Judging by the crowd that flocked to a packed pre-noon showing of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra on its opening day, this film is destined to make big noise at the box office.
It does on the screen as well. G.I. Joe is a brazen, earsplitting, eye-popping, oddly satisfying action extravaganza, though it veers wildly off-target in its second hour.
Your fingers will start out gripping the seat handles and end up tapping them impatiently.
Unlike previous incarnations, Joe is not a character in this movie. Instead, it's the name of a crack clandestine special-ops unit commanded by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid, swaggering around like a stunted John Wayne). Still don't know who or what Cobra is.
Two soldiers, Duke (Channing Tatum) and his slapstick sidekick, Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), want in, but the general informs them, "You don't ask to join G.I. Joe. You get asked."
Ah, but Duke has a trump card. He's the ex-fiance of Ana (Sienna Miller in a pneumatic push-up bra). His demure former sweetheart is now living a double life. She's the unstoppable enforcer for an evil cabal plotting to rule the world.
In her downtime, she's the wife of a clueless French baron, greeting her hubby with sweet nothings like, "Hello, Daniel. How was your meeting with the defense minister?"
The leading man, Tatum, has the doughty look of a young action hero, but lacks the larger-than-life presence to float this film. Doesn't really matter, because the real stars of G.I. Joe get locked, loaded, and discharged.
The problem, as in the Transformers films, is that once the fighting starts, it's almost impossible to tell the good guys and bad guys apart.
As the movie jolts along, the battle scenes grow more elaborate, sustained, and unconvincing. Meanwhile the implausibilities mount up. It's hard to believe, for instance, an American president with a plummy British accent.
G.I. Joe's mission is to provide moviegoers with bang for their buck. And in this it succeeds.
Action? Virtually nonstop. Big-budget sheen? Check. Explosive CGI effects? In spades. Futuristic weapons? Loaded for rhino.
OK, it's seriously deficient in plot or acting. But in this genre, those two ingredients are as superfluous as canoes in a desert.