From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – Ninjas GO AT IT

It’s very, very rare for me to complain that a film did not have enough girl on girl fights.

I’m complaining. Which means, of course, that it’s time for snark.

Hasbro Corporation: Hi! Yes, that’s us in the opening credits. If you are thinking that this does not bode well for the film, we must regretfully inform you that you are right, and it might be easier all around if you just go and buy our toys.

Film OPENS in France in 1641.

Disappointed audience: Hey, this is supposed to be a GI JOE movie! Why are we in early modern France?

Scots dude: Although it is not even remotely clear why I am in France at all, and did not just ship my little weapons over there, I shall now chat happily about the idiocies of Louis XIII, even though it is unclear why anyone should care, and in the process, reveal that I have been selling weapons to both sides. Also, I shall shout curses about my Scottish clan.

Disappointed audience: WE WANT THINGS TO BLOW UP!

French dudes: We shall hush you by putting on an Iron Mask. Ha, ha! Get it? Iron Mask?

Disappointed audience: No! Why aren’t things BLOWING UP?

Scots dude: SCREAMS.

Disappointed audience: Yeah, yeah, torture, blah blah. Why aren’t things blowing up?

Movie SHIFTS to a Powerpoint presentation in “the not so distant future.” Another Scots dude, who we shall call Scots dude for the rest of the movie, is DEMONSTRATING a new weapon: nanothings, little nanobugs that eat buildings up.

Intrigued world powers: Sure! We can’t see ANYTHING wrong with using these as weapons! And we’re darn sure they’ll never be misused.

Disappointed Doctor Who fans to Scots dude: Oh, man. You gave up Doctor Who for this?

Intrigued world powers: We’re buying this!

Scots dude: Groovy! You can send your special forces ops to come pick them up at my lab. Which, oddly enough, is not located in Scotland, but in central Kyrgyzstan, because that area, of course, is highly known for its leading research in nanotechnology, and, as a special bonus, most of the audience won’t know where it is. Also I expect you could have a nice chase scene in that area.

Special forces ops: That’s so thoughtful of you! And to ensure that we can have a nice chase scene, we shall load up some nice military cars and Apache helicopters so that everyone will immediately know that a secret convoy is moving through Kyrgyzstan!

Kyrgyzstan government: Please don’t ask why we’re allowing U.S. special forces to take a convoy carrying little nanothings that can destroy every building in our area through our country, by road, even when they have NICE HELICOPTERS available, or why we haven’t informed, say, our neighboring countries or Moscow.

Duke, a special forces guy: While we’re waiting for the chase scene to start, let’s have some meaningless dialogue. Also, let’s establish that I am young, good looking, white, and highly competent.

Ripcord, another special forces guy: Awesome! Let’s chatter about how I want to be in the Air Force because I’m a pilot, and you think that’s dumb, to allow me to be in a flight scene later. Also, let’s establish that I am young, black, and the considerably less competent comedy relief. Did I mention that I’m black?

Duke: I want to be a soldier. I want to be in the fight, on the ground, not fighting above it!

Entire U.S. Air Force: Gee, thanks.

Suddenly, a MYSTERIOUS aircraft ATTACKS the Apache helicopters, who FIRE BACK, kinda proving the earlier point, until they are BLOWN INTO LITTLE BITS.

Duke: See? That’s why I need to fight on the ground.

Ripcord: That was awfully short for a fight scene.

More things are BLOWN UP.

Ripcord: Much better! Except. I’m confused. Where am I, how did I get out of the –

Film editors, hastily: Please don’t ask those kinds of questions. The important thing is that Duke will soon carry you to safety because he won’t leave you behind.

Ripcord: Glad to see we’re really working on making sure the black dude doesn’t look incompetent here.

More things EXPLODE.

Duke: I should point out that none of this would be happening if the nanothings had been made and picked up in SCOTLAND.

Mysterious aircraft inexplicably CHOOSES to land, opening a door to reveal ANA THE BARONESS, who has, even more inexplicably, chosen to wear a black latex suit with sequins RIGHT OVER her collarbone and heart that REFLECT the light allowing ANYONE to find her heart and neck in the darkness. On the bright side, CLEAVAGE is shown. She is joined by a WHITE NINJA although thanks to editing issues this will not be entirely clear until later, and even then not really. Ana STEALS the case with the nanothings, which has remarkably SURVIVED all of the ongoing EXPLOSIONS.

Duke: Wait – are you my ex girlfriend?

Ana: By a remarkable coincidence, er, yes.

