Sunday, August 9, 2009

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When your taste in movies is as wide as mine, a weekend like this one is Heaven.

A midnight showing of GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra? Hell yes I was there, and I am sorry to say that only my roommate and I could truly appreciate what was happening. It's a midnight screening, people! How can you not yell at the screen, applaud, laugh outrageously, exchange high-fives, etc.? Only stubborn buzzkills will find nothing enjoyable about Stephen Sommers' latest, greatest project.

Now, I am no die-hard Sommers fan. I like The Mummy and The Jungle Book, but The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing forever put me in the anti-Sommers camp, waiting for the day when he would be blacklisted in Hollywood. And when I heard he was at the helm for this, I knew this was a movie to avoid.

But something about the trailer and TV Spots got me. I think it was the destruction of the Eiffel Tower, or the participation of Dennis Quaid, or a leather-clad Sienna Miller. I don't know what happened, but I found myself eagerly anticipating this movie. And with Miller apologizing for the quality of the acting, I knew that I was in for a big-budget spiritual successor to The Informers and The Wicker Man. It just seemed so over-the-top already, and with a runtime of almost two hours, could this possibly be a hilariously self-serious bloated tragedy?

Imagine my surprise when I started tearing up at a particularly tender moment between Sienna Miller and Channing Tatum. Dammit! I had become emotionally involved!

The movie's great. It really is. I mean, if you're going in expecting L'ecclise -- or, if we're talking action flicks, Casino Royale -- be gone. This isn't for you joyless, too-serious types. This is for the rest of us that played with our toys and fell in love with explosions and tits and funny sidekicks that still got the girl and Dennis Quaid.

I know, I know. Too often we excuse bad acting and an incoherent plot with a mere, "Eh, it's just fun." People want more than just explosions and tits and funny sidekicks that still get the girl and Dennis Quaid. Well, let me assure you that the plot is, indeed, coherent. Even ingenious. The villains don't explain their evil scheme in its entirety, and it is us, the audience, that puts the pieces together. I mean, it's not exactly a mystery what the plot is, but the cliffhanger note that we're left on is pretty cool and feels like an astounding revelation. Sommers is that good -- even when revealing the predictable, he still makes me feel shocked.

The acting? Fits the tone. Everyone is in on the joke, and everyone plays it magnificently. Christopher Eccleston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt are fantastic villains, clearly enjoying every minute that they're on screen. Dennis Quaid is suitably bad-ass and wise as the fatherly General Hawk. And damn it, I liked Marlon Wayans in this. I ACTUALLY LIKED HIM IN IT. Even Sienna Miller managed to do more than look beautiful, and Channing Tatum's humorless approach to the role of Duke was actually quite perfect. Still, top marks to Gordon-Levitt and, holy crap, Byung-hun Lee, who plays the ninja assassin Storm Shadow.

Oh, sure, the CG was awful. I don't if it was rushed or purposely cartoony or what, but it was just bad. And one of the final action sequences is a little incoherent. Two frustrating aspects, surely. Oh, and the last ten minutes plays a little like the finale of the first X-Men movie. But I still high-fived everyone around me when the credits rolled. In fact -- dare I say it? -- the tight script and great ensemble distracted me from these flaws.

There. It's out in the open now. It's a great script. But what else could I expect? True, Stuart Beattie wrote the dull 30 Days of Night, but co-writers David Elliot and Paul Lovett wrote Four Brothers. I love Four Brothers.

Hell, I love G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

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