Thursday, December 17, 2009

G.I. Joe

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra ~ I have vague if only peripheral knowledge of G.I. Joe. I know some of the names, what they look like, and the general concept of what it’s all about, but that’s about it. So I went into this flick just about blind with a clean slate.

I’m much more familiar with the 1970s version of the toy line, the one that grew out of the war toys. As I was not allowed to play with dolls I never had my own G.I. Joe with the scruffy beard and the dog tags, but friends and relatives had them, and Saturday mornings were spent watching the minute long exploits (also known as commercials) of the Joe adventure team. It all looked so fun.

The adventure team concept grew out of pop culture’s turn away from war with Viet Nam being such a sore point, so Joe became a superhero rather than a soldier. But the soldier stigma held on and Joe faded. When ?Hasbro? wanted to revive the toy line, and most importantly the product name recognition in the 1980s, they pursued a different tact and concept.

The new G.I. Joe was an anti-terror team of fighting experts, and its number one enemy in terror was the Cobra organization. Not just one generic doll but several individual action figures, notably plastic rather than doll-like, with multiple vehicles, playsets and accessories – that last part didn’t change. And as most toy lines of the 1980s, the new Joe used syndicated animation and later comic books to promote the toy product. Popularity soared, as did the new mythology.

Jump ahead more than two decades where other toy/cartoon creations of that time, like the Transformers, are making big money on the big screen, and you know what comes next, yeah, G.I. Joe the movie. And two things it does have in common with the CGI-heavy Transformers movies are that the action rarely stops to give the viewer time to breathe, and the action also takes place in the dark or too quickly for you to get a good look at what’s going on. I really have to wonder what the point of paying for special effects is when you don’t allow anyone to actually see them. Yeah, this flick is like that.

We’re introduced to characters very quickly, sometimes the assumption is that we should know them, but as I mentioned, I don’t. Heck, I know more about fangirls who dress like the Baroness at comic cons than I do about the Baroness herself. Am I to assume that the film’s inaccessibility means that the movie is not meant for me? Killing off your possible audience is not a good thing, folks, especially if you want to sell toys – and I think it’s a fair assumption you still want to sell toys. After all, what’s a summer blockbuster without toys and/or Happy Meals?

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