Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Moonraker II: The Rise of Cobra

Just got back from seeing the G.I. Joe movie. It was dumb, as expected, but it was enjoyable and not insulting like the Transformers movie. First the bad.

1) The acting: It was pretty bad. The actors are not helped by the script here. Much of the dialogue falls into the George Lucas level of "You can write it, but you can't say it". A lot of tired cliches.

2) It rips off Moonraker. Climax of Moonraker: Attack space station to prevent missile launch, chase down missiles that do get launched, and destroy them at the last second. Climax of G.I. Joe: Replace "space station" with undersea lair. There was even the big fight outside the undersea lair just like there was outside the space station in Moonraker.

3) It rips off Firefox: Change "Think in Russian" to "Speak in Celtic" when flying the plane

4) It rips off Star Wars Episode IV: There is a trench run. They shoot pursuers from a turret while escaping the enemy base.

5) It rips off Star Wars Episode VI: One team disables the cannon while the other team is in a dogfight getting slaughtered by the cannon. "Stick close to the enemy ships"

6) It rips off Star Wars Episode I: The ninja fight is almost exactly the lightsaber fight from the Phantom Menace; there is a double bladed katana and Ray Park is one of the ninjas. It rips off a whole bunch of other movies too. They were coming at me so fast during the climax that I should have written them down.

7) All Asian people are not the same: There are Japanese people and there are Korean people, they come from different countries. This is fairly minor compared to the movies of yore, at least they are from the same end of the continent. Sadly this is an improvement for Hollywood.

8) Not all buddhists monks are the same. There are different types of buddhist and they are not all found doing kung fu in Tokyo in large numbers. This is a really minor quibble but worth mentioning since I saw it with a Buddhist.

9) How many homeless white kids are there in Tokyo? How many of them are martial arts experts?

10) Their CGI eyes were bigger than their budget stomaches, and it shows.

11) The usual conservation of mass, momentum, and energy problems that are in every movie show up in this movie. Guns that send people flying but don't have equal recoil; fast moving underground drills. There are so many cool things that can be done that are possible, why always do clearly fake stuff? Hollywood, get people who have degrees that are not BAs to check your scripts. It is really easy to do.

12) It is essentially a Thunderball - Moonraker era James Bond film. With everything that entails, good and bad.

13) The usual hack agency that doesn't exist macho crap. How about showing guys working inside the system to defeat terrorists? We actually have a pretty good track record on this, we have intercepted far more through police work than have succeeded in pulling off their attacks.

14) There are hologram projectors everywhere..... everywhere

The good:

1) It is essentially a Thunderball - Moonraker era James Bond film. With everything that entails, good and bad.

2) The bad guys are nano-enhanced and almost invincible. The good guys rely on training, hard work, smarts, and a little bit of natural aptitude to overcome this. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things through hard work. I can get behind that. There are no special, mutant demigods here.

3) The bad guys find democracy to be chaotic, with too many levels of power division to be effective. The good guys support democracy, and for the most part work within the system to win. They do choose to misinterpret one order on purpose to accomplish their goal, but frankly interpretation is part of democracy. When the good guys step outside the bounds of society they get arrested. One isn't even allowed to return to his home country again. There are consequences for their actions.

4) The good guys screw up. They don't get falsely blamed for screwing up, they actually blow it. This made the movie seem more real to me.

5) The characters came from somewhere. There are a bunch of Lost style flashbacks. They come from a cliched place that you can see coming a mile away, but they do come from somewhere. This is a plus in modern blockbusters. Actual it played out pretty neat. It was too predictable though. Go for broke on this in the sequel.

6) There are very few racial stereotypes in this movie. People from different countries and of different colors are every bit as skilled as white Americans. This almost never happens in movies. There was the usual Hollywood, all Asians are the same crap, but at least it didn't Chun Li on us. It was certainly no Transformers: The Revenge of David Duke.

7) It was well paced. It was much better paced than Transformers or Wolverine.

8) They picked the right amount of characters. There was actual meat here. It was McDonalds but it was there.

9) It actually had something to do with the license. This is a pretty low priority for me. I prefer a good movie to one that is accurate to the source material. Here we got a decent accurate one. But when you make something that has nothing to do with the license, and is worse than it, like Transformers, it really sticks out.

10) The suits were used sparingly

11) Wayons was used correctly. This could have been a disaster (D&D). He was at worst groan inducing and often, funny.

12) My favorite Doctor

13) The finale is stitched together bits of a bunch of other movies, as mentioned above, but they picked good stuff to rip off. I would have preferred an original climax, but at least they picked some of the best moments in action movie history to rip off. Some of them, like the Moonraker parts, actually work better in this movie. Moonraker was terrible.

All in all I think they did a passable job here. They chose to go with something that was fairly accurate to source material that is pretty hard to work with. The movie was fun. It was dumb fun, and you have seen all of it before, but it was fun. It has actually been a long time since the last cool Raid on the Secret Base ending. It is executed well here.

In my ranking of dippy action movies I put this well above Missing in Action, above almost all of the Moore era Bonds and slightly ahead of Independence Day. I would say it is right at the level of the later Connery Bonds (Not "Never Say Never"!) which it is obviously trying to emulate. In a way the climax of this movie is kind of James Bond base raids greatest hits. Thunderball is not bad company to be in.

I hope they stick to the format for the next one. Oddly, no one else is doing this anymore so it has a niche. Hopefully they will come up with their own stuff though. I've seen it before, and I'll see it again for the sequel.


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