There is absolutely nothing wrong with a film just being a big, dumb action movie if - and here's where GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
gets it wrong - the movie is fun to watch. Plot schmot, sometimes letting your brain switch to idle and just watching over-the-top ridiculous action is exactly what you need (see: Transformers 1
). GI Joe
sets out to fill the bill, but comes up short. The dialogue's inane and mostly unnecessary. The flashback sequences (of which there are way too many) are distracting and, again, unnecessary. And the CG work is nowhere near what you'd expect from a big-budget tentpole movie.
Yes, there are some really cool action scenes. Completely forgettable five minutes later, but interesting while they're unfolding on the screen. And there are a few shout-outs to GI Joe fans. Marlon Wayans
says someone has a kung fu grip and even I, someone who never watched the series and didn't play with a GI Joe action figure, got that reference. The trouble is, that line and a couple others meant to get a reaction from Joe fans fell flat because they weren't delivered well. It's not Wayans' fault. He tried to say the line with the proper emotion, but it either needed to sound natural or be played out while overtly winking at the audience. Instead it's just tossed out there and lost amid all the explosions, pyrotechnics, and computer generated effects.
France, 1641. McCullen is dealing arms to both sides, gets caught, and the French government punishes him by placing him in an iron mask. He vows that generations of the McCullen family will have their revenge.
A scene from 'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.'
© Paramount Pictures
Flash-forward to sometime in the not so distant future (but not in a galaxy far, far away). McCullen's great-grandson or whatever he is is now in charge of MARS, what I believe to be a corporation that develops weapons and defense systems. They've come up with nanomites, these things that can eat through anything - even metal. McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) has created four warheads loaded with these nanomites and Duke (Channing Tatum
) and Ripcord (Wayans) head up a military unit charged with making sure these warheads are safely transported to their destination. Out of the blue - yes, we saw it coming but Duke and Ripcord didn't - their top secret mission is disrupted by a lady in a Cat Woman outfit without the ears. She's the Baroness, leader of a gang of ruthless men you don't want to mess with. And, of course, this Baroness (Sienna Miller
) and her cohorts have better costumes and cooler weapons than the US military folks.
But as the Baroness and her sidekicks destroy Duke's unit, more good guys - Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), and Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) - arrive on the scene, and these good guys have apparently been shopping at the same toy store as the Baroness. Still, it's the fact that Duke and the Baroness have a history together that thwarts the Baroness' attempt to make off with the warheads.
So, now the bad guys need to figure out a way to get the warheads, the good guys need to figure out how to stop the bad guys from doing just that, and absolutely none of the rest of the details matter because POW! SPLAT! BOOM! CRASH BANG! here comes another loud, brain-numbing action sequence that'll be interrupted when it's just getting good by a flashback to someone's childhood or a silly joke from one of the action figure-inspired characters.
Really? Discussing the acting in GI Joe
is a pointless exercise in futility, so why go there?
The Bottom Line
A pilot is about to be shot out of the air and he says, "Oh my gosh!" There's violence and death, but very little blood. Fine, this a G movie so it's been Disney-fied. Wait, it's PG-13... How? Why? Yes, there's lots of action but it's harmless and cartoonish and so obviously not real there's really nothing that makes it bad for those under the age of 13 going on here. On the other hand, under 13 year olds seem to be the target audience. It's a strange conundrum.
There are a few cameos by actors who I will not name so that you'll be surprised when you see them. And there's an actor who's not in the film that I could have sworn was. A central bad guy figure is this mysterious doctor with a deformed face. I spent a good hour of the movie engaged in an inner debate as to whether this guy was Keanu Reeves dressed up as Darth Vader, just wanted to be Keanu Reeves dressed up as Darth Vader, or was merely channeling his inner Reeves/Vader.
Byung-hun Lee as Storm Shadow and Sienna Miller as Baroness.
© Paramount Pictures
Turns out it wasn't Keanu Reeves. It was an actor who's in one of my favorite films this year, but I won't say who since that would be a spoiler. Anyway, I think debating is he or isn't he Keanu Reeves was my favorite part of the GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
I get the feeling everyone signed on to this movie as a lark. A GI Joe film can't be taken seriously, so the actors just had fun and knew the outcome wasn't going to be an award-worthy critical darling. And maybe fans of the toy line or the TV series will get more out of Joe than I did, but I left with my ears pounding and my eyeballs on the verge of exploding.
The ending of Rise of the Cobra sets up a sequel. Let's hope that if there has to be a GI Joe 2, it will learn from what's wrong with GI Joe, won't have cheesy effects, will have an entertaining plot, and will forego the use of even a single flashback. Oh, and will explain why when Scarlett wears her accelerator suit or whatever it is, she can turn invisible, but she only uses this once during a brief fight scene and never does it again when it would be really, really useful. I'd like the answer to that question even if GI Joe 2 never comes to fruition.
GI Joe was directed by Stephen Sommers and is rated PG-13 for strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout
Theatrical Release Date: August 7, 2009