Hi, my name is Stephen Sommers and I'm the director of the drama called G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra. I've been making movies since 1989, and in that time my goal has been to win an Oscar for Best Director. Or win a Razzie. I have yet to win either because Hollywood just doesn't understand my sophisticated storytelling techniques or complex, layered characters. They just don't understand. But audiences love my movies. They told me The Mummy was good, so I made a sequel. That movie made a lot of money, so I learned that people like ridiculous plots with terrible special effects. That's how I came to make Van Helsing, one of the most celebrated films of this generation.
It's been five years since I made Van Helsing, but Paramount Pictures, in their infinite wisdom, talked me out of retirement to make a G.I. Joe movie. The movie would be based on some plastic action figures and a cartoon. I confuse it with Barbie, but my award-winning writers, who, according to critics have made much better movies than I have, keep me in check.
A lot of people thought that G.I. Joe should be a gritty action film with lots of warfare and excitement, but me, being the genius that I am, decided to do something different. A lot of people thought that making a halfway successful adaptation of the cartoon would be easy - but making movies are never easy - and I had to show audiences who was boss. Thankfully, Paramount gave me $170 million or so (I lost track because I can't count that high) to do just that.
On the surface, I know that G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra looks awful. That's intentional. I don't like using all those fancy special effects that Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg and Roland Emmerich use to engage audiences and make things look believable; I prefer to lock some college interns in a basement and threaten them with no food unless they make my visual effects as corny and lame as one can be. Paramount insists I can't use stick figures, though, so I'm a little pissed about that.
Yes, some may say that the visual effects in G.I. Joe are so bad that it removes all facets of suspense from the picture, and that they are on par with a bad SyFy Channel movie (wait, have I been spelling "Sci-Fi" wrong all these years?). But people don't understand my brilliance. By using embarrassingly horrible special effects, I allow audiences to look past the gloss and see where I put most of that $170 million: the screenplay.
Yes, I've hired the best and brightest C-grade actors such as Marlon Wayans to bring what is sure to be one of the best screenplays of the year to life. I wanted to hire Ben Kingsley, too, but he was busy doing an Uwe Boll movie at the time. I feel people were distracted by the beauty of Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols a bit too much, but there's nothing I can do about that now.
Where was I? Oh yes, the screenplay. It's wonderful, isn't it? Where else can you see such a ridiculously cheesy plot such as the one in G.I. Joe coupled with such dialogue as "Try this on for size, boys," and "Nice shoes," and "For you, Zartan, I'd make an exception." I get giddy just talking about such classic dialogue.
Sure, the movie isn't as bad as all the critics said, but that's only because I like to set expectations so damn low. It's hard not to find the movie mildly entertaining on a visceral level, as it moves along at a fast pace and presents plenty of action. I'm just glad I did the opposite of such films as The Dark Knight by making the action as unbelievable and ridiculous as possible. Otherwise, what's the point?
Oh, and I was never fired from Paramount during the editing process. Sure, three of the studio executives had to go into suicide therapy after seeing an early screening, but I'm certain that they had psychological issues related to other life problems.
Did you hate my movie? You just don't understand it. You need to look deeper, beyond the crappy special effects and the terrible acting and the downright lame screenplay. It's all for appearance's sake. It's like Citizen Kane for the 21st century.
Review by Dakota Grabowski (C-)
If there's one thing that Paramount Pictures and Hasbro accomplished with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, it would be that they delivered a movie that met expectations. There's no doubt that before going into the film, the general movie-going populace expected to see action in spades. Well, to a fault, Paramount and Hasbro provided a tremendous amount of explosions and fight scenes, but failed to offer any semblance of a storyline or attachment to the characters.
Generally speaking, the castings for the majority of G.I. Joe's popular characters were hit and miss. Dennis Quiad was the principle problem with the film as his General Hawk would be a one-note wonder in the music industry. Quaid has never been known for his action-star prowess, so for the most part, he stands (or sits) in the film barking orders without any affliction. This could be said for the majority of the lead characters from the G.I. Joe side of things: Marlon Wayans is there providing laughs and never evolves into the hero he's made out to be at the end of the film; Channing Tatum is often giving his best deadpan stare into the camera as he offers no personality to the role that is often said to be the most popular character in the franchise; and lastly, Rachel Nichol's Scarlett isn't anything more than eye-candy as she is stereotypically placed in a battle of wills against the female villain, The Baronness played by Sienna Miller.
That isn't to say that the entire cast performs in a trivial manner. Joseph Gordon-Levitt's physical performance may be underwhelming, but the voice he puts forth is fantastic due to how unrecognizable it is. Christopher Eccleston (from Dr. Who fame) hams it up with the best as Destro and that is, to say, a compliment in a franchise based on action figures. It's too bad that Arnold Vosloo, a Stephen Sommers regular, didn't get more screen time since his villainy was more entertaining than watching Sienna Miller try and show her cruelty; her case as a villain was on par with a Chihuahua barking at your feet - not intimidating at all.
The best action scenes usually involved the martial arts of the masked ninja Snake Eyes (played by Ray Park) and his adversary Storm Shadow (played by Lee Byung-hun). In terms of story, these two characters are the most fleshed out since they see beginning, middle and an end to their story-arc. The flashbacks to when they were just children learning martial arts are among the top scenes - which are far too few - in the film since, at times, they felt believable. But in an overall sense, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is non-stop action, especially since the last 35 minutes of the film was basically an all-out and in-your-face assault that never lets up for a breather. Due to the horrible pacing, the only reason to sit through The Rise of Cobra is to see who faces off against whom as if it were WWE wresting.
Taking a look at their $170 million dollar budget, one has to wonder where all their money went since the CGI and visuals of The Rise of Cobra weren't outstanding. The design of the film borrows too much from The Matrix and the original X-Men as the costumes, aside from a few, are jet-black and 100 percent leather. It's understandable that the studio wanted to move away from a cartoony feel, but when the studio turns around and dishes out one of the most cartoonish storylines in 2009, you'd think it was acceptable to match the design to the feel of the film.
If, and when, there's a sequel, Paramount and Hasbro have a lot of work to do to improve on the quality of the film series. As it stands right now, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a no nonsense action film that is comical and, at times, immensely outlandish.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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