If the summer of 2008 was the summer of the superhero, then 2009 looks like the summer of Hasbro. And as the sequel to the blockbuster Transformers movie continues to break records, fans are gearing up for the release of the long awaited adaptation of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.
Perhaps “gearing up” isn’t exactly the phrase we’re looking for? It might be more appropriate to say that fans are “bracing themselves” for the release of this film. It seems that since the day it was announced, this movie has been mired in controversy. The release of the trailer hasn’t exactly helped matters. Fans have been waiting over 25 years for this film, but it’s looking more and more likely that they’ll send it back. Having followed the news regarding G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra since the beginning, it seems safe to say that it isn’t going to live up to anyone’s expectations. Here are the top five factors:
1. From the Director of The Mummy
Just because something makes a lot of money does not make it good. Case in point: The Mummy franchise. We’re entrusting leadership of America’s highly trained, special mission force to the man who gave us a string of goofy popcorn flicks featuring a third-rate Indiana Jones knock-off? Seriously?
Beyond the Mummy films, this is the man was given the ultimate no-brainer and still managed to foul it up: Van Helsing. When you put the classic Universal monsters in one film with character designs by the genius that is Bernie Wrightson, one would naturally assume that the movie simply has to be good by default. But have you seen Van Helsing? It’s such a travesty that not even the presence of Wolverine could save it! It features a team of horses jumping a bridge! Ridiculous is not a big enough word to describe that sequence (though we must admit, it is at least kind of cool).
And now Stephen Sommers has been given control of the greatest anti-terrorist squad known to man. The free world shudders at the prospect.
2. Rumors, Rewrites and Reviews
From the word “go,” this movie has put a lead weight in the collective stomach of G.I. Joe fans ‘round the world due to what appear to be numerous attempts to ensure that it doesn’t even remotely resemble the G.I. Joe fans know and love. An initial draft of the script featured a character named Rex who mutated into Cobra Commander to lead Destro’s army of super soldiers. Later versions featured the British Action Man who was married to Scarlett, with no Cobra organization whatsoever and a Snake Eyes that could speak! That’s about as far from G.I. Joe as you can get.
And the hits just keep on coming. Latino Review reported rumors alleging Steven Sommers’ removal from post production and tales of test screenings that received “the lowest scores in Paramount history.” Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura quickly refuted the rumors, but the damage may have already been done. Anyone familiar with this marvelous invention we call the interweb knows full well that the average geek makes up their mind about a movie a good 6 to 8 months before its release. In all honesty, if geeks don’t want to like something they simply won’t like it. On the other hand, if they choose to enjoy it, no amount of bad reviews can keep them from shelling out their hard-earned money and shouting “What did you expect, Shakespeare?” (See: Transformers 2). Unfortunately for G.I. Joe, fans already seem to have made up their minds.
3. G.Iron Man?
Yes, yes: it’s no secret that the U.S. Military is working on all sorts of cutting edge weaponry in real life and that some sort of exoskeleton or super suit is chief among them. So it’s not unrealistic to think that G.I. Joe, known far and wide for their own cutting--nay, bleeding edge technology would utilize some variety of exoskeleton at some point. But upon seeing the accelerator suits in the trailer, the first thing that came to mind was the notion that Iron Man and the characters from the Halo video games had a baby. It feels like a deliberate attempt to cash in on another franchises success.
There’s a saying: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” When Hollywood starts adding unnecessary elements to a perfect recipe, it inevitably ends up tasting like a shit sandwich. Hey, do you like chocolate chips? We do too; but we wouldn’t put ‘em in a cherry pie.
Hopefully these hi-tech suits of armor will be saved for the grand finale and won’t be featured much throughout the rest of the movie.
4. 1,687 G.I. Joes between the years 1982 and 1997 and they chose Ripcord?
Seriously, what’s up with these character choices? Obviously there are a lot of Joes out there and everybody has got their favorites--there’s no possible way to include them all. But Ripcord? Heavy Duty? Really?
Stalker, Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, Mutt & Junkyard. Walk into a crowded room and ask people to name their favorite G.I. Joe characters and these are but a few of the names you’ll hear. But Ripcord? I doubt it. You’re more likely to hear Sgt. Slaughter’s name thrown out than Ripcord. And let’s not even get into Cobra. Zartan with no Dreadnoks? Where’s Major Bludd?
And who the #&$% is Heavy Duty? Where’s ROADBLOCK?!?!
5. G.I. Who?
Both G.I. Joe and Cobra are known for their highly recognizable characters. While the first few series’ of figures were more-or-less all dressed in green army fatigues, everyone had a certain something that made them unique, gave a clue to their character and made them totally identifiable. Wild Bill had a cowboy hat, Flash had those nifty orange catcher’s pads, Stalker had a beret, Rock n’ Roll had a beard and a couple of crisscrossed bullet straps on his chest. Of course as the line progressed, the characters got more and more unique and we saw characters like Shipwreck, Flint and Blowtorch who looked about as militaristic as the X-Men.
Obviously, replicating the look of the toy line for the film would likely end up looking like a sequel to the Village People’s 1980 classic Can’t Stop the Music, but would it have killed them to at least make these characters somewhat resemble the ones Joe fans know and love? A quick glance at the trailer and posters reveal that the movie will feature Snake Eyes, Baroness, Storm Shadow and … uh… a white guy and a black guy and a dude in a suit and tie.
Put a bandolier strap on Duke. Give one character a headband or a beret or something. If you can’t make these guys look even remotely like the characters upon which they are based, at least make them not look like a team of clones. The whole point of G.I. Joe is that these guys aren’t just regular Army dudes who all look the same; they’re the best of the best and sometimes that means that they’re a bit eccentric and express themselves uniquely. The movie should showcase that.
As for the Cobra side of things, who is this gentleman in a three-piece suit that keeps popping up in all the trailers? Oh, that’s Destro? That’s funny--for the past 27 years, Destro has been depicted as a man who wears a shiny metal face mask. Hey, here’s an idea: How about making a Superman movie in which the main character wears a black leather outfit with no cape and a mask that covers his blond hair? It makes about as much sense.
And it extends past the human characters. Equally as important to the G.I. Joe universe as Cobra Commander, Destro and Duke are the assortment of vehicles the Joes and Cobras utilize in their war. Many of these vehicles are characters unto themselves and are just as identifiable and important as the humans who operate them. Obviously certain vehicles such as the Sky Striker or MOBAT aren’t going to be depicted as ‘80s era military hardware, but where are the Cobra C.L.A.W.s? The G.I. Joe Sky Hawk? How about the F.A.N.G. one-man helicopter or most importantly, the backbone of Cobra’s air force, the Trouble Bubbles? Cobra forces without Trouble Bubbles are like a venomous snake without its fangs. Worthless.
Instead we get a Hummer with hidden rocket launchers and a brief shot of something that may or may not be a S.H.A.R.C. Oh boy. People aren’t going to the theater to see a movie called “High Tech Army Guys,” they’re going to see G.I. Joe. How about giving the people what they want?