Why You Should Care About the G.I. Joe Culture War


The publicity campaign for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is really turning into quite the piece of work by Paramount. And I mean that in all due respect for the wicked genius at play here, from vice chairman Rob Moore -- who defended his press-screening blockade by explaining "we want audiences to define this film" -- down to the infantry flacks who have carefully cultivated a tiny, influential critical base behind the scenes. See Exhibit A: The infamous Inner-Child Demographic (including one critic who magically changed his mind) that bumped Joe from an 80 percent positive score on Rotten Tomatoes up to a 91 percent score literally overnight. So tell me again, Rob: Which audience is supposed to define this film? And again, why do we care?

It's funny because before this, I often rolled my eyes at critics' complaints about studios not screening their films. "What an entitlement complex," I thought -- screenings are a privilege, not a right. I still think that, and I recognize a review-proof film when I see it.

But in the end, this isn't so much about critics as it is about the outer limits of studio cynicism. First of all G.I. Joe isn't review-proof; if it were -- like Transformers 2, The Ugly Truth and a handful of other critically reviled hits this summer -- then Paramount would have simply screened it and saved Moore the embarrassment of lies like the ones he told the L.A. Times: "Our starting point for this movie is not Hollywood and Manhattan but rather mid-America. [...] There are a group of people we think are going to respond to the movie who are normally not the first priority. But we're making them a priority."

Talk about an entitlement complex. Sorry, mid-America -- when Paramount goes blurb-fishing for its next Benjamin Button or whatever Oscar-season shit it wants the press to shovel, then things will go back to normal. Hopefully you'll be fine waiting for the next movie dumb enough for you to be "a priority."

And that's just taking Moore at face value. He could just as well be lying, as evidenced by the shenanigans still unfolding at Rotten Tomatoes. Remember, Paramount "want[s] audiences to define this film," but at some point in the last day Andrew Urban -- one of the chosen few reviewers Paramount recently tapped to comment on Joe -- flip-flopped his "rotten" score to a "positive" score. Add this to everything that happened on Tuesday, and critics' 91 percent approval rating seems to define plenty on its own.

So why should you care? It's just G.I. Joe, right? A popcorn movie for kids, a big commercial for Hasbro? Well, yes. It's also a milestone of calculated distrust -- in viewers and critics alike -- implying that bad movies are acceptable. As though actively endorsing and perpetuating some red-state/blue-state cultural apartheid for the sake of a $175 million piece-of-shit action movie is perfectly fine. As though it's too difficult to make something halfway watchable for that same price or less, or at least something Paramount doesn't have to fight a two-front culture war just to salvage for opening weekend. As though something like The Hurt Locker, for example, is too good for the very people the studio stoops to conquer with a movie even its own executives can't legitimately defend.

As though it's all right we've come to this. Pathetic.

· G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra [Rotten Tomatoes]


  • Hear, hear! I think everyone who reads this entry could make a better movie with a sliver of that disgusting money pie...

  • Erik Buckman says:

    Well said. "Screening" the movie on military bases could also be a way for Paramount to smooth over any huff regarding the "real American hero" being turned into an international force for the sake of overseas money.
    I'll be watching 'The Hurt Locker' again instead watching the Halo suits.

  • 5-Star Day says:

    ^ Yeah, this all stinks, for sure. And it's all pretty transparent to the LA/NYCers who follow such things, but the sad thing is that it'll probably work, at least in terms of protecting the movie's 1st weekend gross, which it's clear is ALL -- well, along with preserving the chance at a franchise -- that Paramount cares about.

  • Kevin Lately says:

    This Movie" GI Joke" is more Drawing than Acting. All the "C.G.I. rage" drives me into a Rage. I almost rather watch someone's i-Phone movie than one of these overproduced Fake Blockbusters. It goes along with the dumbing down of everything. If you enjoyed this movie? chances are you haven't read a book in five years or longer. We can assume the Producers of this movie don't read. Because obviously there was no script. ....I'M off to Rent a Hitchcock movie; Or god Forbid, pickup a book!

  • Colander says:

    Or save your money for District 9.
    Anyway, with so many talented directors willing to take on Big Hollywood Jobs, there's no excuse for this movie.

  • BobInLA says:

    Who the hell cares if it's any good? As soon as I see it I'm opening the moving box from ten years ago that has all my old G.I. Joe toys. I plan to put together a post-screening masturbatory diorama involving Cobra Commander. Even in that creepy gas mask, Joseph Gordon-Levitt is still f*cking hot.

  • rodger says:

    This isn't about movies, its about salvaging an investment.

  • Kittenhead says:

    Yeah, but as with many investments that were made over the past five to six years, this one isn't worth salvaging.
    The real deal here is value--and values. And in the long-term, Paramount is squandering both.

  • The Winchester says:

    Good, bad, all I know is it better have that "America! Fuck yeah!" song somewhere in it.

  • MA says:

    Here's the odd thing: there have been numerous preview screenings for critics in Australia. And the vibe -- just in conversation, rather than blurb-whoring -- has been that G.I. Joe isn't great but it's also pretty tongue in cheek and a notch above Transformers and Terminator: Salvation.

  • James says:

    Yes, bad movies are unacceptable. But TWO stories about Paula Abdul leaving American Idol on the front page of your site... that's the side of the culture war you want to be on? THAT'S acceptable?

