Thursday, August 20, 2009

G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra

Recently, I was talking with a young work colleague about my disappointment having seen Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. No doubt feeling I was being overly critical, possibly feeling I'd missed the point, he remarked:

'what you've got to remember mate is they [the filmmakers] are trying to appeal to a very wide cross-section of people, young people as well as old people like you'.

Thanks mate!

Recently, when I've looked forward to a new film or comic book it's often been the case that I've felt let down or disappointed, my expectations were so great. I was really looking forward to seeing G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra, so my expectations were high, and I'm pleased to say I wasn't disappointed.

The filmmakers faced a difficult task introducing so many different characters to an audience that perhaps weren't previously that familiar with the world of G.I. Joe - I thought they tackled it brilliantly. It's clear that this film is intended to be the first in a series and it would have been easy to shackle it with the tag of an 'origins' film: two hours exploring the main characters and organisations, their relationships and so on. Rather what we got was a great blend of self-contained ongoing storyline mixed with back story told in flashbacks. This isn't an approach I usually enjoy but here it worked perfectly.

Throughout the film the tone of the dialogue was spot on: yes, some of it was a bit predictable and exaggerated but I actually found this quite charming. When a lighter touch was called for it was 'knockabout' or fun rather than farce. There were no 'silly' characters, what he had were one or two humourous characters.

I thought the cast as a whole was excellent although particular mention should be made of the standout performances from Byung-Hun Lee as Storm Shadow, Sienna Miller as The Baroness/Ana, Marlon Wayans - who skillfully kept the character of Ripcord away from farce whilst retaining a real sense of fun - and of course Christopher Eccleston who was magnificent in the role of McCullen/Destro.

The storyline was superbly paced, engaging, and involving. The 'structure' of the film - combining all of these elements - reminded me of the great James Bond films from a few years ago: lots of action interspersed with character development, all building to the point where the space station, secret island hide-away or underwater headquarters would be destroyed just seconds after our heroes escaped. Formulaic? Of course, but when the formula is this good then why not?

Coming away from the cinema, having thoroughly enjoyed every moment of the film, I couldn't help but make comparisons with Transformers 2 and conclude that, for me at least, G.I. Joe succeeded in every area that Transformers had failed: and then some.

I've read and heard a number of negative reviews of the film but I wonder what these reviewers were expecting (fans of Transformers 2 would probably ask me the same question about G.I. Joe). I'm led to believe that the story doesn't particularly respect G.I. Joe continuity but, on the other hand, I'm also told that there isn't really a clearly defined 'Joe' continuity to follow.

This isn't a film that's going to change your life, it's not a film with a deep social commentary. It's what I think the filmmakers intended it to be: whether you are young or, like me very old, it's 2 hours of great entertainment.