After the travesty that was Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), I went into G.I. Joe with about as much enthusiasm as a nihilist. After all, here was a film directed by Stephen Sommers, a Michael Bay clone who in 2004 brought us the terrible Van Helsing. And true to form, Sommers has demonstrated his complete disregard for quality yet again, this time with a film based on a Hasbro toy line.
As nonsensical plots go, this is way up there. After a highly irrelevant prologue which takes place in 17th century France, we fast forward to the near future, where Christopher Eccleston has given up being Doctor Who in order to take over the world with an army of “nanobites”, microscopic robots capable of eating through anything in their path. His reasons for world domination are never explained beyond the typical antagonistic persuasions, but this is clearly of no concern to the director, who introduces so many characters within the first 15 minutes I felt like I was hallucinating during a casting call.
Eccleston is of course surrounded by a group of sidekicks, ranging from a sexy leather clad Sienna Miller to a Korean martial arts expert, played by Byung-hun Lee, star of the absolutely bloody brilliant The Good, The Bad, The Weird (2008). There’s also an asthmatic scientist who speaks repeatedly of superhuman soldiers known as the rise of cobra, a term so placid and unthreatening he may just as well have been reading out the winning lottery numbers.
Naturally, an assortment of good guys is gathered together under the name G.I. Joe, supposedly the best of the best despite being caught off guard by ten people in an underground vehicle. Presumably they slipped under their one security camera. The main character is Duke, a character about as 2 dimensional as the film he was captured on. In virtually every shot he appears torn between two thoughts; his obligation to portraying a character and whether or not he left the oven on that morning.
He’s joined by a Wayans brother who literally gets dumber throughout the film, a hot red-head who lets the whole feminist movement down by crying (BOO HOO!), samurai Jack and a giant so stereotypically English I fully expected him to halt the drama in favour of tea and scones. Even with Dennis Quaid leading the good fight, one can’t help but sense in his eyes a look of unbearable sadness; the realisation that it all went downhill after The Parent Trap (1998).
In films such as this, it is not so much a suspension of disbelief but its complete refusal that is required. After all, here is a film in which recruits are deployed into the field within mere hours of joining an organisation. One such recruit shows his proclivity for combat during a training match which is reminiscent of that round in Gladiators where contenders twatted each other using what I can only describe as giant cotton ear buds. Feeling the threat of worldwide destruction to be nothing more than a minor blip in the history of human endeavour, Dennis Quaid feels confident in dispatching only six soldiers en route to Paris to prevent terrorists from destroying the Eiffel Tower.
What follows is a ridiculously excessive, although undeniably fun chase sequence in which the Americans cause more destruction than the bad guys, something which will be laughably familiar to anyone who has seen Team America (2004). Worse still is the amount of fun the whole team to be having as hundreds of Parisians are killed around them. I say the whole team, in fact the two foreigners are forced to stay inside a van during proceedings and watch the entire thing unfold via a sophisticated Nintendo DS.
So a travesty? Most definitely. This review barely even scrapes the surface of how truly terrible G.I. Joe is and I daren’t even get started on the CGI. And yet, despite all of its flaws, there is something appealing about the entire affair. It’s bad, but it’s never painful. In many ways G.I. Joe is what Transformers would be if it didn’t take itself seriously. In fact I’d liken it to a parent’s love for an under-performing child. They may not be as intelligent or popular or even attractive as the other children, but they’re still your child goddammit!