G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
starring Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, Marlon Mayans, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Sienna Miller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Jonathan Pryce
written by Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett; Michael B. Gordon, Beattie, Stephen Sommers (story)
directed by Stephen Sommers
release: 07 August 2009
Paramount, 118 minutes, PG-13
There's Frakking Worse Things
Wow. That was just…wow. I’ve never before had so much trouble following the action of a movie, not in Bourne Supremacy, Star Trek (2009) or Star Wars. And yet this action/adventure flick is so filled with giant explosions and fancy state-of-the-art gadgetry and special effects it all boggles the mind a little.
Well, the movie that has received the most negative pre-buzz of the summer has arrived, and it’s neither extremely awful nor really good; it’s simply one of those mindless, fun action movies that serve no other purpose than to thrill and entertain for nearly two hours. Now, for G.I.JOE fans, this is probably the kiss of death – a horrible monstrous atrocity; basically, their Legend of Chun-Li and Dragonball: Evolution all rolled into one, but with more dazzling special effects. If the rumors about Paramount’s not-so-happiness about the movie is true, it’s perfectly understandable. I doubt a franchise is about to spark from this (though now that I said that I wager a sequel will be arriving July 2011), and I doubt director Stephen Sommers is getting tons of accolades. Though, I can’t really picture why they think this movie is so horrible they needed multiple multiple editors to sort through this mess.
But while on the topic of editing, Rise of the Cobra is actually pretty tightly edited. Granted, it’s basically one action scene after another with minor moments of what I guess they think constitutes exposition, but it really feels like no time has gone at all.
And as far as story – well, I can honestly say that I didn’t bother to intently pay attention. I know there’s something about nanotechnology and these little bug thingies that devour basically any substance and can’t be stopped unless a ‘Kill’ button is pressed, and there’s four warheads with these little buggers in them. Of course, the Joes are the one tasked to stop them, but things, of course, get worse before they get better. Joe pulls a Watchmen, with about four or five flashbacks during integral parts of the story. But I’m not too distracted or non-loving of them, because there are two separate flashbacks to two young boys in China basically pulverizing each other. Seriously, these fights were brutal.
The other flashbacks mainly belong to Duke and Cobra, fleshing out their backgrounds and filling in why one particular character doesn’t exactly fancy another particular character at the moment. For a movie basically all about action (really, the story absolutely takes, like, fourth fiddle to all the fights and action beats), the only real totally awesome and intense duels are the ones between the mute Ninja looking Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow. Completely awesome, and I may watch the movie again just for that.
G.I.JOE also boasts a pretty nifty cast. Channing Tatum has swooned the female audience with his roles in Stop-Loss and Step Up, and basically plays a one-dimensional grief-stricken action dude; Marlon Wayans, who I will always remember as Snails from the much-despised (but I liked it) Dungeons & Dragons flick, is simply the comic relief with snappy one-liners; Rachel Nichols of Star Trek (2009) is the gorgeous body who kicks ass; Darth Maul/Ray Park as the show-stealer Snake Eyes – silent but absolutely deadly; Brendan Fraser as some guy who gave orders for 120 seconds; The Doctor (Doctor Who) himself as the villainous businessman James McCullen whose motivations for being evil I don’t remember (all the action mostly blocked out any sense of logic or plot); the uber-talented Joseph-Gordon Levitt letting off some steam and going totally bonkers as the evil and movie titled Cobra; Sienna Miller as Duke’s ex-girlfriend who is just oh-so-hot and only the second reason to see this movie (Snake Eye being #1, by the way); and then evil incarnate, the Mummy, Arnold Vosloo as a horribly named baddie known as Zartan who ends up getting a pivotal make-over. Sommers regular Kevin J, O’Conner (Deep Rising, The Mummy, Van Helsing) shows up for a really brief flashback scene, but aside from eliciting a ‘man, he’s getting old’ response, it was still a pleasure seeing him onscreen and hearing his crackily voice. Oh, and Elizabeth Swan’s deceased father, Jonathan Pryce, shows up as a completely unconvincing President (seriously, this is about the lamest ‘President’ since X-Men: The Last Stand), but the ending leaves me sorta anxious to see what Pryce does with the storyline.
It's joyfully obvious Vosloo, Gordon-Levitt, and Eccleston had an absolute blast with their roles. Arnold Vosloo just has this sinister glee in his eyes, walking around with that 'I'm a bad guy! hehehe' smirk. Joseph just goes all-out wacky emulating a mad scientist with some harsh Anakin Skywalker facial burns and gives a fun-to-watch performance; and Eccleston basically comes off as a man-in-suit that gets cranky. All the actors basically signed on to this endeavor for the paycheck, undoubtedly, but you can tell that they're having one helluva blast just enjoying these nutty, unrealistic roles and simply let loose creatively.
For a movie with three screenwriters credited and three ‘story’ writers credited, the movie’s really lazily written. Obviously, not looking for a masterpiece here, but they could have at least put a little bit of effort. X-Men Origins: Wolverine had more development and clearer plot than this, and that movie barely had any (although I’m sure many will disagree). There's one particular writing ooboo I'm not too pleased with: (minor spoiler) when it's revealed the mighty Cobra is actually Rex, the long thought dead brother, Sienna Miller's character (Amanda?) shows absolutely no expression. The revelation that ones brother is still alive and is actually the evil mastermind behind everything bad and that you've been working for him the past four years is sorta important, and yet it's completely glossed over without even one line other than "You sure that was Rex?" Badness. (End spoiler) I am happy that the writers were at least smart enough to have one of the bad characters in jail, and not give ‘em a ‘get-outta-jail-free-card’ just because they’re a romantic interest and thus needs to be around for some good ol’ Channing Tatum snoggin’.
I just got out of the theater about two hours ago, and the movie’s still replaying through my head. Unsurprisingly enough, it’s the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow fights and flashbacks I’m thinking of the most, and quite fondly. And the beautiful Rachel Nichols, can’t forget her. Basically, if you’re a fan of the JOE franchise, you’re probably going to find this movie adaptation to be the abomination of the year, a horrible atrocity that cut a knife right through your childhood memories of playing with those wonderful Hasbro action figures; but if you go in with a open mind with the sole intent of being entertained by nifty gizmos, interesting action scenes, and a helluva lot of explosions, one might just enjoy their time.
As for me, I think I liked it. I can’t really say either way. Now, is that a good or a bad thing? I will say that it’s a lot better than I was expecting, me with my low, low, very low expectations. At the very least, funness has been had.