G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Release Date: August 7th, 2009 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Stephen Sommers Actors: Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Ray Park, Rachel Nichols
or many, the outlandish threat of nanotechnology and biochemical warfare utilized by a technologically advanced arms dealer, with a plot to rule the world, might be slightly over-the-top. However, when it comes to the world of “G.I. Joe,” it’s a rather fitting adversary for the elite military group. There’s a difference between those generally accepting of such escapism in toy-based action movies – and those who actually possess knowledge of the vast array of characters from the Hasbro-created world. Sadly, the latter group will be dismayed by the drastic changes to their beloved organization (now an international group – so much for “A Real American Hero”).
Additionally, costume alterations are almost mandatory these days to avoid the brightly colored garb of once awe-inspiring superheroes, and these Joes have suffered from such over-modernization. Most are virtually unrecognizable from their comic book and figurine counterparts. Not to mention, their individual backstories have undergone such extreme revisions, it’s a wonder they kept the same code names. At least plenty of stuff blows up.
After a deadly biochemical weapon is stolen from their squad during a transport mission, soldiers Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are introduced to the G.I. Joe. It’s an elite military group of highly trained, uniquely skilled, peerless special operatives with plenty of governmental funding. Joining the unit in a super-secret underground base known as The Pit, under the command of General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), the two troopers are teamed with Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Breaker (Said Taghmaoui), and more to stop a maniacal arms dealer hell-bent on world domination.
“G.I. Joe” opens with the phrase “In the Not Too Distant Future,” but should have read “In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…” With the dizzying amount of futuristic technology, boundless financing, and all-encompassing intel, there isn’t really anything in the film that’s grounded in reality. Least of all are the mechanical accelerator suits that give the wearer superhuman powers, the gargantuan undersea laboratory, or the nanomite warheads that eat through everything like GORT from the remake of “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Few nostalgic viewers will recall playing with those creations from the Hasbro toy company. In terms of faithfulness to the original line of figurines that became a household name in the ’80s, about all that is retained are the names.
Baroness goes through multiple outfit changes like a twisted dark Barbie, Dubble Bubble is now the official gum of the Joes, Ripcord hands out life lessons and theories on attraction, and bizarre relationships between the main characters conflict with every comic book and cartoon television show storyline before it. With a Wayans brother in the lead and a cameo by Brendan Fraser, the level of seriousness (or lack thereof) is immediately apparent. Even the CG is too ambitious, occasionally slacking on vehicle designs and movement. When a shot of a computer animated polar bear is deemed necessary, perhaps it’s time to rethink the amount of graphics to utilize.
Director Stephen Sommers also couldn’t manage to eliminate the need for Arnold Vosloo (who played the mummy in his earlier films) – or pyramids. At least the director embraced nonstop action, destruction, and general mayhem (in what seems to be a competition against Roland Emmerich), which gives the film an undeniable level of excitement, even if it’s frequently lessened by comical yet authentic “Knowing is half the battle!” blurbs. Duke sums it up when he exclaims, “That was crazy! I didn’t expect that!” after plowing through Paris streets in his accelerator suit to protect a doomed Eiffel Tower. Except that audiences will, in fact, expect just about every memorable aspect of “G.I. Joe” lore to be completely redefined in this explosive, outlandish, and most of all silly, action extravaganza.
– The Massie Twins