When I was a kid, I spent hours in my room pretending elaborate battles between good and evil. Honorable Joes would clash with evil Cobras from the bed to the carpet in high-flying, slow motion violence. If I grew tired of that, I’d have the men kick down tiny plastic doors and wreak havoc on the unsuspecting citizens of Legoland or zipline into my sister’s dollhouse and secure the residence. The toys became so worn out from the countless plastic battles I started repairing their rubber bands with household items so they could return to war.
Then there were the cartoons, which became the highlight of my generation’s Saturday mornings curled up in pajamas with a bowl of sugary cereal. I learned not to play with matches not from singeing my fingers (thrice), but from one of many post credits public service announcements.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra is the cartoon come to life. It’s as chaotic and sugary as a Saturday morning with the same flimsy plot and outrageous gadgetry. The action is brainless and overblown, as if a child imagined it onto the screen. This is movie of the year… if you’re 8.
Director Stephen Sommers and screenwriter Stuart Beattie pack a relentless assault of special effects and fight sequences into 118-minutes of metal and machismo. As another massive toy campaign from Hasbro, the movie is at least better than sitting through more Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, if only because you can actually see what’s happening during the encounters. Well, most of the time…
The operation starts with a backstory of a character; one of many flashbacks forced into the storyline. This particular time sink introduces a 17th century criminal of the McCullen clan caught selling arms to both sides of the war. It’s important only because this McCullen is punished by encasing his head in an iron mask and generations later a new McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) has built a business out of the same duplicity.
In the “not too distant future” McCullen has commissioned the invention of nanomites, or computerized bugs capable of chewing through any metal. The green swarm is unleashed on a tank and then the Eiffel Tower to demonstrate the power of the technology and the organization who controls it. Unfortunately for strategic cities, the Baroness (a cleavage-y Sienna Miller) and Storm Shadow (Byung-Hun Lee) have the armed warheads.
Attempting to thwart the threat is an underground team of the world’s best soldiers. No longer “real American heroes,” the unit operates out of an Egyptian desert base lined with high-tech weaponry. An anti-nanomite gun might have come in handy. Though, for an organization who uses catch phrases like “when all else fails… we don’t” and “knowing is half the battle,” the multinational Joes are consistently dropping the ball and in the dark.
The historic landmark wouldn’t have toppled if new recruits Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) weren’t busy cracking wise and figuring out their accelerator suits. By the way, “what’s it accelerate?” followed by the reply “you” gives you an idea of the crackling dialogue. However, the Paris chase sequence is easily the highlight of the endless action.
Also fighting on the Joe side are a speechless Snake-Eyes (Ray Park, who had no lines as Darth Maul either), the busty armor of redhead Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), a smirking General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), and more.
Throwaway flashbacks and meaningless plot details connect the two sides of the war. Snake-Eyes is the adopted brother of Storm Shadow. Duke and Baroness were an item. The Doctor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is a blast from the past. It might seem ridiculous if there was time to reflect.
Instead the characters are busy playing with toys of their own. Piloting supersonic jets, donning invisibility jackets, driving submarines, manning underground drills, and firing pulse weapons. A jetpack comes out of nowhere. Laser-guided crossbows. Numerous costume changes. All of Paramount’s $175 million production budget means dollar signs for Hasbro’s toy line and mayhem for the audience.
G.I. Joe: The Rise of the Cobra is fun if you just want to see a mess of cool stuff on screen. I would have preferred a video game version for at least some of the interaction I had when I was a kid.
2.5 out of 5.
I was disappointed there was no PSA after the credits.