'G.I. Joe' - Very Nice - Alex's Review

"I'm throwing my arms around Paris because only stone and steel accept my love"

Something I've learnt from multitudinous 'Joe' reviews: Apparently it's the etiquette to make confessions reaching to your childhood. Unfortunately, my knowledge about the franchise doesn't extend beyond being a happy owner of two bootleg Action Men when I was tiny. Everything else I had the pleasure (sometimes) to get acquainted with since the announcement of Destro casting. And there had been some dazzling oscillations between despair and hope during these 18 months. I've both claimed to have started stashing valium for the première and expressed hopes the film would be gadget-y and action-y enough to suppress any doubts.
In short, I was expecting everything and nothing.

Another thing I've learnt from the reviews, is that some of the critics suffer from complicated condition of seemingly having read Advanced Macroeconomics instead of fairytales when they were kids and 'G.I. Joe' being the first movie they've ever watched, all this peppered with serious allergy for sci-fi. Such a shame, because - I can immediately say - 'Joe' is an enjoyable film with an absolutely transparent plot, character lines that move in the same general direction; and multiple stories are never confusing. The film is well hammered together, and even if you're extremely picky, each time there's something you dislike, it's followed up with a new ingredient you might prefer better.

Now, Chris Eccleston's character. It's both what I've expected and some rather neat inventions. I'd like to look at the portrayal through the two character pairs.

First, there's McCullen and The Doctor. In the beginning their positions in the business are precisely - but still implicitly - denoted. You get the dynamics between them, for example, in the cobra scene (which yielded the lovely 'Very nice.' line - said as if to a cat that brought home a dead mouse; a glimpse of sadly generally rejected extra quirkiness) - and it is clear how the power is shared (as much as it's shared) between them, - but the development eventually suffers from the necessity to keep The Doctor in the shadows. And there's little elegance in the castling of the finale.

While this relationship is more or less as I've imagined it, some specific aspects of McCullen's corporate guise are very good, for example, a sort of - occupational happiness? - and pride tingeing the smugness, or the overall ease, feeling at home anywhere, even strolling about as a hologram.
Some are less so, such as nuances in McCullen's attitude toward the creepiness of his associate and the experiments. Of course, it's the origins story, and the businessman side can still be prevailing, nonetheless, looking at how advanced their plans are - and what these plans are - McCullen probably should have been even less scrupulous. And speaking of things I've missed, I wish he had more tasks to perform, beside walking and talking - or is it expounding, - in this regard I prefer Destro comic prequel, with a more hands-on approach.

Then, there's McCullen and The Baroness. Given the changes this interpretation brought, I had no idea where the film would go regarding their relationship. It was therefore interesting to observe it, and, especially due to a certain twist in the story, it does have several layers, and is not immediately decipherable. For example the hologram scene between the two could almost be called poetic (and it's not the certified plastic of blockbusters by numbers, I'd say, thanks to the actors). It should be noted that all the hologram communication is one of the better things in this film, supplying the extra level of threat or humour or even, in retrospect, wistfulness. Indeed, some quite good weighing down is provided by the hints that there's more behind McCullen's macho possessiveness, also in the context that The Baroness is his soldier.

All in all, McCullen's story is interesting - on one hand, he seems like the only realistic person, on the other, as soon as you remember the underwater empire, he's clearly in the league of his own.

As for the infamous accent (well, one critic even complained about Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje's own London accent), I'm perfectly happy with it - although I had two flashbacks to Eccleston's characters with accents other than Scottish. The language, as it was, suited McCullen well - and was totally in keeping with the comics' apparent tradition of accent/foreign tongue application (see the jet commands scene).

Overall, if I had to, I'd complain about messy training sequence in the beginning (if Snake Eyes talked, I was sure he'd ask 'How did I beat you?'), thank Channing Tatum for not making me doubt which side I'm supporting, and wonder why they didn't trust Sienna Miller's Baroness - who showed some personality, especially when not blonde - with a proper character motivation and had her blinking at a plot twist instead (if amplified, emotions present now would be enough).

Everything else belongs in the genre, the context of comics and cartoons, and 'G.I. Joe' is a splendid emulation in this regard - it's not just the story of Joes that has been tapped into the live action film, but also the technical side of it. I cannot give an answer what the ultimate function of all the cinematic pseudo-inter-quotes is, aside from entertainment, but what I do know is that the film is absolutely successful at what it tries to achieve.

And among things it achieves, is the grounding, for while everything is top-notch futuristic, you can't help but notice that it's through a business plan that a war, promised by the ancestor, is waged. Even before McCullen moves on Paris, he's already the ruler of the world. He only has to point it out to its population.

And some of those details - the girl with balloons in the weapons demonstration for NATO, later, again, balloons going up in the chaos - for better or worse, they just wouldn't allow me to instantaneously - as some have done - write the film off, even if I didn't enjoy it as much as I did.

This review is brought to you by:

Metropolitan Accountability & Reconciliation Strategy =)



Tarot said...

I really enjoyed this movie (having seen it 6 times thus far) and I really liked your post here on it.

I grew up watching the animated GI Joe series and I had a few "Joes" as well.

Alex said...

Cheers. Only 6 times? (j/k) I doubt I'll manage that before the dvd.

What neither Chiclit, nor I have mentioned, but are wondering about, is the scenes that were probably eaten by the nanomites - like the one from the trailer ('What did you say your unit was called?'), were there more?

Tarot said...

I'm hoping they will be on the DVD when it comes out.

Alex said...

Having read the novelization, which is based on the locked script, but not on the final, in-production, edit, I find the scene between McCullen and the general somewhat superfluous, so it makes sense that it was removed in editing, making place for the incarceration scene (which isn't in the book) in the end.

As no other scenes from the novel are absent - just modified or slightly curtailed - it could mean that the sequence, glimpsed at in the trail, is unique, speaking of unused McCullen material. On the other hand, it might be just random mathematics, one plus, one minus, that doesn't indicate anything and we'll see something new in the extras.