Duke: What are you doing in Kyrgyzstan?

Ana: I’d explain, but that would ruin the point of the later flashback sequences awkwardly inserted to explain things when a quick explanation here would do just as well. Meanwhile, I’m a Bad Guy. Or Bad Chick. Whichever. Do you like my hair?

More MYSTERIOUS people, including a red headed girl, ARRIVE and start EXPLODING THINGS.

Audience: Wait! Which girl is which?

Film editors: We did what we could, honestly.

Red headed girl: If it helps any, we will later reveal that my name is Scarlett O’Hara. Get it? Scarlett O’Hara. We sincerely hope that this reminder of an even more overtly racist film will help you overlook some issues here.

Bad guys FLY AWAY with nanothings. Duke CONFRONTS the Gi Joes.

Duke: I’m not lowering my weapon until you tell me who you are!

Gi Joes: We’re the good guys!

Duke: Then why are you dressed like the bad guys!

Gi Joes: To sell more toys!

Duke: Ok, then.

Dennis Quaid (he had another name, but whatever): Now, we shall take you to the GI Joe SECRET LAIR.

GI Joes: Although we’re supposed to be top secret, we shall now FLY OVER the Pyramids because, you know, that isn’t conspicuous or anything, and arrive at our secret base which is in Egypt because stock footage of Egypt is really cheap. Or something.

Duke, Ripcord and Gi Joes SLIDE PAST very bad special effects to SECRET room, which Duke and Ripcord have inexplicably gained TOP SECURITY CLEARANCE for, more or less introducing the other Gi Joes who are not sexy redheads, who include a Moroccan dude, a black ninja, and Mr. Eko from Lost.

Lost fans the world over: Please, please, tell us that you did not leave Lost for this.

Mr. Eko: Let’s just focus on my massive muscles.

Black ninja: Hi, I’m a black ninja, although oddly enough under my black costume I am a white dude. I am here to be the mysterious and silent opponent of the white ninja and provide the only cool action scenes in the entire film. To further add to my awesomeness, I don’t speak, which is probably why I am hands down the most popular character in the film by the end.

Scots dude is SUMMONED and told of the theft.

Scots dude: So. I sold you guys the most dangerous weapon on the planet and told you to take extra security cautions with it. As Special Forces dudes, you suck.

Duke: No fair! There was a hot spy girl who happened to be my ex-girlfriend and everything! Plus, we were just following orders.

Scots dude: Whatever.

Gi Joes: Oooh. The voice analyzer suggests that the Scots guy is concealing something!

Scots dude: Yes! As it turns out, my hologram shall next move to the Mysterious Aircraft, where I shall reveal that I have been behind the WHOLE THEFT.

Ana: Wouldn’t it have been cheaper for you to, I dunno, just keep the nanothings, instead of this elaborate plot to release them in Kyrgyzstan and then have things explode?

Scots dude: But had I done that, we would have missed this opportunity to show that I am sexually obsessed with you and don’t care that you’re married AND we would have missed the astounding coincidence of your accidental meet up with yet another ex boyfriend not to mention exploding a few random Apache helicopters. Think of the film!

Ana: I was.

White ninja: Let me make threatening sounds!

Monocle dude: Just in case my odd monocled appearance and facemask didn’t give it away, I’m eeeeeevill! To prove it, I shall admit to doing medical experiments on human test subjects with nanothings.

Scots dude: Excellent! This planet needs unification and leadership! Once DC and Moscow are destroyed, they will turn to the most powerful person on earth!

Monocle dude: Bill Gates?

Scots dude: Alas, no. He refused to have his name associated with this film.

Monocle dude: That’s kinda odd since one excuse for the terrible special effects might be that they were created with Microsoft software.

Duke and Ripcord: We wanna join the GI Joes.

Dennis Quaid: No.

Duke: But you’ve already admitted that you once tried to recruit me! Also, did I mention that one of the chief antagonists is my ex-girlfriend?

Ana: I should note, though, that I’ve considerably traded up by marrying a real baron who owns an enormous chateau just outside of Paris. He’s also reasonably cute. Although apparently I have never told him what I do for a living.

Baron: That is the least of the problems in our strange and mysterious marriage. Do you realize that I know nothing of these trips that you take and that for a married couple we are surprisingly unforthcoming with each other? Most husbands don’t have such mysterious wives.

Ana: Me, mysterious? Besides, I’m hot.

Ana CATCHES a glimpse of a MYSTERIOUS white ninja.

Ana: Honey, we’ll have to have all the sex later.

White ninja: You were my best student. Don’t have sex with your husband.

