G.I. Joe: Secrecy is Paramount

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 5 2009 12:30 AM

G.I. Joe: Secrecy is Paramount

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a noxious green substance capable of dissolving the Eiffel Tower . Oh, no, sorry—it’s a movie about a noxious green substance capable of destroying the Eiffel Tower. Such mixups are understandable, given that, like most other critics in the United States, I won’t get the chance to see G.I. Joe before it opens. Paramount is taking the unusual step of shielding its film from all advance press coverage, a PR strategy usually reserved for movies that are both lousy and not eagerly anticipated by the public. ( I Know Who Killed Me , the 2007 bomb starring Lindsay Lohan as a serial killer’s victim, is a classic example of a movie given the no-advance-screening treatment.) Since G.I. Tract —I mean Joe , sorry, haven’t seen the movie—isn’t a cheapo exploitation flick but one of Paramount’s summer tent-pole releases, it’s odd that the studio has done everything it can to block access to the movie, going to great lengths to make sure it’s seen only by focus groups, military personnel (the movie premiered Monday night at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland), and a few fanboy-friendly blogs like Ain’t It Cool News .  

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However relieved I might personally be to not have to sit through G.I. Joke, this news ain’t particularly cool for the future of film reviewing. When major releases start to get waved past press scrutiny and rammed directly down audiences' throats with hugely expensive marketing campaigns, we’re that much closer to a world in which the only voices talking about movies come from the people who stand to make money off them. As Nathan Rabin puts it in the Onion ’s A.V. Club blog, "Who needs a cultural conversation about a film’s merits when you can have a massive one-sided publicity blitz?" The G.I. Joe action figures of old were brave and stalwart men (and one soon-discontinued and now highly collectible woman ), ready to battle not only the Cobra Command but the leotard-clad Intruders with their fearsome "Crusher Grip." Hiding from a few puny-armed, laptop-wielding critics is hardly the G.I. Joe way.

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Photograph of G.I. Joe action figures courtesey of Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.