Yo Joe

Personally I don’t know what the flap over the movie being horrible was all about, nor do I know why Paramount only screened this movie to a handful of reviewers instead of the normal press.  Let’s be clear about something, this is a movie based on a toy line.  Anyone going in expecting to be wowed by plot developments and characters is going in not knowing what this movie is.  And what it is is fun.  Pure adrennilin end of the summer, go to the movies one last time before school starts and shut your brain off fun.  Perhaps it’s because Transformers 2 was so God aweful.  Perhaps because I expected the movie to stink I was pleasently surprised.  Or at least was not let down from my lowered expectations.  If. like me you’re basing your criticism of this movie juxtaposed with the origional cartoon you leave the theatre thinking that the movie came out on top.

For those unfamiliar with the concept of the movie/toy line there is a group of elite military types that are so elite that they don’t deal with normal wars and stuff they handle the ultra high tech threats that threaten the world.  One major departure for the movie is that the group is now made up of international team members because having an all American unit would be so Reagan era/Bush doctrine.  But before talking about the movie let’s think back to the cartoon for one second shall we?  First off, the cartoon was always about the battles.  COBRA’s plans for world domination and the Joe’s thwarting them were all just so you could see wierd looking planes and tanks blow up. Secondly the cartoon had, to put it mildly, flamboyant characters.  Thinking back if they weren’t running around shooting stuff you’ld think they were extras for the villiage people.  Shipwreck- Sailor with a talking parrot.  Gung Ho- A “Marine” who had an Eagle Globe and Anchor tatooed on His chest and wore only a vest to show it off.  Deep Sea- who wore a deep sea diving suit, ALL THE TIME.  (Let’s not mention Sgt. Slaughter and the Fridge shall we?) And those were the good guys.  And lets take a moment to remember the utter nonsense of implausibility found in the cartoon.  Don’t get me started that they had laser weapons that never needed reloading yet somehow always had shell casings flying out of em.  That no one EVER got hurt. (ok there was Scarlet that one time)  Oh and that Heavy Duty’s gun was a Browning .50 cal that He HAND FIRED.  Luckily I started to lose intrest once COBRA started being overrun with snake mutants. 

So here’s the thing with a movie, you can go one way and make a dark Dark Knight/Blackhawk Down type of movie and try to be realistic.  Or you can go another way and try to be true to the concept of the cartoon and possibly become so cheesy that it becomes a parody not an homage.  Or you can attempt to straddle the fence and do your best to recapture the sugar filled Saturday morning rush of explosions.  I think fortunately Steven Sommers got what glued little boys to the TV screen and delivers.  It won’t win any Oscars but on the other hand Michael Bay was no where near this thing to screw up really an easy task.  (something I will never forgive Him for with Transformers 2)  Perhaps the highest praise that I could give this movie is that it doesn’t attempt to win you over with the characters.  Much like Star Trek this movie simply presents the characters and trusts that either you’ll like them or you don’t.  (example Brendan Frasier as Flynt- nice cameo and another wink to those who know the Mummy movies but He’s just a little over the top.  But in a way I can’t fault Him)  One surprising turn of events in the movie was Marlen Wayans as Ripcord.  I fully expected His lines to be the groan out loud moments of the movie and He really comes off less goofy and more trying to prove Himself.  And yeah there are misplaced jokes that hit wrong but I at least give them the benefit of the doubt in trying to not make this as dark and sinister as it could be.  Again Sommers knows what kind of movie He’s making, it’s just light enough for us to forget that perhaps hundreds of people just died.  But that’s G. I. Joe’s universe.  There are nitpick things I did dislike, I would have preferred the Baronness in love with Destro explaining her “evilness”.   And there is the, “Why… Why??? WHY???” Of the new “Cobra Commander’s” “Helmet”. (what’s so wrong with the steel one?)  Quite frankly my feeling is that if you enjoyed Star Trek and could look over the enormous plot holes of that movie there’s no reason you can’t enjoy a few hours feeling like a kid again…

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2 Responses to “Yo Joe”

  1. jaymallow Says:

    Two more comments: Part of me wonders with the geeks working on this movie if the opening line of “In the not too distant future…” was a throw down challenge to the guys at Rifftrax. Any MST3K fan worth his salt would begin to hum “… next Sunday A.D. There was a guy named Joel…”
    And secondly, quite frankly Scarlett made me give a DAAAYYYMMMNN!!! (ok I’ve got a quiet thing for red heads)

  2. I don’t know why Paramount was so cautious about this–the “other” Hasbro-toy-based franchise film this year may possibly end up being the most financially successful film of the year (until November when the emo-vamps come out to play). And Trans 2 was ripped to shreds by critics. Oh well, lesson learned, I guess. Joe is tops at the box office.

    I said “Next Sunday A.D.” soon as those words popped on screen, and I just knew I was going to be laughing my ass off at rest of the film when it started in 13th Century FRANCE! As you said, Jay, the key to enjoying a film like this is to basically set your expectations as low as possible–you get a sense of self-fulfillment when you are right, and pleasant surprise when you are wrong and the film is better than you expect. The highlight of this film for me has to be Snake Eyes–a deadly ninja-ish warrior who never says a word throughout the film and has some of the better fight scenes (speaking of which, those kids were pounding the CRAP out of each other).

    That said, I couldn’t help but nitpick a few things. During the extended chase scene through Paris, I leaned over to Aaron and said, “Why on earth isn’t Snake Eyes going after the driver?!” And I share your thoughts on the helmet–frankly, I really liked the getup they gave Cobra Commander to start with: jet-black hair, a mask covering the mouth, and an opaque monocle. And the voice he had was perfectly sinister already without lowering its pitch. Anyway…

    Last thought: You mention three possibilities for summer boy-movie fare–go serious, go pretentious, or go for the gusto. I would submit that there is a fourth option, one that most filmmakers stay away from because it is a bit more difficult to pull off effectively–and that is to be able to have fun with the audience as you are trying to get them into the excitement. I would put films like Hot Fuzz, the first Indiana Jones, and Serenity into this category. A film should be willing to offer solid, adrenaline-pumping entertainment…

    but it should also give me some credit and be friendly to me by clearly indicating, up-front, “Just repeat to yourself–it’s just a show; I should really just relax.”

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