I guess you could say that it was a decent weekend for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Overcoming loads of skepticism and mixed early reviews (the film was not officially screened to critics), the film pulled in a cool $56.2 million this weekend.
Was this hugely unexpected? Nope. While people generally got the idea about what kind of film they were facing with its Super Bowl trailer over 6 months ago, it still contained the right ingredients from the Hollywood formula for a fun, mindless summer box-office hit. Indeed, that is exactly what we got. Is that a bad thing? Nope.
Should we dare to isolate what drew people to G.I. Joe, we could list factors such as nostalgia, style, and lack of real competition. (Unless you knew someone obsessed with TV cooking pioneers who was desperate to see Julie & Julia.) However, it seems that the film may have also been successful, if anything, in turning a new generation of children on to the G.I. Joe. franchise. While I'm not sure if that claim is substantively true, I remember that as I walked in a toy aisle the other day, passing the 4 inch scale G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra figures (at $7.99 a piece! WTF is that about?), the aisle was already occupied with by a young boy and his Dad. What were they looking for? G.I. Joe's!
This got me thinking: Did the kid remember that Cobra Commander first appeared in 1982 as a free mail-away offer with five "Flag Points?" Did he remember Zartan used to change colors in the sun and was originally released in 1984 in a vehicle set with the "Chameleon Swamp Skier?" Surely he would have some kind of memory of being jealous of that one lucky a**hole friend whose parents got him the gigantic U.S.S. Flagg playset in 1985 only to get the Cobra Terror Drome next year? Of course not! And I'm sure back in the those days, someone being nostalgic about the original incarnation of Joe's in the 60's would be in disbelief that someone of my generation would have no memory of the rough, black-bearded original figure and his "kung-fu grip." (It may be a generational thing, but IMO, those were glorified Ken dolls in Army gear. Sorry, just calling it as I see it.)
What, then, does Rise of Cobra's $56.2 million weekend mean? Well, the quick and obvious answer is a sequel (in which, Arnold Vosloo's Zartan will undoubtedly be a huge part.) Regardless of where the box-office numbers go from here, the talk that we've already heard about the actors being locked-in for a sequel has surely been validated with this weekend's performance. However, the bigger picture also shows that yet another 80's boy's toy franchise has been validated with a successful reboot. (So what's left? ThunderCats, Crystar, C.O.P.S., and Adam Power?) It seems that the G.I. Joe universe of the movies is here to stay for a while, anyway. So to all you naysayer fanboys out there, you can at least take some comfort in the fact that while your childhood may have been "altered," it has also in a weird way, been preserved. (Insert "knowing is half the battle" joke.)