In the not-too-distant future, US Army grunts Duke (Tatum) and Ripcord (Wayans) are tasked with couriering “nanomite”-filled warheads, when they’re ambushed by mysterious baddies armed with supercool hi-tech weaponry — one of them Duke’s ex, Ana (Miller) — and saved by mysterious goodies with more supercool hi-tech weaponry. The goodies the Alpha Team of GI Joe, a secret international force formed for, uh, fighting baddies.
The trick with Stephen Sommers is not to take him too seriously. His Deep Rising (giant squid-monster attacks hijacked luxury cruiser) was immensely daft, but huge fun. Same goes for The Mummy. And there is a level on which GI Joe, his brash, loud take on the long-lived Hasbro toy line, is enjoyable. The way, for example, it embraces cliché. In one scene, chumpy hero Duke expresses his anguish by riding a motorbike through a military graveyard in the rain. Wearing sunglasses. In another, the token team ice-queen (Rachel Nichols’ laserbow-wielding Scarlet) announces to horny-dog Ripcord (Marlon Wayans, whose spoof credentials fit well) that she doesn’t believe in emotions because they aren’t scientifically provable. Even if they are.
The script is almost wilfully stupid, throwing out such anti-zingers as, “Damn, that ninja’s fast!”, “dead guys don’t breakdance”, and one gloriously random comment from The Baronness (Sienna Miller, slumming it) to a shrieking bystander she’s just threatened with a gun: “Nice shoes”. Hugging the dumb and making it fun is Sommers’ strength. For all The Mummy Returns’ flaws, it //did// have zombie pygmies. GI Joe has a robot tuna.
However, Sommers also has his weaknesses.
Overcomplicating what should be simple plots with flashbacks, for example. One line of dialogue could have accounted for the three needless scenes in which we learn the roots of the rivalry between second-tier characters Snake Eyes (who has, for some reason, a mask with plastic lips) and Storm Shadow (a ninja who wears Daz whites). And, for no good reason, the prologue is set in 17th Century France.
Then there’s his propensity to overload a film with substandard visual effects. You’d have thought, maybe even hoped, that given a plot which involves human beings with guns rather than building-sized robots, he’d respect the Bond-influence he’s already cited and keep it practical and in-camera. Sadly not. A Parisian chase scene — yes, like Team America, these heroes trash the French capital — sees Duke and Ripcord leaping about in cyber-supersuits. The impression, appropriately, is that they’re being waved around by a giant invisible nine year-old. And the climactic undersea battle? You know Sommers wants us to think ‘Thunderball’. But the Bond movie this ugly mess most closely resembles is Die Another Day.
Bond without the style and Team America without the bellylaughs. The moronic script and nonsensical plot are good for a snicker, though.