The Infuriatingly Geeky 'Doctor Who' Joke (Possibly) Hiding In 'G.I. Joe'
Call me crazy but I don’t think that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) was a godawful movie (although, no Sgt. Slaughter? How absolutely dare you?) But it did this weird thing where it kept alternating between ignoring the source material and throwing elements from the animated show into the story without trying to adapt them into a live-action setting. Why is there a Japanese person in the movie calling himself by the English name “Hard Master”? “It’s from the cartoon.” OK, why do the Joes now use power suits and why is the Baroness secretly a good person who’s being mind-controlled? “Because screw the cartoon.”
Eh … Okay? Nowhere is this dissonance more jarring than at the end of the movie when Cobra’s head scientist (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) injects the weapons designer James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) with “nanomites” to heal his serious burns. This transforms his skin into metal, after which the scientist declares that “James McCullen” is dead and that he has been reborn as “Destro” while the scientist renames himself, *gasp* Cobra Commander!
Zounds! Gee-whiz! My goodness, what a twist! A couple of things, though. The original Destro simply wore a metal mask, which the movie established McCullen owns. No reason for the nanomites other than “Because screw the cartoon.” But then Cobra Commander just decides out of the blue that Jimmy’s name is now “Destro” and the only reason for that is because, say it with me, “It’s from the cartoon!” What a load of shit. One of the best movies of all time. See? Jarring.
And you know what really pisses me off about this scene? The fact that it might be secretly or accidentally brilliant. When the movie first came out, Christopher Eccleston was still remembered as the previous Doctor from Doctor Who, an alien with the power to regenerate into a new body whenever he gets seriously injured or whenever the actor playing him starts giving the showrunner too many notes. The character is literally just named “The Doctor,” which, interestingly, is also the name that the Cobra scientist was going by throughout the movie. So … at the end of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, The Doctor helped The Doctor regenerate with a brand-new face. Stealth Doctor Who joke!
Regrettably, probably not. There’s nothing else in the movie that would hint at it having this level of self-awareness and geekiness. Stephen Sommers’ films are big, loud, and fun, but they aren’t clever enough to weave elaborate pop-culture puns into their story. Hiding stuff in plain sight is actually very difficult. Not everyone can pull it off.
You know who can, though? Read the first letter of each paragraph in this article. No regrets.
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Top Image: Paramount Pictures