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Saturday, August 8, 2009

G.I. Jonesing – or – Why I Want to Bear Snake Eyes’ Children

I’ve already made it pretty clear that I don’t think every movie has to be smart to be brilliant. The last movie I talked about in that vein was Transformers 2, a movie produced by Hasbro, and one that I found loud, silly, almost plotless… and totally awesome.

Well, folks, Hasbro is two for two this summer. I saw G.I. Joe last night, and when I went in I just wanted it to do one thing: I wanted it to make me remember why, when I was around 10 or 12 years old, I had to get home in time to watch G.I. Joe. No. Matter. What.

I get detention? I skip it to get home.

Car not working? I run.

Pass a burning bus full of nuns on the way? Sorry, sisters, you gots ta burn.

Because I know that G.I. Joe is coming on. And knowing is half the battle. The other half is watching the show.

Point being, I wanted that feeling, that “YO, JOE!” feeling that I used to get.

And I got it. For six specific reasons:

1) Cool gadgets.

2) Hearing catchphrases like “knowing is half the battle” and “we got a lotta Joes out there.”

3) Snake Eyes.

4) Snake Eyes.

5) Snake Eyes.

6) Snake Eyes.

Sure, there were a couple things that didn’t work for me. The little kid from Third Rock From the Sun as Cobra Commander didn’t work for me. Wayans as the stereotypical black funny guy who has his moment to shine after essentially serving as the village idiot for 95% of the movie… meh.

There were a couple of lines that made my eyes roll so far back I was looking at the person in the seat behind mine (sometimes my brain and skull go transparent, allowing me to do that – a neat but creepy party trick).

I also was a little weirded out by the ethno-cultural changes. It used to be “G.I. Joe… A real American Hero” (and if you can’t actually hear the song being sung when you read that, you’re the wrong demographic for this article, dude).

This was not the case in the movie. In the movie it would have been more like “G.I. Joe… A real cross-cultural mixed-ethnicity inter-national U.N.-sanctioned P.C. hero…” Which I have no problem with as a moral choice or anything, and I get that the folks in charge want to appeal to as many different countries as possible. It was just jarring is all.

But there were a few things – more than a few things – that did work for me.

Scarlett had a frickin’ rad crossbow.

And yes, I did just actually say “frickin’ rad.” And I say frickin’ rad because frickin’ rad was what we said when the Joes were around as cartoons.

But anyway, her crossbow was like something Buffy the Vampire Slayer might have if she had Darth Vader’s tech/weapons guy working for her. It could shoot around corners and hit you in the eye and if that didn’t make you go “Frickin’ rad!” then the fact that it glowed red at the edges and had some sort of LCD video screen would definitely make you go “Frickin’ rad!”

And there were also submarines that looked like amphibious X-wing fighters, helicopters that made Airwolf look like one of those airplanes you wind up with a rubber band, and a whole slew of “wicked kewl” other stuff.

And the catchphrases. Hearing Dennis Quaid say “And knowing is half the battle” was wonderful, if not quite as good as hearing Peter Cullen say “Autobots, roll out.”

And last but not least (times four)… Snake Eyes.

I remember that Snake Eyes was the coolest one when I was a kid. He didn’t say anything, he had a pet wolf, and you had the feeling that he could be the most popular kid at school if he wanted to, but he didn’t: he just wanted to kick the crap out of bad guys and save the day.

And they nailed it in the movie. No wolf, but they got the rest bang-on. I mean totally perfect. So here I am, a happily married man with two kids, and this guy is so frickin’ rad (again, see above re frickin’ rad) that I’m having my heterosexuality challenged. He’s got swords, a gun, and a facemask that is like Geordi LaForge’s on steroids. How cool is he? Again, I’m having trouble maintaining my straightness here.

And why is Snake Eyes so cool (aside from the above-mentioned reasons, as if those weren’t enough)? Well, I think a big part of it is that he is – oddly enough – the most human of the characters. The one who you get the feeling that if you were serious enough and tried hard enough and took a vow of silence, you could end up with the skills Snake Eyes has. Get yourself a black suit and the aforementioned cool facemask, and you are him. You don’t have to be pretty, like Scarlet, or prettier like Channing Tatum as Duke (seriously, I thought the girls in the audience – both of them – were going to die of apoplexy whenever he opened his pretty little mouth). You don’t have to be a big dude, like so many of the other (multi-ethnic) Joes in the movie are.

You just gotta want it. You just gotta work for it. You just gotta be the one who is already moving to do something while everyone else is still scratching their heads and saying, “I don’t know, what do you think we should do about the nuclear warhead speeding towards Washington?”

And no, that’s not a spoiler. There is no nuclear warhead in this movie. I will provide a short spoiler, though.


The Joes win. No major bad guys are actually seen dying. There is a Colliseum-sized opening for a sequel.


So did I like G.I. Joe?

Yeah. It was frickin’ rad.

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