There is always a reason.
It's been widely publicized that Paramount Pictures chickened out at the last minute and refused to screen "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" for film critics nationwide.
Actually, I take that back.
There were a few critics that were provided the opportunity to screen "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" in advance. In fact, these largely lesser known critics were invited to New York for a press junket. There's nothing like a press junket to encourage a few positive quotes about a film with increasingly negative buzz.
Therein lies my quandary. How can a major studio pour millions of dollars into an action flick with big name stars and then be so ashamed of the finished product that they block out the film writers?
Rather than avoiding negative publicity for their film, Paramount only ended up getting even more negative publicity for the shunning of critics and, in the process, alienated the very writers with whom they really need to co-exist peacefully.
Film journalists need studios, films and the film industry.
The studios need film journalists for reviews, public awareness and publicity.
As Rodney King would say "Why can't we all just get along?"
Now then, depending upon who you talk to, "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" is either more entertaining than "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" or a woefully inadequate distant cousin to Summer 2009's other techno-smash.
This critic actually fell into the minority by considering the second Transformers flick surprisingly entertaining, though certainly not a critical grand slam.
The same is not true here.
"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" is a dumbed down, if you can believe that, version of the already simplified Transformers flick with less techno-jargon and more pretty boys posing next to cool machines that don't begin to justify the film's reported $170 million budget.
Oh, I forgot, there's a pretty girl, too.
In case you've been wondering why the trailers for "G.I. Joe" seem to primarily focus on a female, the entire concept of the character G.I. Joe has been ripped to shreds for the film as G.I. Joe is now actually a multinational squad of do-gooders that include General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), Duke (Channing Tatum), funnyman Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) and others who really don't need mentioning because without exception the acting is laughably bad.
The do-gooders are called into action when nano-warheads created by an arms manufacturer (Christopher Eccleston) are being sought by baddies led by Sienna Miller (the aforementioned female), a mad scientist (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and, well, who really cares?
The truth is that even Gordon-Levitt, who gives one of Summer 2009's best performances in "500 Days of Summer," brings back the horrid flashbacks of his over-acting in "Havoc" with this performance. Given the right material, like "500 Days of Summer" or "Mysterious Skin," Gordon-Levitt proves himself one of the best of the up-and-coming actors. Unfortunately, he hasn't quite gained the ability to overcome bad material and this is, quite simply, horrid material.
How much you enjoy "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" is likely to rest solely upon which approach to action filmmaking you prefer, hardcore action with a focus on technology and special effects or special effects-laden action with a central core of humanity and characters, albeit cartoonish ones, with which to identify.
If you choose the former, then "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" is likely to pass as at least moderately entertaining. If, however, you choose the latter then you're way better off checking out "Transformers 2" again or, better yet, go out and rent "Team America: Word Police," an action flick with puppets that far surpasses this film.
Judging from the review so far, it might seem as if a C- is actually a touch generous.
Let me explain.
While the acting is consistently weak, with the exception of a surprisingly hip Sienna Miller, and the script from a trio of writers is hideously stilted and cliche', there's something to be said for director Stephen Sommers' use of techno gadgets is occasionally quite awesome, courtesy of Stan Winston's studios, and while the film seldom looks like a $170 million film Sommers does have fun arming his cast with an assortment of odds & ends that play out in pleasant and entertaining ways. Alan Silvestri's original score, while frequently overwhelmed by the thundering technology that surrounds it, is generally a nice complement to the film's goings on.
"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" is the most disappointing of Summer 2009's big budget pictures, a film that rips to shreds everything that worked about "G.I. Joe" and replaces it with a ludicrous story, weak cast and dialogue that's so corny that you'll be grateful when the explosions show up as distraction.
If you must seen an action flick in theatres this weekend, check out the surprisingly satisfying "A Perfect Getaway" instead. At the very least, it KNOWS it's a B-movie and wears the badge with pride.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic