Theatrical Review: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

A devastating new weapon has fallen into the clutches of a sinister terror force and now it’s up to an elite multi-national fighting force to save us all.

That’s the basic plot of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the next film designed to get the fans of The Transformers and the latest film from director Stephen Sommers.

I have to say that when I was younger (but older than the G.I. Joe fan base) and this form of G.I. Joe toy came out, I just wasn’t interested at the time. I thought the cartoons were big toy commercials and the comics were the ass-end of Marvel Comics (except when artist Michael Golden was involved here and there, and then I wanted to at least see the book). But I have to say, when I first saw the trailer for the film, I thought it looked like it could be a fun ride (which I’ve found out is certainly counter to fans of this stuff, with a lot of the comments really hating the trailer and especially the mechanized suits involved with it- I don’t get that, but there you go) and so I was at least interested in seeing the movie…

And I’ve always liked Stephen Sommers’ movies– oh sure, they’re not the greatest things ever committed to film, but just some fun brainless and harmless stuff that was a good diversion for a couple of hours. In the end, that’s what I thought of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra though also I was fairly indifferent to it as well. It was a pretty ride with lots of big-ass stuff being thrown at you on the screen, but with little or no emotional investment, at least for me. But let me say, if I was 10 years old and seeing this for the first time, I’d probably love it to death.

Now the thing is, I thought anyway, for fans of this stuff though, they’d probably just eat it up. I mean, they loved Transformers so they should probably love this as well, but then admittedly, I’m about as far removed from that fanbase as can be, so hell, I don’t know for sure. I mean it was always, at least from what I know, this particular group of good guy toys against this particular group of bad guy toys in a never-ending cycle, and near as I can tell, the movie delivers that…

My own biggest criticisms is that I thought the effects for the most part were pretty obvious looking (but near as I can tell that’s a directorial choice, and it doesn’t really hurt the movie) and that the lead character on the G.I. Joe side, Duke, played by Channing Tatum, is pretty much stiff as a board. There’s never any real risk of danger to anyone here in a way that made me give a damn, but then I don’t know if that was exactly the purpose of it, I don’t think it was. I’ve seen one review where at the end of it, he said to go see The Hurt Locker instead, and I just sort of think that’s a wrong direction to go in when writing a review of this movie, trying to compare it to something that’s super-real, when this is obviously an adolescent fantasy that’s trying to stay true to it’s roots (or at least near as I can tell).

Sommers has a big and pretty cast for this movie, the above-mentioned Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller (who it;s kid of nice to see in something as opposed to reading incessant gossip stuff on her), Dennis Quaid, Ray Park, Joseph Gordon-Leavitt, Christopher Eccleston, Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols amongst others. and Sommers even manages to get “his guys” in some of the parts, like Brendan Fraser, Arnold Vosloo and in particular Kevin J. O’Connor. Nobody’s going to win an Oscar for this and really I don’t think anyone really cares, they all fill their parts well at least physically (and I happen to think Sienna Miller looks way better as a brunette in glasses than she does a blonde) and I guess they’re doing just what Sommers wants them to do. There was one point where I was watching this and thinking of the motivations of one of the characters, the Baroness, and applying to her some stuff that Martin Scorsese has said about simplistic character motivations just bugging him, and then I just had to laugh because I was going there for this movie, which of course was just ridiculous (much like the above comment from the reviewer who said you’re better off seeing The Hurt Locker instead).

As I said, if I was 10 years old, I’d probably think this was the coolest thing in the world. I tend to think that if I was a fan of G.I. Joe in the day, I’d probably eat it up as well. For me, it was a fun visual diversion for a couple of hours, though in the end I still didn’t care one way or the other when it came to a human element in the film, but then I hardly think that matters here…

About Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

16. August 2009 by Darren Goodhart
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