Wednesday, July 29, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Movie
The Anatomy of Creating Anti-Buzz
(with an update written on 8/4/09--see end of post)

There's some bad buzz going around for the big screen adaptation of the popular cartoon show. I was a HUGE G.I. Joe fan growing up. Can't say I was thrilled to hear they were making a movie, but the first "Transformers" was far better than I expected. Anyway, when I saw the trailer my thought was, "Ugh...this looks terrible."

Now, I'm not a snob, and in fact I enjoyed "The Mummy" (also directed by Stephen Sommers). As we saw with "Iron Man" and "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" a really good trailer gets people juiced for the film (the IM trailer was so good that The Onion worried about stretching it out to feature film length). So here is a total breakdown of why the G.I. Joe trailer does not work. Here is the actual trailer, so you can follow along at home:

0:11 - Reveal of an underground lair that looks less like 'Cool and ominous' and more like 'Spongebob Squarepants'.

0:15 - Action Movie Cliche #1: Generic bad guy with unidentifiable accent saying, "I want the warheads ready to launch in one hour." Wait, why does that sound familiar...oh yeah!

Dr. Evil: "Here's the plan...we get the warhead and we hold the world ransom million dollars!"

0:19 - Action Movie Cliche 2: Evil guy, over scenes of cartoonish effects and earth-boring drills: "When I'm finished, the world will never forget." Hey, you know who else used drills to deliver their warheads? DR. EVIL!!!!

0:30 - What looks like stock footage of warheads being fired. (wait, what was the point of the drills if they just launch the rockets into the air?)

0:36 - Rocket hits the Eiffel tower. And no, it's not an explosive warhead, it' gunk? Ectoplasm? Regardless, the problem with this scene is that in this Michael Bay movie world, we've seen the destruction of so many landmarks, and done with such better effects than in this scene. The effects in this scene are so bad that they look like a spoof of a Michael Bay movie (more than one person has commented that this movie looks like "Team America" only done with real actors. You're practically waiting for the Eiffel Tower to fall onto the Louvre)

0:52 - Action Movie Cliche #3: Dennis Quaid (in total paycheck mode) says, "We have never faced a threat like this."

0:57 - Action Movie Cliche #4: Quaid: "A team is being assembled." (Seriously, could Quaid sound any more weary or any less interested in his dialogue?)

1:00 - Action Movie Cliche #5: Quaid (again...sense a pattern?): "They are the best operatives in the world." (of course they are...sigh...of course they are)

1:03 - Action Movie Cliche #6: Quaid (good lord, how did he say these lines with a straight face?): "When all else fails...we don't."

1:10 - The Best Operatives in the World are given 'Accelerator Suits'. "What do they accelerate?" Duke asks. "You," replies the random in-charge dude.

Now, here's my biggest problem with this movie. In the cartoons, G.I. Joe wore uniforms that were colorful, camouflaged, patriotic. In the movie, they're jet black. No personality, nothing identifiable whatsoever.

My assumption? The studio (or other suits) felt that making a movie that was 'Too American' might hurt overseas box office. Problem is, now you have a movie that's bland as can be. Can you imagine if Iron Man's suit was black? Or if Optimus Prime was a rusty gray? These characters became popular for a reason, and the movie is just washing that out. What's the point of making a G.I. Joe movie if it has nothing to do with the cartoon? In fact, without the end credits to tell you the title of this movie, you would never have any idea it was even created in the same universe as the cartoon.

1:25 - After a few decent-looking action snippets, we launch right back into Action Movie Cliche #7: Quaid: "This is General Hawk. Mission is a go." (Of course it is! If it wasn't, we wouldn't have a movie! And what the hell is their mission? Stop the bad guy? Pick up some Lunchables?)

1:34 - Action Movie Cliche #8: Duke yelling, "Go go go!"

1:45 - Action Movie Cliche #9: Scarlett O'Hara: "We're running out of time!" (followed by Ripcord's plane getting ensnared by that cheesy green ectoplasm. Seriously, "Ghostbusters" came out in 1984 and their slime was more realistic)

1:58 - Even the G.I. Joe logo is now bland and devoid of personality!

2:01 - Action Movie Cliche #10: Baroness: "This has only just begun." (Mercy, I beg of you...)

2:06 - The trailer's 'Money Shot': Two completely unidentifiable guys (guys? girls? who can tell?) dodging a missile by doing all sorts of acrobatic maneuvers that look as realistic as Joan Rivers's face.

So let's analyze why this trailer sucks:

#1: For the most part, the special effects look cheesy and cartoonish compared to movies like "Transformers" and "Iron Man".

#2: G.I. Joe became popular for a reason. Kids loved the uniforms, the characters, the personalities. In this trailer, nobody is identified, nobody has any personalities, and all the uniforms are stark black. Hence at the end, when the two uniformed guys are hurtling through the air, you have no idea who they are. They could even be bad guys since everyone in the movie seems to have been tailored by Darth Vader. I mean, the G.I. Joe theme was one of the most recognizable cartoon themes of all time. (G.I. Joe! The real American Hero...) At least in their movie the Transformers still made that cool noise when they changed into cars and back.

#3: And perhaps the most egregious...there is not a single line of dialogue in this trailer that doesn't come from the moldy Action Movie Cliche book. Seriously, every single line of dialogue is groan-worthy, and delivered with a complete lack of emotion. You can almost sense the shame in the voice of Dennis Quaid (an underrated actor) when he delivers such ludicrous bon mots. And what's the point of having Marlon Wayans? Marlon is a terrific comedic actor who has also had one fantastic, award-worthy serious role (in "Requiem for a Dream" - one of my all-time favorite movies). But here? He has no funny lines, and does nothing of note. Other than Quaid, he's the most recognizable actor here, yet he does nothing except allow the audience to say, "hey, I know him!"

In the end, the trailer looks cheesy, bland and stupid. Now the movie might be a totally different experience (I doubt it, but let's give them a chance), but they could not have gotten people less excited than if they had a monkey fling feces at the audience during the trailer.

UPDATE: 8/4/09
Shockingly (or perhaps not), G.I. JOE seems to actually be getting some pretty good buzz. The reviews on Rotten Tomatoes are pretty darn positive, and it appears G.I. JOE might be more "The Mummy" than "The Mummy 2". Still doubt I'll see it, but I will happily be proven wrong in my early assessments of the film's quality. Still, this not does detract from the fact that the trailer sucks, and if the movie is in fact good then whoever put the trailer together did the movie a great disservice.



Blogger Mike Cane said...

Did you ever see Gerry Anderson's New Captain Scarlet, Jason? The green goo is ripped off from that -- including the fighter jet getting disassembled in flight! And that pressure suit was also stolen from a scene too.

I wasn't a G.I. Joe fan. Past my time. I was a fan of Thunderbirds -- and it looks like they borked your childhood just like they did mine!

11:54 AM  
Blogger Bobby Mangahas said...

I think I'm in the camp of I really don't like live-movie versions of cartoons I enjoyed as a kid.

I remember the cartoon G.I. Joe movie (I have it on DVD).

3:40 PM  
Blogger Alex Bash said...

If this were a speech, I’d begin an appropriately cheesy “slow clap.”

3:59 AM  

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