By Steven Smith
G.I.Joe is my jam. When I was little, I engulfed every issue of Marvel’s comic book series as well as all of Hasbro’s toys. Couple that with the fact I’m an army brat and boom, you have a super fan. I even went to meet Larry Hama as a kid and got him to sign my copy of "G.I.Joe A Real American Hero" number 2. For those who know, that’s a big deal. For those who want to know if I got it authenticated, not yet but I’m gonna.
I saw "G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra" in theaters and I was not a fan of it. Sure I liked Snake-Eyes, he’s hard to screw up and Ray Park couldn’t be more perfect but everything else was fluff to me. Channing Tatum was a fine Duke, but this seemed more in line with the cartoon than the comic book series. I hated the cartoon as a kid, all the guns were wrong plus no one got killed. Yes, I watched them all but still.
"G.I.Joe: Retaliation" looks better than "Rise of Cobra," and I applaud the use of an older Joseph Gordon-Levitt as the original Joe (see what I did there?). Dwayne Johnson as Roadblock is perfect casting right down to the image of him shooting the Browning -- that’s a 210-pound gun peeps and straight out of the comic. Now the comic, for me, completely rules over the cartoon series UNTIL Zartan becomes a chameleon; that and Dr. Mindbender’s super weeds were where the comic took an awful turn for me. I gave up more when they crossed over with "Transformers." Yes, these are all Hasbro toys and they can do with them as they will, but it the “realism” out of it for me, not unlike Frank Castle appearing in "The ‘Nam" comic series.
The first film took realism and shoved it to the side, which is fine -- it’s a movie and the masses probably wouldn’t want a dark "G.I.Joe" (see Warren Ellis’ fantastic "G.I.Joe Resolute") but all signs point to "Retaliation" as wanting to be Joe Noir. For those of you who haven’t seen the film (myself included but I read a lot), most of the team, including Magic Mike (see, I did it again) are decimated by Cobra leaving only the Rock and a ragtag group (always ragtag) alive. From there they need help from John McClane (you know it!) to help them stop a plot complete with someone impersonating president, Juan Peron (this one is a little more obscure, but I'll give you a few secs). All of this is true.
Director and noted cibopath (okay, this one is for the hardcore Image Comics fans in the audience), John Chu claims he’s a big fan of Larry Hama’s comic, which based on the ninja battle seems to be true, and I sincerely hope the big box office it took in isn’t a fluke and we’ll see more Real American Heroes on the big screen. It’s nice to have a fan at the helm who can also navigate the stew of studios and producers who still think G.I.Joe is a cartoon. Let’s be frank here, it’s a movie based on a toy that accompanied a comic book. The fact movies these films were made is fantastic! The toy came first though -- and comics, to this young lad at the time, were an amazing companion to them. I still have every issue, and that is authenticated.
You can watch Steven Smith every Sunday -- and right now! -- on his new MTV Geek program Cooking With Thrones .