So the new GI Joe movie came out last week, making millions at the box office. To the surprise of absolutely no one, it’s not what you’d call a critical darling. Apparently the phrase “Joes before Hoes” was used. Yup, that bad.
The GI Joe movie had a lot going against it from the get-go, not the least of which was the source material. In the 80’s cartoon, the Joes had to battle such ridiculous schemes as hypnotic rock music and attempts to blow up the ocean. For me though, the biggest reason I won’t be seeing this film has nothing to do with the power suits or the fact that a Wayans brother was involved. If you ask me, the perfect GI Joe movie had already been released 11 years earlier. It was called Metal Gear Solid.
Say what you will of that game’s three sequels. They wouldn’t have all of those expectations to foil were it not for that fateful 1998 release on the Playstation 1. The names were changed, but all the elements were there. A para-military terrorist organization called FOXHOUND had seized control of a top-secret nuclear research facility in Alaska. The US government’s only hope of retaking the site was to send in a single operative in a hollowed out submarine torpedo with no weapons or political support. The operative’s code name was Solid Snake. He had the wry wit of a Connery-era Bond and the genuine pathos of Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name” character. Waiting for him inside the base was a troupe of villains with the kind of comic book bravado you can only achieve by knocking off a US military facility. They had code names like Revolver Ocelot, Sniper Wolf, and Decoy Octopus.There was even a mysterious cyborg ninja with unclear motives who could give Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow a run for their money.
Beyond their superficial similarities, Metal Gear Solid had a kind of ethos GI Joe would never be able to achieve with its Reagan Era bravado. It used real world issues of nuclear arms limitation and tghe fate of the military in a post-cold war world as motivation for its characters. At the same time, the story didn’t interfere with the game’s awe-inspiring set pieces, like Solid Snake’s battles with the members of FOXHOUND, or the final confrontation with the walking nuclear tank called Metal Gear.
It may be harsh for me to write off GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra without actually seeing it. Then again, if I actually saw it theatres, I would be supporting the kind of thinking that allows Michael Bay to believe that he has the directing prowess to sell M&M’s without looking like a candy-coated purple…nut. Besides, if I really want to see Reagan-era bravado caught on celluloid, there’s Commando, Rambo, They Live, and other macho epics for me to enjoy. In fact, I think I’ll do just that.