Movie one big marketing campaign
August 18, 2009
Let it be known this column includes spoilers for “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.” I’m giving away the first five minutes, and telling you the rest doesn’t really matter.
I’ve heard about married couples who tell me they saw each other and they knew in the first five minutes how they’d be together the rest of their lives. It was kind of the same way with “G.I. Joe,” as we realized we were in for hours of incredulous cinema from scene one.
The movie starts centuries ago, as a man is brought to trial in the king’s castle. He has sold weapons to both armies in a conflict, and is found guilty of treason. He is forced to wear an iron mask of shame for the rest of his natural life. I whispered to Sara, “His natural life is going to be about three seconds since the mask is still glowing from the fire.”
Before flashing forward to present day, the screen goes to black with the tease, “In the not-too-distant future.” Sara makes the next crack: “Not too distant? What, like Tuesday?”
And so it went for the next two hours. I won’t reveal the story, but I’ll spoil the ending. The good guys win, leaving enough wiggle room for a sequel, Channing Tatum does not prepare his Oscar acceptance speech for the role of Duke and the Black Eyed Peas play as the credit sequence rolls.
I could dedicate all of September to columns of how much the Black Eyed Peas annoy me, but it was a perfect ending for this movie. “Boom Boom Pow” had nothing to do with the military or any aspect of the movie, but it just might move a few more copies of the soundtrack. And that’s what this was about: A big marketing campaign, big special effects and no actual story.
I remarked on my Facebook that I had just seen the entertainingly dumb “G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra,” and likened it to the movie “Independence Day,” if it had eaten Pixy Stix for breakfast.
A friend writes back, “Was it really that bad?” I noted I feared a dumb, campy movie and hoped to be pleasantly surprised. I was not surprised, but replied it was worth $8 to mock the movie relentlessly. And to some degree, mock yourself for going.
A friend wrote back, “Well, it’s supposed to be mind-numbing fluff.” I wrote back that I couldn’t disagree more. That kind of thinking, I said, rewards lazy directors and studios that throw actors on a green screen and let CGI handle the rest.
A movie, no matter the subject, survives on story, story, story.
“Iron Man” was worth watching again because director Jon Favreau didn’t say, “I don’t have to challenge my audience because this is about a man in a rocket suit.”
And yeah, “Aladdin” was about a witty genie, but it was also about the importance of keeping your promises.
“Groundhog Day” was about a guy stuck in a time warp, but it worked because nothing got better for Phil Connors until he made himself a better man.
Earlier on Saturday, before my excursion into “G.I. Joe,” I went and watched “The Hurt Locker,” a movie about an explosives ordnance team in Iraq.
I didn’t hate “G.I. Joe,” but I didn’t like it either. I loved “The Hurt Locker.”
And what went on in “The Hurt Locker” that made me love it? Now that I think about it ... never mind. I liked it too much to spoil it for you.