Reliving My Childhood

This past week I received the movie G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra in the mail from Netflix. I went against the recommendation of many critics and my own better judgment and watched it this weekend. It was, unsurprisingly, ridiculous. The plot was fairly predictable and formulaic: evil/maniacal/demented mastermind plans to control the world and steal lots of money by creating a global panic and fear of his terrifying new technology (here: nanomites. The horror!). Bankrolling the plot is the Scottish arms dealer whose family history creates a deep loathing for all things French. Throw in a master of disguise, a ninja assassin, and a jilted lover and you’ve got yourself an evil organization to rival the Brotherhood of Mutants! Enter the “Joes,” an elite multinational unit (because “a real multinational hero” has a much better ring to it than “a real American hero”) that is only thing that can save the earth from enslavement by the Cobra organization (which, if I recall correctly, isn’t actually named until the very end of the movie). Things play out as expected, with a major setpiece battle set in Paris (even our city destruction has international flair) then another underwater. As mentioned before, the plot was predictable. The dialogue was campy, the jokes were heavy-handed, the CGI was often weak (though the Eiffel Tower scene was impressive), and real character development was nonexistent. Make no mistake, I don’t recommend it to anyone. It felt completely overblown.

And totally awesome.

About midway through the movie I realized that for all its awfulness, I couldn’t help but love it. You see, I grew up playing with the G.I. Joe action figures. Next to Star Wars, I played with G.I. Joes the most. My childhood friend Will and I would spend countless hours in our backyards and homes creating outlandish scenarios for the toys, with characters switching allegiances and new factions emerging in each game we came up with. We’d have our own setpiece battles, but instead of an Eiffel Tower we had the living room recliner. Instead of the Sahara, we had the sandbox and the creek behind my house. As I watched this movie, I realized that I loved it because it was exactly the sort of situation that Will and I would come up with during a sleepover. That revelation freed me up to enjoy the movie for what it really was – the on-screen realization of a 9-year-old me’s imagination. I didn’t care if the dialogue was bad because so was Will’s and mine (we were 9 and 7). I didn’t care if the plot was outrageous because so was ours. I didn’t mind if they killed off a character or two, because that happened countless times in our scenarios. You can always invent a way to bring a character back to life. It may be outlandish, but hey, this is a 9-year-old’s universe. For two hours it took me back to the no-win situations that Will and I created on our living room floors. For two hours I was a kid again. Because of that, I loved it.

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