The movie FLASHES back to a marriage proposal between Duke and Ana.

Ana: I will marry you as long as you promise to keep my little geeky brother safe!

Duke: Gee, I hope I don’t screw up that heavily foreshadowed moment.

GI Joes: We shall now train Duke and Ripcord in a sequence that looks remarkably like a video game.

Everyone else: Shouldn’t we be, I dunno, chasing the bad guys?

Gi Joes: And miss the chance to sell a video game? No way! Plus, this way Brandon Fraser can make a cameo appearance.

Scarlett, the red-headed chick: Hi! I have awesome abs and I’m smart, although you’re just going to have to take my word for the second part of that sentence. Also I have no emotions so stop the inept flirting.

Dennis Quaid: Duke, congratulations! You scored in the top 1/2 of one percent of test takers. Ripcord, your role as the amusing black dude sidekick means that if we average your scores with Duke’s you’re in too.

Ripcord: So glad the white dude is excelling and the black dude trained to fly jets and planes isn’t.

Evil guys: We’re bored now. Let’s attack that secret GI Joe outpost in Egypt!

Gi Joes: Hmm. For a top secret high tech facility, we’re remarkably easy to find and enter! Perhaps all of that flying around the pyramids gave our presence away!

Bad guys STAB through blonde girl’s heart.

White ninja to other dude: I don’t kill women, but for you, I’d make an exception.

Ana: Note that I have changed my hair from blonde to brunette to show how EVIL I am because all brunettes are EVIL.

Ana and Duke PAUSE for a touching if clichéd moment. Lots of BADLY EDITED violence follows, including a NINJA fight and an awesome fight between the two chicks which becomes considerably less awesome when one of them becomes invisible.

White ninja: What a remarkable coincidence that my long term enemy, the black ninja, just happens to be in this not particularly top secret facility!

Duke: Hey, at least your long term enemy started training for this at the age of 12. Four years ago my ex girlfriend didn’t even own a gun and now look at her.

Scarlett: Although staying invisible in this suit could save my life I shall pull off the headpiece to become visible again to save the film.

Ana and the white ninja FLY AWAY. Another bad guy WALKS OFF with a CAMEL. [Seriously.]

Jonathan Pryce: Hi! Although I was born in the United Kingdom and established my career as a Shakespearean actor, and rather recently played a British governor in the various Pirates of the Caribbean movies, and even though I still have a British accent, I’m playing the President of the United States in this film. Look. We all need a paycheck.

[Aside: except for the ninjas, casting was pretty dreadful all around, but this was particularly inexplicable.]

President: They stole everything! How evil!

Scarlett to Ripcord: I didn’t want to show you the marks on my neck because….because….well. A vampire might show up. That would make as much sense as anything else.

Ripcord: Although I should say something meaningful and supportive, I am the Token Funny Black Dude, so I shall make some not particularly funny jokes instead, and just hope that you blame the screenwriters.

Ninja FLASHBACK.

Old and wise Japanese ninja: Although this white kid came off the streets and started to steal from us, I can tell that he’s completely trustworthy and worthy of ninja training! In honor of his arrival, let’s all start to speak English.

Scots dude: My Scots ancestor from the first scene, who I shall now mention to justify the price tag of shooting that scene, was named Destro. Yay!

Monocle dude to random bad dude: Look, I can change your eye color with the mere poke of a needle. I’m like, amazing. What accent am I supposed to be using here again?

GI Joes: On no evidence at all, we shall now figure out the Bad Guys’ entire plan. Then again, it was kinda obvious because the only reason Ana could possibly have for marrying a fabulously wealthy and kinda good looking baron with a real chateau and servants and everything is so that she can mechanize nanothings warheads. Roll with it.

Flashback SHOWS how, as blatantly FORESHADOWED, Duke let Ana’s brother die, only NOT REALLY, and technically the death was by missile anyway not Duke. Flashback continues to SAD GRAVEYARD SCENE where it is of course raining.

Audience: Blow things up again!

Although Ana is MARRIED to the lab director, who has done a remarkable job of combining a life of weapons development with maintaining a chateau and being a baron and all, and could therefore just walk in wearing a nice business suit raising no suspicions at all, she instead enters WEARING a flamboyant latexy leather thing. Various random people are KILLED. Baron mechanizes nanothings warheads. Ana KISSES baron because, let’s face it, nothing is hotter than mechanizing nanothings warheads….wait. White ninja KILLS baron.

White ninja: I told you I’d kill him if he touched you.

