Anyone who’s seen one or both of the Transformers movies may think they know what to expect from this latest collaboration between toy giants Hasbro and movie studio Paramount Pictures. So, then, it may come as something as a surprise to say that GI Joe is far more enjoyable than either of Michael Bay’s head-splitters. True, it’s utter action fantasy aimed squarely at kids and anyone who remembers playing soldiers in their back garden – the boys playfighting at the front of the screening I attended were clearly having an absolute ball – but if you take it in the spirit it’s intended there’s fun to be had.
Based on the adventures of American toy range GI Joe, the film focuses on an elite, secret military unit led by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) whose goal is to rid the world of all terrorists, enemies and general bad guys. When top US soldiers Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are recruited into the unit, they team up with the likes of Breaker (Said Taghmaoui) and Scarlett (Rachel Nicols) to take down the nefarious MARS corporation, headed by megalomaniac McCullen (Christopher Eccleston). As GI Joe comes up against enemies like Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), the situation is further complicated by the fact that, before she turned to a life of international crime, the deadly Ana (Sienna Miller) used to be Duke’s lady love…
Indeed, underneath GI Joe’s brash exterior there’s some evidence that screenwriters Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett attempted to throw in some deeper characterisation than a summer blockbuster would usually dictate. The relationship between Duke and Ana, not to mention the involvement of Ana’s brother Rex (the excellent Joseph Gordon Levitt) adds a frisson of human drama to proceedings.
But, let’s not get carried away. GI Joe is first and foremost an action movie, designed for bombastic effects, exhilarating sequences – the scene in which Duke and Ripcord chase the baddies through the streets of Paris is a highlight – and larger-than-life characters who only need to fit into their environment; there’s no need for a back story when all you have to do is fight like a ninja and look damn good doing it. Which is fairly lucky for Channing Tatum as, although he certainly looks the part, he has the emotional range of an action man.
With movies like The Mummy and Van Helsing, Stephen Sommers has proved he knows how to make a solid family blockbuster, and GI Joe is such a confection. It’s not pretending to be high art or even a memorable movie; it’s purely, simply commercial entertainment and, with its jaw-dropping gadgets and solid CGI it’s likely to thrill its intended audience and should see the action figures flying off the shelves. If you’re looking for cinematic greatness go and see something else. If you’re looking for a fun night out with the kids – and you remember that GI Joe has been made for them, not you – you might just enjoy yourself.
Stars Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid
Director Stephen Sommers
Screenplay Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett
Distributor Paramount Pictures
Running Time 1hr 58mins
Opens August 7