G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

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In 1964 Hasbro introduced the 11 ½ inch GI Joe doll to corner the boys toys market much as Mattel had with achieved with Barbie for girls several years earlier.  Over the next 45 years Joe changed from an autonomous, village burning, infantryman, into a select mercenary for international justice.  He grew a radical beard, wore a hip afro at one point, got his mysterious, teardrop facial scar Dermabrased, and eventually shrunk to a more adroit 3 ¾ inches.  He’s lived an action filled life on animated t.v., kids movies and video games for years until, at long last, now brought into a full action, $170 million feature.  He’s played by the synthetically handsome Channing Tatum, who, frankly, acts too well like a guy who’s made of inanimate polyethylene compound.  To find myself liking G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is something like maybe discovering dance in the amazing flexibility of thermoplastic in an educational film from Dow Chemical.  That is, there’s nothing interesting to see here, at least for the first two acts of the film.  The uncountable characters are uniformly inorganic, and one-dimensional as are their various loyalties and vendettas.  The repetitious holograming between already obscure settings is confusing.  And the cartoonish special effects of the long chase scene through the streets of Paris makes this movie seem a closer relative of Michael Jordon’s Space Jam than some great new sci-fi franchise.  However, by the time it gets to the third act at The North Pole, it does actually seem to take form for several reasons.  One is that the action sequences move to more controllable environments, away from the distractions of real city streets, and the special effects don’t look so fake.  Second is that the story unfolds into a Star Wars type three plots of action model.  Recall that in the original Star Wars  there is a huge battle in space to destroy the Death Star.  At the same time Luke is on the Death Star rescuing Princess Leia and there is also a mono-a-mono light saber battle between the central antagonists.  George Lucas used this same triple-finale model in every Star Wars sequal/prequel and the device is well employed for dramatic tension in GIJ: in the air, underwater and in a good brother versus bad brother martial arts sequence.  You would really have to hate action, special effects, and implausible outcomes to dislike the last third of GIJ.  There is no substance here and the end product is a 120 minute trailer for the 2nd, 3rd,  9th , and 15th sequels.  But I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t ready to abandon my adult standards and say “Go, Joe!”

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