  • snickers says:

    This movie looked and sounded bad from the beginning, and so it's somewhat disturbing to see all the "Awesome! Amazing!" reviews popping up everywhere.
    Something smells off about the whole thing.

  • Lowbrow says:

    I interpret that stating “we want audiences to define this film” is the same as admitting they already know what the critical consensus will be. In other words, a steaming pile of nonsensical bullshit hiding behind a thin veil of CG & nostalgia.

  • I personally think that nothing could matter less than the brouhaha surrounding this movie, particularly since *most* of the people complaining about it seem to be ones who were completely unaware of the 80s cartoon version (My own personal favorite). I'm a huge GI Joe fan from way back, but this movie had 'turd' stamped on it from day one, and in the end I honestly have to believe that all this fuss is just making us conservatives look silly.
    But look, if we're serious about this alleged culture war, if you want to do something to break up the "Blue State/Red State" apartheid (Very nice turn of phrase, by the way, Mr. Vanairsdale! I'm going to start using that, crediting you of course), then the solution isn't to kvetch and moan about it, or to complain that H'wood doesn't make movies to represent conservative values. The solution is to actually go out and DO something.
    Don't like the state of the entertainment industry? Well go out and start your own. There's got to be a hundred million people in America willing to contribute ten or twenty dollars to start up a mid-sized movie studio that makes decent movies for decent folks, right? People aren't content to just sit through "Fireproof," again and again, they want some entertainment that isn't screamingly liberal, but isn't openly evangelical either. So. Start. The. Studio. Make the movies. The audience is there - nobody would be complaining if it weren't - and they're willing to shell out money.
    It's easy to complain about how we don't like how someone else is driving the car, but it's another thing - and a far more effective one - to buy a car of our own and drive ourselves around.

  • frontierican says:

    100% TOTALLY AGREE. Awesome comment. If you're waiting for Hollywood to improve, you'll be waiting forever. The only answer is to offer a comparable or better alternative for audiences. Introduce true independent competion to the main-stream entertainment industry.

  • TRO says:

    I won't be going to see it and I was a BIG GI Joe fan growing up. And since my 13 year old son hasn't even mentioned it there's no pressure there either. Add in that I haven't heard anyone I know even talking about it much and I see it bombing.

  • Chuck in Dallas says:

    They put this crap out there on 3,000 screens, don't show it to the critics, and hope the tweets don't kill it after the Friday screenings. I could see from the 90 second clip on the morning talk shows that it is pure unadulterated Hollywood ca-ca. And Channing Tatum shows up to tell people he did all his own 'stunts'? What stunts? It's all CGI and blue screen and looks it. Maybe they can get this past the prime 13 year old demographic in 'the heartland' but it's still lazy moviemaking and an insult both to the G.I. Joe brand AND middle America. I used to work at Paramount when it was making award-winning movies that mattered. It's a real shame what has happened with the major studios churning out this kind of non-entertainment.

  • Sean Maloney says:

    I love the fact that most of the people shitting all over this movie haven't even seen it... Personally, I think this movie has been treated terribly unfairly and there are FAR WORSE movies out there. I played with the toys, watched the show, played the video games and drank the Kool-Aide back in the day and I have to say G.I.Joe is a very faithful, incredibly entertaining adaptation that smartly wieves in many of the character backstories that "Joe" fans know by heart. Movies should be judged by what they are and what they mean to achieve not what they're percieved to be. I saw Transformers 2 several times (I work at a movie theater) and G.I.Joe is 10 times the movie that is. Why is it that we can admit that critics are incredibly biased, often only watch only 30 minutes of a given movie before writing a review or worse just watch the trailer and tend to be too old to even identify with the audience this type of movie is intended for, yet we give them so much credit when it fits our own agendas? The same with box office... While we know the amount of money a movie makes cannot define it's quality, why do we still use the grosses to defend our favorite films? Why? Because movies, like any other art form, are subjective and our reaction to them is based on total emotion and has nothing to do with rationalization or fairness which leads to my point... G.I.Joe is the #1 movie all around the world! Over $62 million dollars in the U.S. box office alone! Eat it, bitches!

  • Cufford says:

    The real problem here is that industry people, most notably film critics (now there's a worthless bunch) are pissed off because they weren't allowed to pan this film before release. At least not based on, like, actually seeing it.
    And, apparently a lot of viewers (you know, those people who actually have to buy a ticket to see a movie) like this film and so it's not a bad movie, it's a good one. The box office receipts speak for itself.
    The problem here is egos. The egos of film critics. And that's the one thing I can agree on here, that sense of entitlement they have. As if the success or failure of a film should be under their control, by what they think and say.
    As I say, film critics are the most worthless bunch. Who cares what they think of a film. All I care about is what I think of a film. That's all that matters to me.

  • Srum says:

    "If you enjoyed this movie? chances are you haven't read a book in five years or longer."
    I have to disagree, I read every chance I get but I still liked this movie. Yes it was a bit cheesy but the little kid in me liked it and please don't forget it was based off a child's cartoon. To go as far as saying this was the worst movie in history is a really over doing it. The worst movie in history was Dragon ball evolution.
    This movie did what it needed to do, and if I'm a idiot for liking it then I'm a idiot. Don't like it don't watch it, that's what it comes down to.

  • Kyle says:

    This movie had nothing to do with origial cartoon or comic book. Its a to hour hip-hop video. Total trash. Did they do any research before making this piece of shit. I'm sooo disappointed.