G.I. Joe – with spoilers

Well, this post is in reaction to something that I thought I saw on Beyond the Multiplex, but when I went back to find a link for the original post I couldn’t find it. So, my thoughts will now become a slightly odd stand-alone post. Sorry if it gets confusing.

The posting that prompted this asked something to the effect of “Why is G.I. Joe, a war movie, doing so well (despite being rather bad), when other war movies have done so poorly recently?”

I don’t think that this person was quite right in lumping G.I. Joe with movies like The Hurt Locker. First off, The Hurt Locker was in a limited release, while G.I. Joe was in theatres everywhere. I wanted to see The Hurt Locker, but couldn’t find it near me. G.I. Joe, on the other hand, was a five-minute walk from my apartment. If you get a movie in more theatres, more people will see it.

However, the main issue is nationalism. Movies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are complicated, confused because the situation on the ground is complicated and confused. G.I. Joe has no such trouble. It’s bad guys are clearly defined, and trying, as ever, for world domination. And America is clearly on the side of the good. Yes, the new G.I. Joes are multi-national and based in a desert somewhere in Africa, but the main characters amongst them are clearly American, and American audiences remember that the toys inspiring the show are good old General Issue Joes, American soldiers. In other words, it’s a feel-good movie.

It’s not a well-made feel-good movie, though, and I think that I’m going to have to blame the screenplay for that. I don’t tend to notice screenplays much, but I sure did this time. The writers seemed to have no idea whatsoever what Scarlett was supposed to be like, with the result of hitting a ton of sexist stereotypes. She delivered a weird line early on about how she didn’t believe in feelings (going for an emotion-less drone?), then later seems to play it off as though she was just joking the first time (but she seemed quite serious… ). She’s the brilliant hottie who somehow falls for a hapless, clumsy – but TALENTED – guy who falls for her at first sight and promptly sets about seducing her in the most irritating way possible. And of course he manages, because the whole Scarlett-Ripcord subplot is merely a pale shadow of previous good-natured but clumsy guy chases and woos bright, pretty girl who first disses him stories.

The Baroness’ plot line was similarly confusing, though not to the same degree. For a fair portion of the movie I sat around wondering if her story could get any more sexist – I mean, her brother dies, and her response is to change from a regular girl next door to a tight-leather wearing, ass-kicking thief of experimental and highly technical weapons of mass destruction? When they tied it up at the end by saying that she was mind-controlled, my thoughts ran something along the lines of “Oh. OF COURSE. That’s the only way a person would overreact so much and change so completely. Someone has finally taken this kind of sexist plot line and actually made it make sense!” Sadly, I kept on thinking about it. I have a feeling that the screenwriters weren’t thinking at all about how weird that complete a change in someone’s personality was. For example, the Baroness is supposed, pre-mind control, to have been your sort of standard girl next door. Granted, we don’t see much of her, but what we do see is sweet and caring as apple pie. Just after Duke undoes the mind control you would expect to see some of that sweet, caring nature back, or perhaps some traumatized scenes where she’s trying to process everything she’s done over the past few years. Instead, she votes to go after the bad guy and mans the weapons herself. In another example of confusing shifts, when she gets locked up at the end of the movie (while doctors remove the rest of the mind-control nanomites), she starts acting as though it’s her just punishment for the things that she was supposed to have been forced to do. Perhaps this is to show her sweetness from way back when, but it just feels odd considering that she switched sides the first chance she got and blasted away at her previous allies with gusto.

A confusing movie, but it was a nice way to while away a few hours, particularly since I am (unhappily) avoiding District 9 over their male-only contest fiasco.

Edit: I forgot to mention it, but I was surprised to see solely previews for kids’ movies before G.I. Joe began. I guess the intended audience for this movie was a lot younger than I had anticipated. Also younger than the previews led me to believe, which may have something to do with why its box office take sank so much between weeks one and two. If you advertise for young adults, but deliver a kids’ movie and don’t screen for the critics who would inform the potential viewers that they might be interested, you probably won’t get regular viewers. Just a thought.

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