For many, the outlandish threat of nanotechnology and biochemical warfare utilized by a technologically advanced arms dealer with a plot to rule the world might be slightly over-the-top, but when it comes to the world of G.I. Joe, it’s a rather fitting adversary for the elite military group. But there’s a difference between those generally accepting of such escapism in toy-based action movies and those who actually possess knowledge of the vast array of characters from the Hasbro-created world. Sadly, the latter group will be dismayed by the drastic changes to their beloved organization (now an international group – so much for A Real American Hero). Costume alterations are almost mandatory these days to avoid the brightly colored garb of once awe-inspiring superheroes, but these Joes have suffered from over-modernization and most are virtually unrecognizable from their comic book and figurine counterparts. Not to mention their individual backstories have undergone such extreme revisions it’s a wonder they kept the same code names. At least plenty of stuff blows up.
After a deadly biochemical weapon is stolen from their squad during a transport mission, Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are introduced to the G.I. Joe, an elite military group of special operatives. Joining the unit in a super-secret underground base known as The Pit, under the command of General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), the two soldiers team up with Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Breaker (Said Taghmaoui), and more to stop a maniacal arms dealer hell-bent on world domination.
G.I. Joe opens with the phrase “In the Not Too Distant Future,” but should have read “In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…” With the dizzying amount of futuristic technology, boundless financing and all-encompassing intel, there isn’t really anything in the film that’s grounded in reality. Least of all the mechanical accelerator suits that give the wearer superhuman powers, the gargantuan undersea laboratory or the nanomite warheads that eat through everything like GORT from the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still. Few people will recall playing with those creations from the Hasbro toy company. In terms of faithfulness to the original line of figurines that became a household name in the 80s, about all that is retained are the names.
Baroness goes through multiple outfit changes like a twisted dark Barbie, Dubble Bubble is now the official gum of the Joes, Ripcord hands out life lessons and theories on attraction and bizarre relationships between the main characters conflict with every comic book and cartoon show storyline before it. With a Wayans brother in the lead and a cameo by Brendan Fraser, the level of seriousness (or lack thereof) is immediately apparent. Even the CG is too ambitious, occasionally slacking on vehicle designs and movement. When a shot of a computer animated polar bear is necessary, perhaps it’s time to rethink the amount of graphics to utilize.
Director Stephen Sommers also couldn’t seem to eliminate the need for Arnold Vosloo (who played the mummy in his earlier films) or pyramids. At least the director embraced nonstop action, destruction and general mayhem (in what seems to be a competition against Roland Emmerich), which gives the film an undeniable level of excitement, even if it’s frequently lessened by comical yet authentic “Knowing is half the battle!” blurbs. Duke sums it up when he exclaims, “That was crazy! I didn’t expect that!” after plowing through Paris streets in his accelerator suit to protect a doomed Eiffel Tower. Except that we did expect just about every memorable aspect of G.I. Joe lore to be completely redefined in this explosive, outlandish, and most of all silly, action extravaganza.
– The Massie Twins