(And if you've been waiting to see this movie and you aren't seven, how sad are you, anyway?)
Can't say it was a great movie: it was mostly a celebration of fight scenes and crap blowing up. But in the end, that's all GI Joe has ever been, so why strain yourself, right? Well, a couple of random thoughts on the movie:
1. Christopher Eccleston (the 9th Doctor) could have phoned in his part - unless he's given significant scenery to chew, he tends to come off bland and restrained. (In fact, since they gave him the full-face metal mask of Destro at the end, he could now literally phone his part in for the inevitable sequel.)It's a movie full of pretty people - there's eye candy for you no matter what your gender choice. Although there were limited ethnic choices - there's white men, black men, oriental men... and white women. At least the two leading white women they chose, Rachel Nichols and Sienna Miller, are eyeball-meltingly hot, if that's what you're into. So at least I had something to stare at for the extended periods where my brain was decomposing under the weight of the product placement.
2, Thank the 36 aspects of Shiva that the producers realized in time that they needed to change Cobra Commander's costume, or they would have risked throwing hundreds of millions of dollars into a movie where the head bad guy looks like a Klansman with a leather fetish.
3. I did appreciate the exchange between a drugged out Marlon Wayans saying "Hey, look, he's got realistic hair!" and reaching out to muss it, only to have his wrist grabbed and spit out "...and a Kung-Fu Grip!" But I'm a big fan of the cheesy joke.
4. Brendan Frasier and Arnold Vosloo both make appearances in here, apparently because they've placed the GI Joe base of operations in Egypt. (Or maybe because Stephen Sommers liked working with them. It's hard to tell.)
Because, really, that's what the movie is all about. The cartoon (and probably, to a lesser extent, the comic book) was all about selling toys, but this movie has taken that open commercialism, and raised it to a whole new level of avarice.
There are, of course, all the usual, expected tie-ins: the action figures (of course, always the action figures), the movie posters, the soundtrack, the t-shirts, the coffee mugs, the video game (apparently not a winner), and, of course, the comic book.
But what stunned me was the amount of product placement this movie piled into its 118 minutes. From the billboards in the background to the products in the foreground, I'm not sure that the company paid for a single prop outside of guns and costumes. When Rex breaks into the underground bunker and finds the computer screens, the program in question is specifically and prominently shown to be a Norton product (leading to one of the most tenuous movie tie-ins ever).
I think what stunned me the most was the Double Bubble advertisements pretending to be part of the movie. Right before the Norton incident, Duke offers Rex a piece of Double Bubble (which he identifies by name), and explains how it always calms him down before he goes into battle; and later, their computer guy insists on taking the last piece of the (specifically-named) Double Bubble, and, in fact, is shown happily blowing a bubble with it.
Now, this movie is based on the 3.75" action figure/cartoon synergy of the Eighties. When I was a kid, though, I owned G.I. Joes. Not the action figures that my sons played with years later, but the original, 12" toys.
In 1963, Stan Weston had merchandising rights to a TV show called The Lieutenant. (This happened to be the first series created and produced by Gene Roddenberry of Star Trek fame. Majel Barrett probably met then-married Roddenberry on the set of The Lieutenant; a few years later, his marriage failing, he hired Majel for the first pilot of Star Trek, and the rest is... well, it's a long-running job for Majel, anyway...)
Weston went to the toy company Habro, makers of Mr Potato Head; playing on the success of the Barbie line of fashion dolls, which had been launched by Mattel four years earlier, he convinced them to produce a line of military-themed dolls.
(On a side note, the Hassenfeld Brothers toy company was founded in the Twenties by brothers Henry and Halal Hassenfeld; they didn't technically shorten their name to Hasbro until 1968, but most of the histories you read tell you that the first G.I. Joe's were made by "Hasbro" - go figure.)
(On another, only-vaguely-related side note, when Weston approached the nascent Hasbro-to-be, it had only been three years since they had marketed Mr Potato Head with a hard plastic body: prior to that, it was just plastic parts on push pins, and you stuck them in actual potatoes.)
Now, the original GI Joe had a prominent facial scar, which they did, in fact, give in the movie to Duke (Channing Tatum - no relation to Tatum O'Neal, if you're curious, although he was in a movie in 2006 with Steven Randazzo, who was in Basquiat ten years ealier with Tatum O'Neal - thank you, Kevin Bacon). The official story on the scar is that it was a trademarkable addition to the face; my personal theory is that it was added because the toy company realized that Joe looked a lot like a square-jawed Ken without it, and that just wouldn't do. Joe underwent only minor cosmetic changes for years, and with limited exceptions, they all had the scar.
Two years after their American release, Palitoy became the licensed distributor of GI Joe in the UK and Australia, using the same designs as their American counterpart. The British version was named Action Man, and the head of product development for Palitoy, William A.G. (Bill) Pugh, is credited with the creation of the "lifelike" flocked hair, Kung-Fu Grip, and the wierdly-moving "Eagle Eyes" changes to the design. So it might have been polite if some mention of Action Man had made it into the movies.
The retooled "GI Joe" apparently now stands for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity (it probably took them hours to come up with that one); it originally meant "Government Issue" (the attitude being that, if you're in the military, the government owned you as much as it owned everything it issued to you). Originally planning to call the prototypes by original names like "Rocky the Marine", "Skip the Sailor", and "Ace the Pilot," they instead decided to go with the more generic "GI Joe" based on a 1945 film, The Story of G.I. Joe.
(That movie, loosely based on the experiences of war correspondent Ernie Pyle, starred Robert Mitchum and Burgess Meredith, a couple of minor actors, and an actual group of war correspondents, and a bunch of American GI's about to be transferred from the European theater to the Pacific. Ernie Pyle also acted as technical advisor for the film, which stole several punchlines from Bill Mauldin's cartoons. Just after filming was finished, the GI's were transferred to Okinawa, where many of them were killed, along with Ernie Pyle himself, having never seen their movie.)
And now you know. And knowing is half the battle.