G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Directed by: Stephen Sommers
Cast: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Running Time: 1 hr 55 mins
Release Date: August 7, 2009
Plot: An elite military unit known as G.I. Joe is led by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). Duke (Tatum) joins the gang and must deal with a past love (Miller) as a new evil organization is looking to take over the world.
Who’s It For? Adults who played with the toys, collected the comic books or loved watching the cartoon series should be content. Otherwise, this one is for the kids. Which is too bad, because it’s REALLY violent. There are tons of knives to the head. Tons.
Expectations: I was an adult who played with the toys, collected the comic books or loved watching the cartoon series. In fact, here’s my review of G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero Season 1.1. All that said, I was worried because there was bad buzz, plus critics weren’t allowed to see this movie ahead of time, which is normally a really bad sign.
Channing Tatum as Duke: Lifeless. Tatum shows no range as Duke. I know we could say he’s a soldier so he has to keep his feelings hidden, but give me a break. Upset, nervous, excited, happy … these things need to look different on the big screen, especially in a movie about a toy.
Marlon Wayans as Ripcord: Ripcord’s shot accuracy in the training montage is off the charts, almost 100 percent. Wayans’ joke accuracy as the comic relief in about 10 percent. He’s just not hitting. It’s pretty painful because you can tell every time he speaks they’ve attempted to set him up with a punchline. I’m going to blame the script a little bit more than him, but none-the-less. Also, it seems the boy stands out as the old one of the group (besides Quaid).
Sienna Miller as Baroness: This one really hurts because they’ve given Miller the most important “dramatic” role of the film. She’s supposed to be a seductress but just like Tatum, doesn’t seem to possess the range to make us desire her, or believe she has the power to manipulate men.
Rachel Nichols as Scarlett: She’s got a spark. Plus, that crossbow has been nicely updated from the cartoon. Duke and Scarlett had the sexual tension (if you can call it that) in the 80s, but here it’s Ripcord trying to get her. I’d actually consider giving Nichols a 7, but she’s proven she could be one of the worst runners I have ever seen in movie history. When she’s on a treadmill, it’s comical.
Ray Park as Snake Eyes: His look and his fighting technique are all we have to go on, since the man doesn’t talk. So, did he really need lips on his mask? That was odd, right? Otherwise, I liked him being the best fighting machine Joe has to offer, even if the backstory with Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) simply shows why kid actors shouldn’t be required to do any heavy lifting.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Rex/The Doctor: For me, Gordon-Levitt is one of the best young actors out there right now, and the best quality actor in this film. It doesn’t really shine through. He’s the one character that needed a backstory, so we could try and buy into his sudden switch from Rex to the evil doctor. And I’m not even sure if they used Gordon-Levitt’s voice when he plays the doctor. All of that being said, I like where his character ended up, and if/when the sequel happens I will be curious where he goes from here.
Talking: Ouch. I will keep going back to Star Trek with this example … they make all the one-liners work. G.I. Joe does not. Whenever “knowing is half the battle” or “Yo Joe” is said there is no emotional impact. Plus, almost none of the jokes work. I would have loved to have seen a PSA announcement, just like from the cartoons. That way, you’d know every die-hard fan who was in the theater, because they’d be the ones laughing their arses off.
Sights: They didn’t have red and blue lasers. So that was a little sad for nostalgia’s sake. But man, these were some of the best special effects of the summer. I loved the over-the-top weapons because that’s exactly what G.I. Joe should be. The underwater battle was something straight out of Star Wars’ movie.
Sounds: Was that really some sort of techno-disco at one point in Paris? And how do they not try to update the theme song from the cartoon? Such a huge mistake for not taking that chance. Yes, the sound effects are good, especially the air/laser gun owned by the Baroness, but nothing music-wise is memorable.
Best Scene: The fight in Paris. Constantly great to look at, and the only time where there seems to be something at stake. The battle suits that increase all of your running and jumping abilities … those are going to be available at Toys R Us just like hoverboards, right?
Ending: Surprise, surprise, a sequel is coming. I have to imagine someone who doesn’t know the G.I. Joe history is utterly confused by Cobra Commander and Destro’s transformation, but it actually worked for me, and if a sequel is happening, I’m getting in line.
Questions: Did they really kill off Cover Girl? Why? Who did Brendan Fraser play? Was that Sgt. Slaughter? Does that mean he’ll be back for the sequel? Zartan, what happened to you?
Rewatchability: I easily would leave this on if I came across this movie on TV, especially if the training montage, fight in Paris or underwater battle was on.
I am the adult they were trying to reach with this movie. OK, maybe they want someone who can turn their brain off, but G.I. Joe was my childhood toy. And if it wasn’t yours, I doubt G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra will do much for you. My old mantra, “keep it simple, stupid,” should have been employed a little bit more. Get rid of the flashbacks, get rid of the past romance, and get rid of any hint of realism. This is a movie based on a toy. Take us for a ride the entire time. Though it is better than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen because their main plot is easily explained (bad guys are trying to get weapons), it’s 30 minutes shorter, and you can actually see the action.
If these are the actors you are asking to carry the load, I recommend less talking, or handing the script to someone who can actually create funny lines. Again, parents should rethink letting their kids see this because of the shocking amount of violence, but if you’ve already given up on what video games they’re playing … nevermind.
It truly does seem “knowing is half the battle.” In other words, knowing or thinking, really will take away enjoyment from this film. But at the same time, this is my favorite bad movie of the summer. And yes, I realize that’s a backhanded compliment. Yo Joe.
Final Score: 5/10