I have always loved David Lee Roth. He is the absolute epitome of everything I hate about glam rock from the 80’s but somehow I love it on him. The ripped, multi-coloured jeans, the feathered hair, scarves, coquettish staring into mirrors, etc – these are the associations that weighed down rock during the Sunset-strip infusion of the 80’s and as irritating as the ‘alternative’ thing was at least it put bands like great white, ratt and cinderella in their grave.
And yet Roth will live forever in my heart.
Perhaps it could be argued that this is because with any era-fad like glam rock there is room for one alpha dog in a discerning person’s ideology and with me it is Roth simply because of the fact that van halen’s 1984 was the first cassette my parents ever bought for me. I love the album to this day, even though that copy is god knows where and I have no active plans to re-buy it. I might hear Panama on a jukebox at a bar or the classic Hot for Teacher while hanging out with friends on New Years when vh1 counts down some inane rock list. In those cases I’ll enjoy them. But music that goes that far back is essentially primordial to a music fan – the stuff is in my blood, I do not need to hear it to enjoy it’s presence. Every note, beat and exclamation is right here inside me, and primarily thanks to Roth. Sure, as much as I detest eddie van halen I have to give him credit for creating the music, but it’s Roth that I cling to here, because the guy had a personality that eclipsed the music and brought it on home.
So, to sum up, despite the fact that he is everything I hate about rock music (well, not everything. Everything from that era) I love David Lee Roth.
GI JOE is David Lee Roth. It is, technically speaking, everything I hate about action movies – and yet I fucking LOVED it!!!
Anyone who knows me or has read my rants of late knows I went into this film with a CATASTROPHE sign printed and ready to hang on it’s collar. I had such low expectations – partially because I had waited for this movie for most of my life, which means expectations were nearly unreachable. Also, partially because reading Larry Hama’s brilliant GI JOE comic shaped my love of the Graphic Storytelling medium. And finally and maybe most importantly of all, partially because I had a lot of the figures and spent years filling in the chapters of my imagination with complicated and continuity-laden adventures based these 3 3/4 inch icons – the comics and cartoons serving as a jumping off point for my own interpretations of the characters who, through my own innate storytelling abilities accumulated many new dimensions of nuance and plot – characterizations I have carried with me all the way up through the years and to this past Friday when I got off work mid-afternoon and hurried over to the Cinema to sit down and catch the second viewing of The Rise of Cobra opening day.
I have not stopped thinking about it since.
First, I have to say that it was Devin’s review here on CHUD last week that helped put me in the proper frame of mind to appreciate this flick. Holding out hope from the beginning that this would essentially be a big-screen adaptation of Hama’s comics was perhaps naive, but it was concrete. I wanted the frustrated American businessman who dons a cowl* and starts holding rallies in the city of Springfield to build a legion of supporters bent on overthrowing the unfair regime of American capitalism. You realize early on that’s not what you are getting but instead of disappointment Devin hit the nail on the head and cracked my stubborn expectations open by comparing what the filmmakers had done with the adventures we childhood fans had scripted during the course of our play. The ‘Sandbox’ factor, to borrow on Devin’s interpretation. Except of course that with a budget of $170 Million The Rise of Cobra is like sandbox imagination on methamphetamines.
If you have any stake in this film and have not seen it yet the above is an important comparison to keep in mind. It will help you make piece with many of the ‘Super Action Movie’ cliches that will assault you at about 110 miles an hour for the better part of the roughly two hours over which the movie uncoils. Another important thing to note is that while the movie really has nothing to do with the comics it can definitely be seen as a live action version of the cartoon. Everything is big and bombastic – in this movie there’s not just a lot of standard gunfire – instead there are sidearms that fire blue electrical-like waves and send people, tanks and many a building’s structural integrity flying off into the distance. The ninjas don’t just jump and whirl in impossible gymnastic feats, they somersault from the roofs of speeding vehicles, dodge and light off smashed and exploding airbourne detritus and land again on the original vehicle. Hell, I think the undersea base is directly out of an episode of the cartoon. I grew up with the cartoon and liked it, but again, my heart belonged to the comics. If you’d asked me six months ago if I’d like a live action version of the cartoon I’d have said probably not.
But I would have been wrong.
So yeah, GI JOE is big and goofy and tongue-in-cheek at times. It truly is the epitome of everything I usually avoid in movies – gratuitous explosions, non-stop action/minimal plot, ridiculous vehicles and super-suits that make the characters more than human. But just like when DLR sang about the little girl from Cherry Lane, I loved every minute of it.
* I want that blue hood in the next movie!!!