They just don’t make heroes like they used to

I watched GI Joe Retaliation…and feel the need to justify myself…it was background while I did odds and ends at home. The point is that I watched GI Joe Retaliation. It is a bad movie, but the impressive part is how much of the absurdness of the first movie they trimmed out and still managed to make a movie just as bad or worse. the lesson here is don’t skimp on writers, I guess.

For the uninitiated, GIJ I ends with Cobra having captured and replaced the president without anyone knowing. In GIJ II, the faux-president frames the Joes as traitors and has his Cobra allies wipe them out.♠ Of course, three survive and trek back from Pakistan♣ to find out why the President betrayed them and to stop Cobra when they find out the President is not hte President. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to the world, the US military/Cobra have built a series of satellites that drop rods from space.♥ The not-President then brings all the nuclear powers, including North Korea (it is unclear whether Iran attended) to a disarmament summit at Fort Sumter, prompts them to launch their nukes (all of which are on missiles) by launching the US nukes at their countries and then coerces disarmament by himself volunteering to destroy the US nukes.♦ Voila! The threat of a nuclear holocaust is over! The president then demands their surrender, revealing the rods-from-space weapon and destroys London, just to prove his point. Cobra then threatens to destroy the rest of the countries in attendance, but the ‘Joes show up just in time to stop them and destroy the satellites remotely. Naturally, the bad guy escapes.♠♠ The ‘Joes, finally, are treated as heroes. Fine.

My big problem with GIJ I was the excessive destruction caused by the good guys as they rushed to prevent Cobra from destroying the Eiffel Tower.♠♣ This time was more of an old-school action flick where the good-guys are limited in their ability to cause collateral damage, but there was still a damage quota to fulfill♠♥….so they leveled London. Don’t worry, though, the ‘Joes saved Tel Aviv, so they can still call themselves heroes. But suspending disbelief about everything else, what about the fallout from this event? Let’s recap: the Not-President used the US military, presumably, to build a series of super-advanced satellites and then after a push of a single button launched the entire nuclear arsenal, used his sole authority to get the US military to launch an unprovoked attack on the close US ally.♠♦ That’s alright, though, because the bad guys did it and the ‘Joes stopped (most of) the destruction.

At the end of the movie, I quipped on Twitter that someone should make a mockumentary detailing reconstruction of the world post-action movies. The same could be said of the US position in the world. The ‘Joes might have won, but that does not change the fact that the United States military wiped out London and the resolution amounted to “oops.”

I do not hold with the doomsayers who claim a causal relationship between the violent movies and video games and violence in society, but there is an escalation of movie violence that bothers me. First, I dislike the wanton damage and tendency to shrug aside collateral damage by the people the audience is supposed to relate to. Second, blowing things up substitutes for dialogue and plot, which degrades the quality of the movie. When that happens, it is insufficient for those heroes to stop the first cataclysmic event because that would stop some of the “cool” CGI that is really the only reason people are watching. So bring back clever dialogue and, barring an actual narrative contingency, let the heroes stop entire cities from being destroyed. Please.


♠ Or at least the ones on the team we care about. There were surely more and with secret bases in GIJ I… *waves hand* these are not the details you are looking for.

♣ National borders matter not to super famous-yet-secret US commandos *waves han…you get the idea.

A real thing, actually.

♦ All nukes in this world are controlled by wireless/satellite capable briefcases carried around by world leaders.

♠♠ How else would there be a GIJ III?

♠♣ They failed there, too.

♠♥ Lives, sq km flattened, value of property damage…it is unclear what unit of measure Hollywood uses.

♠♦ A certain defense from Nuremberg comes to mind

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