I watched G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra this weekend, and for the most part, it was … not as bad as I feared. This is in no way a great movie, but I think all of the bad reviews helped by lowering my expectations. There were the requisite callbacks to the cartoon (“Knowing is half the battle.” Yay!), over-the-top action scenes, ninja vs. ninja swordfighting, and the ninth doctor as Destro, which was rather surreal…
And then you have the character of the Baroness. In the very first scene, she’s commanding a squad of armored bad guys, and they completely pawn Duke’s team.[1. Is it still cool to say “pawn”?] At the end of this battle, we know two things: the Baroness has some sort of history with Duke, and she is an evil badass.
Only she’s not. You see, she used to be blonde a good guy. She was engaged to Duke and friends with Ripcord. And then her brother got blown up under Duke’s command, after which Duke was unable to face her. The loss of these two men broke her. In a flashback, we see her basically catatonic, unable to even rouse herself from her bed. So our villain injects nanobots into her brain, as one does, and reprograms her into the Baroness.
The Baroness is Sleeping Beauty, and not in the cool Talia-will-kick-your-ass-with-a-spoon way.[2. From my princess books. Yes, I’m egotistical enough to reference my own books.] We don’t know what she used to do; she was defined only in relation to Duke, as his girlfriend/fiancee. This unapologetically evil villain who stands up to Destro, kicks Scarlett’s ass, and basically rocks … turns out to be nothing but a puppet, a weapon created and programmed by another guy.
In the fairy tales, Sleeping Beauty is not a character; she’s a trophy to be won by men. Likewise, the Baroness has no agency, no control over her own story, until Prince Charming Duke arrives again at the end and his mere presence breaks the evil spell. She gets one or two good lines after that — I liked her quiet, angry glee when she started shooting down Cobra subs — but it doesn’t even begin to make up for what the writers did to her character.
What depresses me the most is that the writers had a pretty cool character in the Baroness. Competent, evil, and highly effective. And then they actively destroyed their strongest female character with that pointless nanobot plotline. Why did anyone think this was a good idea?
Don’t answer that.
I don’t have terribly high standards for movies trying to cash in on my 80s nostalgia. I don’t expect five-star dining at McDonald’s, and I don’t expect brilliant cinema from G. I. Joe. But this was like ordering a Happy Meal and finding out that the “boy’s toy” is an action figure while the “girl’s toy” is a punch in the face.
Now you know.