Ana: I heard you the first time. I’m subtle like that. Plus, people need to be reminded that I’m eeevvvilll even though I’m also kinda hot in this outfit.

Bad guys and Gi Joes CHASE EACH OTHER wildly through Paris, with a blithe disregard for Parisian history or cars or people.

Gi Joes: What I don’t get is, why are the bad guys driving INTO traffic, which is slowing them down?

Bad guys: We can’t figure out how to use our GPS. Also, this makes the scene more interesting!

GI Joes: No – wait! They’re going to go detonate the Eiffel Tower! We must stop them, because, you know, it’s not like we had a reason to stop them when they were just demolishing random Paris buildings. START EVACUATING THE EIFFEL TOWER!

Bad guys: Off we go to attack the Eiffel Tower, even though the camera shots show that we are actually….driving in the wrong direction. Did anyone consult a map?

Scarlett FLIPS through the air and conveniently LANDS in Ripcord’s arms. More CAR CHASES, which the French police inexplicably FAIL to respond to.

Gi Joes: The Eiffel Tower is almost completely evacuated!

Evil SUV flips over and BURNS. This, remarkably enough, fails to set off the mechanized warheads.

Ana: Let me terrorize this building! Oh and because I am remarkably, um, something, I shall take a moment to compliment a random French woman on her shoes. In English.

Shot of Eiffel Tower, with tourists MILLING EVERYWHERE, even though GI Joes just said the area was almost completely evacuated. Nanothings HIT Eiffel Tower, slowly…dissolving it. People start to scream at the obvious fakery of the imagery. Duke LEAPS aboard the MYSTERIOUS AIRCRAFT which has MYSTERIOUSLY reappeared so he can HIT THE KILL SWITCH that will stop the nanothings and more importantly the terrible SPECIAL EFFECTS. Duke, now a prisoner, FLIES off with Ana and the white ninja.

French police: We are here at last, and because we are so mad that we missed the fight, we shall arrest the good guys.

Moroccan guy: Although I’m from Morocco, where French is commonly spoken, I inexplicably don’t speak French, so, like everyone else, I shall rant in English. At the Parisian police. This should help make friends.

Black ninja: Even though as a ninja I could arrange a massive and amazing jail break here, and even though it’s already been established that I don’t speak, I shall instead…call my boss to let him know my teammates have been arrested, since obviously he will be too incompetent to see this on CNN.

Dennis Quaid: Good news is you’re getting to go free. Bad news is you can never come back to France again.

Gi Joes: Ok. I mean, the Eiffel Tower’s gone anyway.

Ninjas: Let’s have a FLASHBACK so everyone can see that the White Ninja killed the Japanese master because he’s a sore loser.

Audience: This is dull. Go back to the movie.

Several UNCONVINCING fish SWIM by.

Audience: Ok, we were wrong. Go back to the flashbacking ninjas!

Moroccan dude: Allow me to distract you from the fish with a couple of mangled English metaphors.

Duke: Although I’m surrounded by bad guys and I’m in the Arctic, I shall try to steal the nanothing warheads!

Bad guys: That was so dumb, we must hit you!

Duke: Actually the point was to activate the tracking device.

Bad guys: Still dumb.

Duke and Scots dude have a FIGHT over who gets Ana, who shows off MORE CLEAVAGE in gratitude. More unconvincing fish swim by.

Scots dude: I’m going to make you very unhappy. [Real dialogue.]

Duke: I’m already unhappy. [Real dialogue.]

Scots dude: My plan is so stupid and so unmemorable that I shall now repeat it again.

Monocle dude’s attempt to tell TOUCHING BACKGROUND STORY is interrupted by MEANINGFUL glances between Ana and Duke.

Random POLAR BEAR appears on the screen. The ice behind him is promptly BLOWN UP.

Polar bear: I don’t exactly mean to object here, but given that both I and my ice are already endangered, could you maybe not blow us up?

Monocle dude: Let’s try the dramatic monologue again. I’m your old friend Rex! I’ve been spending the last few years faking my death, stealing other people’s inventions, conducting medical experiments on people and hanging out with a dude called, no kidding, Dr. Mindbender, but despite this, I still think you’re much worse, Duke, for abandoning me just because I was hit by a missile.

In one of the worst product placements ever, Norton Internet Security APPEARS on the screen, only to have the bad guys immediately STEAL SECRETS from the computer it is supposedly defending.

Norton: In retrospect, we perhaps should have read the script first.

Ripcord: I can fly anything, including evil planes.

