christopher Eccleston (BBC’s Dr. Who) who plays the corrupt Scot arms dealer McCullen. I mention “Scot” because it becomes an important reference in Ripcord’s ultimate mission. The Cobra organization’s Doctor, whose identity I won’t reveal here (it’s a surprise), wears a mask throughout the film, and his quirky movements make for a sinister performance.
Stephen Sommers, who previously created the Mummy and Scorpion King films, as well as Van Helsing, can be counted on for blockbuster films meant to entertain with visual effects, epic action sequences, and stunning actors. However, if you’re looking for Shakespeare quality drama, you won’t find them in his films. G.I. Joe is a lot of fun, entertaining, and impressively futuristic but not quite spacey.
I’ve never been a big fan of Sienna Miller (I have trouble remembering her face) but this film puts her on my list of badass women of film, along with Famke Janssen (Goldeneye), Kate Beckinsale (Underworld), and Milla Jivovovich (Resident Evil). Channing Tatum also has come a long way from being Pretty Boy Floyd in Public Enemies. Both of these actors for the most part, carry the film beyond its integrated cartoon-on-screen action bubble. I have to give special kudos to the costume designer: the body suits are gorgeous (although Duke without it also isn’t bad). The only question I have of this film is, “Are the female soldiers called G.I. Janes or G.I. Jo-ettes?”