G.I. Joe has been around in one form or another since 1942. The idea was licensed by Hasbro in 1967, leading to the first “movable fighting man” or action figure ("'cause boys don't play with dolls!"), and we have had the modern incarnation of cartoons, comics and action figures since the mid-1980s. The 1985 cartoon featured the adventures of the G.I. Joes versus the evil organization Cobra. Both sides featured characters with crazy gimmicks and features, because it was a kids cartoon, and you couldn’t really feature soldiers shooting at each other with guns and bullets in a kids show. It also had the PSA at the end of episode, where "now you know, and knowing is half the battle!”
Stephen Sommers is a director who specializes in big. The live action Jungle Book was his first, moving on to Deep Rising, the Mummy, the Mummy Returns, Van Helsing, and G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra. His movies are all way over-the-top crazy action-adventure pieces. This, of course, means that I am a fan of his. I really enjoyed G.I. Joe 1 – having no previous knowledge of the cartoon or comics. It gave some minor background on the characters, the squad, and how Cobra Commander and Destro came to be, also 'splosions and action and a Brendan Fraser cameo!
The sequel was originally supposed to come out in June of 2012, but due to 3D conversion, and adding more scenes with Channing Tatum (because he had such a major year last year), it was delayed until now.
This time around the movie is produced by Sommers, and directed by John M. Chu, who directed Step Up 2 and 3. It features more of the same (‘splosions and action, but no Bredan Fraser this time), with a few more characters. In terms of plot – well, the Joes square off against Cobra who has infiltrated the White House due to Master of Disguise Zartan’s work. The Joes have their unit demolished, everyone except for Flint, Lady Jaye, and Roadblock killed; and they have to set out to get some help and some new toys to stop Cobra from taking over (or destroying?) the world. They encounter the original Joe, and pick up Snake Eyes and Jinx. Cobra Commander gets a better outfit, a pretty badass helmet, and the help of Firefly. Chu doesn’t have much film directing experience at this point, so it’s hard to say if this matches his style, but there is a lot of movement, and there are really no slow points.
The cast is some of the same from the first, with some new additions:
· Channing Tatum briefly returns as Duke, and again – all the buddy sequences with him and the Rock were added in over the year delay. He’s still charming and fun, and maybe the movie could have used even more of him. Gone are Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Heavy Duty, Christopher Eccleston as Destro, Sienna Miller as the Baroness, Rachel Nichols as Scarlett, Marlon Wayans as Ripcord, and Dennis Quaid as General Hawk. Instead we get some new additions:
· Dwayne Johnson (the Rock) as Roadblock: He brings his characteristic fun and energy, and is starting to look crazy huge again – I guess when he stopped doing the kids movies, he decided to bulk up again. He is a fantastic movie star, and has a huge career in front of him – and he’s better than this movie lets him be, but he does as well as he can with what he was given.
· Adrianne Palicki plays Lady Jaye and actually gets some character moments, but not many. She’s capable, not capable enough to make me wish that Wonder Woman series starring her had gotten off the ground (I don’t think she could pull that off). She’s not bad in this – and is sufficiently tough enough to keep up with the guys.
· D.J. Cotrona plays Flint, and he gets no character moments. I had a hard time remembering if he had any lines in the movie (he did), so I guess he’s a bit forgettable. Not his fault when he spends most of the movie standing next to the Rock.
· Ray Park is back as Snake Eyes, although you never see him. Movement-wise, he’s great, and Snake Eyes is still cool as hell – probably because of the whole silent-ninja thing. The mask is a little different this time around, no mouth.
· Elodie Yung is new this time around as Jinx, and proves to be just above forgettable. She did some stuff, just not entirely sure what.
· Byung-Hun Lee returns at Storm Shadow and Lautners the hell out of his first scene (his shirt is off within his first 30 seconds – no complaints here!). He’s quietly menacing, and another great ninja-style character.
· Johnathan Pryce plays Arnold Vosloo playing Zartan. Yes, that’s a little confusing, but as you know, Vosloo played Zartan in the first movie, and the final scene was him taking over the President’s life and locking up the President, which was played by Pryce. Vosloo has maybe two moments in the movie, and Pryce chews the scenery in the rest of them. Perfect for the tone.
· Bruce Willis plays Bruce Willis. He’s quiet, and shoots a bunch of stuff. That’s about it.
· Walton Goggins in is this, but for the life of me, I cannot figure out why. He was entertaining for the brief time he was around. It was almost exactly like Michael Wincott in the Count of Monte Cristo (check that reference).
· One of the best parts of this movie was the addition of Ray Stevenson as Firefly. He’s always decent and brings some life to the villains. He also has the size (6’4”) to make for a worthy fight opponent of the Rock (6’5”). I wasn’t completely sure the accent was necessary – Stevenson is very British, and he seemed to be doing American Southern? But, he was fun and entertaining for the most part, plus the little exploding fireflies were cool.
There you have it – listen, this movie is not great by any means, and if you have any kind of emotional attachment to the 80s cartoon/comics, you are probably already upset enough by the first movie that you are refusing to see the second. If you like dumb action movies, and don’t expect too much – it’s certainly entertaining. See it in 3D if you see it, just for the fireflies.
7 out of 10 – Fun, but dumb – exactly what I expected, and that’s not entirely a bad thing. Gained points for the fireflies, did I mention them yet? Lost points for Flint being practically useless. Gained points for the ninja sequences, but lost points on how they didn’t really fit the movie. Gained points for Byung-Hun Lee being shirtless and rocking that, lost points for the Rock NOT being shirtless – which is insane, because all of his shirts seem entirely too small for him. Simultaneously lost and gained points for the RZA – crazy awesome.
Bonus Video 1: Deep Rising. While the Mummy is Stephen Sommers’s best movie, you really should check out this one – hilarious and bizarre.
Bonus Video 2: Hard Target – the reason I love Arnold Vosloo (well, this and that one episode of the Red Shoe Diaries…remember that?)
Bonus Video 3: Ray Stevenson is fine in the Punisher sequel (third Punisher movie), but his Titus Pullo is the best part of Rome, the HBO show. Check that out if you never saw it.
Bonus Video 4: Cast Interviews!