Ana and Duke kiss. Ana reveals that she has been MIND CONTROLLED. Ninja BEATS another security system not created by Norton by walking on his knuckles across a pressurized floor. Bombs go off EVERYWHERE. In an astounding defiance of physics and chemistry, ice SINKS to the bottom of the ocean.

Fragile Arctic ecosystem: Help!

Ripcord CHASES nanothing missiles over the planet to SHOOT them down before they hit Moscow and Washington DC.

Ripcord: The weapons aren’t firing! I can’t figure out – oh, wait! I can’t fire them because they don’t have any firing buttons!

Scarlett: Maybe they’re voice activated!

Ripcord: Fire! Bang! Shoot! Urban dialogue! It’s not working!

Scarlett: Wait! The bad dude is Scottish!

Scarlett: Maybe the plane responds to Celtic! [Real dialogue.]

Audience FALLS OVER LAUGHING.

Scarlett: Luckily, for some inexplicable reason, I have learned Celtic! So! Celtic word!

Ripcord: Celtic word!

Planes BLOW UP.

Ripcord: Yay! We’ve just saved Moscow by using the Celtic language! Let’s hurry up and move along before anyone thinks about this too much.

Scarlett: Yes, because even though the special effects show that you are currently in a plane over Russia, you need to be able to fly back and reach Washington DC within 12 minutes to shoot down the other plane of nanothings.

Ripcord: Not a problem! This is an EVIL plane, so it even DEFIES geography.

Scarlett: Not that we’ve been paying attention to that anyway.

Ninjas GO AT IT. White ninja STRIPS for no particular reason.

Ripcord ZIPS over to the UPPER atmosphere and SHOUTS a Celtic word, SHOOTING at the nanobombs but MISSING. He CHASES the nanobomb thing to the LOWER atmosphere where he SHOUTS a Celtic word.

Scarlett: YOU’RE IN THE LOWER ATMOSPHERE! I have to shout this, since the special effects are so bad the audience would otherwise NOT KNOW THIS.

Various excited White House Aides: Mr. President! You must flee right now to the underground bunker specially constructed by the Scottish villain of this film so that you don’t get killed by nanobombs!

Mr. President: But what if a surgically designed imposter just happens to be waiting in the underground bunker to hit me over the head and store me in the closet while he takes my place as the Leader of the Free World?

Various excited White House Aides: Will he still have your British accent?

Mr. President: He’s a surgically designed imposter whose vocal cords are Just Like Mine, so, yes.

Various excited White House Aides: Well, let’s not worry about that. Although, in retrospect, a Buy American policy might have been wise here.

Ripcord ZIPS over what is apparently the POTOMAC river CHASING the nanothings. Remarkably, neither he nor the nanothings HIT any boats or planes. Just before the nanothings HIT the White House Ripcord HITS them instead and FLIES up to the upper atmosphere to KILL them even though being in the upper atmosphere didn’t kill them before. Ripcord’s plane falls apart in the upper atmosphere. For two seconds everyone thinks Ripcord is DEAD.

Ripcord: Wow. Even though I ejected from the upper atmosphere well after missing the White House, I’ve still managed to parachute down to the White House lawn. What were the odds?

Surgically designed imposter LEAPS out and HITS the President on the head and stores him in a closet.

Surgically designed imposter: NO ONE will FIND you there!

Remarkably, this turns out to be COMPLETELY TRUE.

Mr. President: Hmm. I begin to see why, in other movies, various family members and key aides are shoved into the bunker WITH the President so they can help defend him against surgically designed imposters. Oh well. Anything for the sequel, I guess, although I’ll be dead by then.

Bad guys DETONATE icepack to kill GI Joes. More ice SINKS to the bottom of the ocean. White ninja is stabbed and falls and falls. Duke and Anna FLY off. Gi Joes ESCAPE. No one updates us on the FATE of the polar bears.

Monocle guy STABS Scots guy with nanothings, transforming him into a metal being Just Like his Scots ancestor. Monocle guy falls into EVIL LAUGHTER, but is soon CAPTURED by Gi Joes and put in a giant metal cage with NO BATHROOM. Duke and Ana fight through more bad dialogue. The Gi Joes walk out, looking, as Ripcord notes, pretty good.

Final verdict: Er, yay to the pretty nonsensical ninjas. Otherwise, nay.

Mari Ness lives in central Florida, by a large alligator infested lake. Her work has appeared in multiple places, including Hub Fiction, Farrago’s Wainscot, and elsewhere on Fantasy Magazine. Rumors that she has been enslaved by her two cats are probably true.

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