G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: * 3/4 (out of 4)
Is this what it felt like to watch Transformers 2 for non-Transformers fans?
I never watched G.I. Joe when I was a kid, mostly because my mother didn't want me to. She didn't appreciate violent television shows; G.I. Joe was pretty much the canonical example. Mind, nobody died when the planes blew up every episode, and really the violence didn't matter all that much; but still, it was officially verboten. Besides, my brother and I were too busy watching Transformers to care. But what it did mean was that I only had a passing understanding of the series - a few characters, a few commercials, and the "knowing is half the battle" bits from when the episode aired just before the show that I actually wanted to watch.
With that little background, the first live-action G.I. Joe movie was less engaging for me than it would be for others of my generation. Not only did I not have the sense of "hey, I recognize that guy!", I didn't have the more engaging sense of "hey, they screwed that guy up!". I remained unconnected to the movie, and therefore better able to contemplate the plot, characters, dramatic timing, and explosion quotient on their own terms. And out of these, the only area where I can really offer praise is in the sheer quantity of explosives.
The one area that the movie truly "shines" is science and technology. This movie really enjoyed the "any suitably advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic" concept, inasmuch as it constantly science as a (nonsensical) magic bullet. As an example: nanites are used as anti-bullet body armor (but not arrows!). Sonic weapons are the ultimate weapons (but they forget about them a lot), travelling between Moscow and Washington DC by plane takes about four minutes, and the speed-suits are so cool that only the two new recruits can use them. And I won't even tell you what you get when you combine nanites with particle accelerators...
The plot was ludicrous. Yes, you knew that going in; but to be clear, I am saying that it was ludicrous compared to other toy-movie adaptations. Most of the action was cool to look at, but it was absolutely unnecessary to the story beyond that. The car chase scene was the "official" spotlight of the film, but it didn't make any sense either, either in the specific (why are they driving that way?) or the general (why are they driving at all?). Scenes like this abounded, and may in fact have been the point. At least the silliness was kindof funny at times.
The characters were, of course, shallow and foolish. Yes, two of them were women with a lot of cleavage; if that's what you're looking for, you've got it. But the only character that I feel was both trying to be a character and did so without actively offending me was the guy played by a Wayans brother. What kind of world is that? (I should, for fairness, note that the actors probably did about as well with their roles as you could hope. Well, except for Storm Shadow. He was really, really bad.)
The dramatic timing outright angered me in at least one spot. A lot of effort was spent explaining the relationship between The Baroness and other men; and one of the major point was that Storm Shadow's role in life was to kill those that kissed her. Well, this happened once; it did not happen the second time. A major dramatic point was ruined simply because they didn't feel like it. This isn't okay.
Oh, and while I don't know where to mention it, I just want to note that this movie made me believe that Cobra's true goal should have been to stop global warming, for the simple reason that it would let them hold onto their Arctic base for longer. And perhaps it's worth noting that the ice should have floated. shrug Whatever.