Posted on Sunday, June 14th, 2009 by Peter Sciretta
Last week a post appeared on producer Don Murphy‘s message board claiming that director Stephen Sommers had been fired from G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura later provided damage control, calling the accusation “ridiculous,” refuting claims that the movie is a disaster by saying that “The movie tested very well…” I had also heard from a couple friends that Sommers had been thrown out of the editing room, but was unable to find anyone who would go on record. And bottom line is that Sommers supposedly has final cut. But is the movie the disaster that the anonymous message board posting eluded to? Or is it something more?
Back in March I received an anonymous email from someone calling himself “Dr. Drew” (we’ll assume this isn’t the same Dr. Drew who is on Love Line or Celebrity Rehab). Drew told me that he had just seen a test screening of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and would like to submit a reader review. I told the Doctor that I was interested and made a comment on Twitter about having one of the first GI Joe reviews. A rep from Paramount contacted me and was quick to verify that a test screening had taken place the night before, in the same location my tipper claimed to screen the movie.
But before I had a review in hand, Dr. Drew stopped responding. I sent him a bunch of e-mails, but he vanished into the darkness. I joked with other journalist friends that Paramount somehow killed the story. When the Sommer news hit last week, I thought I’d reach out to Dr. Drew once again. I was curious… is the film really THAT bad? Or is Lorenzo telling the truth? Did the film actually test really well?
The Doctor got back to me and explained that he had never gotten my previous emails (intercepted by Paramount? probably not… Lost in the interwebs? more likely). What did Dr. Drew think of the movie? Full details after the jump.
First I want to warn you that this is one man’s (not even a movie critic) thoughts on an early unfinished print of the film. Visual effects were not complete, sound not finished, and the final film could be entirely different. Some films have tested horribly, only to be reedited/finished, and released to acclaim. My point is, a lot could be changed from the time this screened in the time this screened in March up until the August theatrical release. Now that I’ve given you the context, here is the reader review:
“As far as Sommers’ being shit-canned, I wouldn’t be surprised after seeing the rough cut; it’s not exactly on par with the Paramount/summer blockbuster standard established with Iron Man, Transformers, and Star Trek. Quite frankly, I’d be embarrassed to have Transformers 2 be released, G.I. Joe two weeks later, and both with the Paramount Mountain opening up the credits. I hope you find something interesting to pull out of this, I don’t exactly write reviews and tried not to spoil too much…
As far as summer blockbusters go, you could say I’m a aficionado of the kind. Although I’m well-read in the history of film and seek out indies, oscar fare, and of the such, blockbusters are where my heart’s at. I loved Star Trek; I saw it 3 times, I think it’s magical, I think it has that special something that blockbusters rarely hit (although I do think Iron Man and Transformers found it last summer). I thought Wolverine lacked a well thought out narrative and it might have been fun but I couldn’t get past the mess of character organization and lack of direction from one action to another. But I’d watch it again. And Terminator Salvation I didn’t find nearly half as bad as everyone else; I can acknowledge the criticism it received but I really enjoyed it, nothing I can really rave about but it entertained me enough that I wasn’t able to pay attention to the flaws.
The thing with G.I. Joe is that it tries to have the same spirit and flavor as Transformers–it’s really evident… but an ultimate failure. And people can talk shit about Michael Bay until the cows come home but when you watch something like G.I. Joe it does go to show the talent, craft, and attention to quality Bay can bring to an otherwise silly idea.
The movie has extremely cartoonish and, at times, theatrically silly aspects; for example, over-the-top characters, endless one liners, and visually farfetched technology and set pieces. However, it tries fiercely to ground itself in reality and in society’s current global climate. It’s with that grounding that the movie actually redeems itself quite a bit–but not too much. The G.I. Joes–as an organization–veer off from the hyper Americana reputation that it’s known for; G.I. Joe is a top secret branch of NATO that recruits members from all over the world. Within that aspect, a handful of somewhat interesting ideas are produced that could interpret somewhat interesting commentaries of our world as a global community… The only thing I got out of it was a debate with the person I went to the screening with about the state of government and the world; but not exactly tied with the movie. Really though, it’s not worth the brain stretch as essentially the movie’s purpose is to sell toys (and I’m guessing it will as many characters have different costumes throughout the film, along with various vehicles).
As far as the story goes, there’s not much to be told. G.I. Joe clings to dear live on a MacGuffin of a suitcase containing warheads filled with self-replicating, destructive nano-bots, which continuously shifts ownership between the G.I. Joes and the soon to be Cobra Command. And that’s the story, “who’s got the nano-bot warheads?” And that starts immediately as the film begins, right after a 1700’s(?) era backstory explaining James McCullen Destro XXIV / Destro; we’ve all seen this before (Wolverine) and it does little but two things–jack and shit.
Anyways, even though the CG was incomplete in my screening, the action is pretty great. The chase scene with Tatum and Wayans in the Iron Man suits is particularly well done. But rest assured as I’ve noticed a fear online that those suits play a big role; they don’t, they’re used in that scene and that scene only. Basically the biggest drain on this picture is the acting; even Dennis Quaid is cringe-worthy. But the worst has to be Sienna Miller—do not be surprised if anyone (or everyone) in the cast get’s Razzie noms. But with Miller’s character, she wears sunglasses half the movie, delivers normal lines as if they’re one liners, and just cheeses everything up. Snake Eyes may be the best part of the movie (not because he doesn’t have any lines, that’s only a coincidence) as whenever he’s onscreen, he’s doing something interesting.
Really, I don’t know how half the shit (lines delivered) made it to the editing room. Cobra Commander (or “The Doctor” as he’s known the entire movie) may be the most laughable part of the movie. I love Joseph Gordon-Levitt but I’ll be god damned if this character isn’t the most ridiculous thing to come out since Lord Zedd of Power Rangers fame and (spoiler follows, highlight the invis-o-text to reveal) doesn’t actually become Cobra Commander (with the full-head mask) until the last five minutes.
All in all, it’ll be interesting to see how this movie reacts with audiences because it is a high quality production but the talent involved doesn’t match up, and the “toys” aren’t exactly believable.
There were laughs (some at jokes, some at sight gags, and of course at the expense of Snake Eye’s silence), a few cringes from older audience members (like I said before, the one-liners don’t stop), and a general engagement (but not really any type of energy or excited in the air). When the picture ended, there wasn’t really any chatter about the movie. We were given surveys questioning the film in great detail but most people just flew through them and left. It was a so-so experience from the audience perspective. There wasn’t much excitement from the audience afterward.”
It doesn’t sound like the epic disaster that was painted in that post on the Don Murphy message board, but it also doesn’t sound good…