Unreal Movie Review: G.I. Joe


G.I. Joe is without a doubt the best toy-based action motion picture of the summer. High praise, I know, considering its competition, the 3-hour explosionfest, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, whose shockingly bad dialogue and plotline is only surpassed by its unexpected dose of racism.

But actually, taking a step back, in a summer filled with lackluster blockbusters, G.I. Joe actually manages to squeeze out a middle-of-the-road finish, a far cry from claims it was shaping up to a complete abomination. Sure it’s no Star Trek or Harry Potter, but it certainly is more enjoyable than Wolverine, Terminator or the aforementioned Transformers trainwreck.

And why is that exactly? A big part of it has to do with lowered expectations, and a decidedly un-rabid fanbase. Take Wolverine, for example. His character is universally beloved as the greatest superhero of all time. So when his masters at Fox decided to make his origin story a bloodless, mutant-overloaded mess, fans were understandably upset. Same goes for Terminator Salvation, which took a once-beloved franchise and bludgeoned it into something it was never meant to be.

But where are the G.I. Joe fans? Surely they exists, but they’re far fewer in number than even the Transformers faithful, and therefore, there’s not many people to get upset about “staying true to the source material,” something that often locks filmmakers up like a prison (see Watchmen). G.I. Joe was allowed to be absolutely anything at all it wanted, and what we get is a rather fun (albeit mindless) action film that should do no harm to anyone.

There is a good bunch of super soldiers called the G.I. Joes. There is an evil bunch of super soldiers called Cobra Command (or at least they’re called that by the end). Both teams posses futuristic weapon, armor and vehicle technology that outstrips anything the world has ever seen. Therefore, the governments of earth are content to sit back and watch them duke it out and hope the planet doesn’t get blown up in the process.


Look, you can just call it “Master Chief” armor. You might as well.

I was struck by the film as being the first movie to accurately depict what it was like playing with action figures as a child. The guns don’t simply fire bullets, they fire giant blue pulses that send an enemy flying across the room like he was being thrown by a five year-old. The soldiers don’t simply perform impressive athletic feats, they’re given superhuman suits that let them jump over buildings and run as fast as cars like they were being carried by a third grader with no concept of physics.

The complete disregard for any of the laws of nature (ice sinks? Sure why not) is what makes this movie fun, and allows for a surprisingly decent number of quality action scenes, the highlight of which is a chase through downtown Paris that might actually tip the scales to win G.I. Joe the award for “most numbers of vehicles destroyed in a single movie.”

But what about when the action calms down, and we have to get to know our Joes? The movie does a good job of making sure each character is a caricature, a one-dimensional piece of plastic with little more than a catch phrase and a distinct set of weapons. That may be seen as a negative most of the time, but G.I. Joe embraces the fact that it is toy-based with a wink and a smile. You can see it in Baronesses overflowing chest. You can hear it in Cobra Commander’s cackling voice. You can feel it as explosions from a thousand firing rocket launchers rumble your very bones.



The fact is, G.I. Joe is one big joke. And the only time the movie suffers is when it forgets that. There’s no need to give character motivations, and flashbacks to love affairs and origin stories do nothing but take away from time that could be spent blowing things up. No one missed the memo more than the original Joe himself, Duke, as Channing Tatum refuses to go over the top for the role, and shoots the whole thing like his character is an extension of the solemn Iraqi vet he played in Stop-Loss. You’re in a different world here Channing, there are no IEDs and suicide bombers here. Only red lasers, blue lasers and accelerator suits.

The visual style of the film is mostly pretty slick, though CGI can get spotty during unexpected times. For example, they might take years to lovingly animate the Eiffel Tower collapsing, but only spend three minutes animating a hover-plane lowering into a desert base. And it shows. The vehicle and costume designs are usually a great adaptation of the toys, except in one case, Cobra Commander’s horrible bubble-faced mask. I guess they got uncomfortable about his old costume, which is loosely based on the hypothetical situation of a Darth Vader joining the Klu Klux Klan.

The film is a constant barrage of CGI, explosions and cleavage, everything modern film critics hate about the current state of the industry, but fortunately, G.I. Joe doesn’t take itself seriously whatsoever, and I fully believe there’s a place for movies like this in the industry. There’s no mythology, there’s nothing connecting it to the real world and there’s almost no pretense that we should care about these characters. It’s a mutli-million dollar adaptation of your kid nephew slamming his toys together, and if you go in expecting just that, you’ll leave having enjoyed yourself. The film is undeniably stupid, yet undeniably fun in the same breath. It’s by no means a must-see, but there are far worse ways to waste your time this summer.

3 out of 5 stars


Each sold separately. 

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  1. If the movie doesn’t take itself seriously, that’s got to be a major plus. In fact, it’s the only way something like this could work. I’m actually somewhat interested in seeing it now.

  2. I was dissapointed with this movie, it seems like a clash of: Matrix + Robocop + star wars + transformers….
    They could had spend much better on FX, you could see how fake the destruction of paris was, specially the streets…
    On the plus side, the soundtrack was cool.

  3. I read this review before I saw the movie and I freaking loved the movie!

    I went in expecting nothing more than over-the-top chase scenes, fight scenes, and explosions galore and it did not dissapoint.

    And because of this review I kept picturing a five-year-old smashing his action figures together and against the wall.

    If you go in expecting a serious movie, prepare to be disappointed…

    Go in expecting a crazy explosion-fest that basically screams at physics, “screw you!”

    If you do this, you will come out with a grin on your face and thinking that there is a possibility that this is one of the best movies in the last year.

  4. @ JM

    There’s just no way I’m going to like this movie. I’ve decided that. If a condition for liking a movie is to “turn your brain off,” count me out. I know it’s probably my loss, but I simply don’t like doing that.

  5. First off I should state that I was/am a huge fan of “G.I. Joe: A real American Hero”, the show/comics played somewhat of a role in my childhood.

    From the get go I knew I was going to hate this movie, just b/c of all the things that I’ve seen and all the rumors flying about. But in the back of my mind I was willing to give it a chance just b/c I would like to see a revival of the franchise for a new generation.

    Well I went and seen it and basically the list of things that I didn’t like are way too long; so I’ll just list what I did like….surprisingly I did like the XL suits (not the Halo suits that I thought they would be). And I liked that whole car chase scene. Also the whole back and fourth b/w Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes was cool, and of course the way the Baroness looked (not the way she spoke or her back story…they totally f-ed that up.) Oh and General Hawk was dead on. And thats all. The rest of the movie was trash.

    (potential spoilers ahead)
    They totally took everything I loved from G.I. Joe’s as a kid and crapped all over it. These characters were iconic in there own sense; Duke is supposed to be the American model hero (and to an extent he was in the movie) but what was up with his stupid wigger accent? Destro isn’t supposed to be Irish, nor is he supposed to be lanky, he’s a built always showing off his chest and from the get go he should have had the helmet. Cobra Commander just too many misses here to list I would rather not even get into it. The Baroness, she’s supposed to have a Russian accent and never was she a protagonist (although visually I should add that Sieanna Miller nailed it). Zartan is supposed to have long hair and a tattooed face. There isn’t supposed to be a mouth outline of Snake Eyes mask.

    I know that I’m being picky, but I wasn’t from the beginning, I was actually enjoying the movie, but somewhere when they got to the underground ice fortress IMO the movie fell apart. I truly enjoying the flick up to that point………I mean MIND CONTROL !?!

    Oh well it is what it is, the only way I can stay optimistic is that if there is a sequel (which I hope there isn’t) that now the characters can take on there regular roles, and hopefully take on there Iconic looks and sounds.

    Anyways guys thanks for letting me rant, hope everyone enjoyed it more than I did.

  6. I have to agree with Jaromir on most of his points. The movie was basic trash. Its the first movie I’ve seen with the wigger that played Duke and hopefully its the last movie I see him in. Bad acting, bad writing, terrible cgi effects and no effort in recreating the characters to their comic/cartoon personas. Im 32 and G.I. Joe was my life when I was a kid. BBoooooooo.

  7. I went and saw it last night. What trash… Could have been soooo much better. The CGI (not that good) over shadows everything. The characters are truly unrealistic… The storyline/plot is extremely shallow guessed the whole movie in 20 mins. Overall a true waste of time… If I paid for the movie would be looking to get my money back (I have an unlimited cinema ticket)…..

    WOuld not even bother pirating it……

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