Title: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Director: Stephen Sommers
Writers: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett
Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Starring: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Sienna Miller, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rachel Nichols, Dennis Quaid, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Ray Park, Lee Byung-hun
Release Date: August 7, 2009
MPAA: Rated PG-13
G.I. Joe has been around for a long, long time, and has seen numerous incarnations throughout the years. The franchise technically began in 1964, with a series of 12-inch realistic action figures that started in America, but found international popularity as well. The toyline was relaunched in 1982, with several promotional tie-ins such as a comic book from Marvel Comics, and a popular animated television series in 1985. It was this toyline and promotional comic book that introduced a new villain for G.I. Joe in the form of Cobra, a terrorist group seeking world domination. Even though the toyline started in 1964, there have been G.I. Joe comics in print since as early as 1942, which aren’t technically related to the toyline but could have very easily inspired it. There were G.I. Joe comics put out from 1964-1969 by DC Comics and Custom Comics. After Marvel had their turn, Dark Horse, Devil’s Due, and IDW got G.I. Joe comics of their own
Since that time there have been well over a dozen comic books, five TV shows, four animated movies, seven video games, and one live-action film (with a sequel on the way), all based on various iterations of the characters appearing in over a dozen different toylines. Each new iteration is separate from the one before, generally based on a separate toyline, but often featuring characters, themes, motifs, and other various elements carried over from multiple past incarnations, usually combining multiple disparate elements with brand new elements exclusive to the new version to create the newest entry in the franchise.
THIS is where the movie comes into play. The film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra features characters and elements from past iterations of the G.I. Joe comic books and toylines, while bringing in a new story line to introduce a new generation of children and young adults to the franchise. Okay, all of that was said, to say this: If you’re mad that this NEW G.I. Joe isn’t like your OLD G.I. Joe, get over it! This isn’t a remake of any kind. It’s just the next version of a constantly changing franchise. In fact, when this film started it had very little to do with the 1980s cartoon, comic series, or toys, aside from the character names. But upon hearing outcries from angry fanboys, the studio hired Larry Hama, writer of the Marvel comic, as creative consultant and rewrites were made.
Now this film has divided many fans, many of whom take umbrage with the new iteration’s changes, but it does what it was designed to do, and it does it well. This film captures the over the top nature of the various past comics and cartoons, while adding new plot elements to a new version of the series, in order to bring a new generation of fans into the fold and sell more G.I. Joe toys. This new film features a diverse team of soldiers collectively called G.I. Joe, teaming up to fight a terrorist organization that will eventually become “Cobra” (thus the film’s informative subtitle).
The film features several nods to various past incarnations. For example: Ripcord comments on Heavy Duty’s “lifelike hair” and “kung-fu grip,” both features on the original 12″ G.I. Joe doll; the nanomites come from the Marvel comic issue #3; Snow Job’s ski poles, Bazooka’s red jersey, Breaker’s bubblegum, and the Delta-6 suits are a reference to GI Joe: Sigma 6; and many other references feature throughout the film.
The cast includes lots of fan favorites, as well as a few characters who don’t get much face time. For example: the Joes feature Duke, Ripcord, Snake Eyes, Scarlett, Heavy Duty, Breaker, Sgt. Stone, Hawk, and Cover Girl. Cobra features Cobra Commander, Baroness, Destro, Storm Shadow, Dr. Mindbender, and Zartan. Even characters like Hard Master make an appearance.
While all of this might sound good on paper, and a lot of it works well on screen, it doesn’t all come out evenly in the end. There’s an awful lot of lore and homage, as well as new story, unfortunately crammed unevenly into just under two hours. This affects the overall pacing of the film, with some scenes going by way too quickly while others slow the plot to a crawl.
Another complaint stems from the musical score. The legendary Alan Silvestri delivers the music for this film, and considering his pedigree one would assume he would be the perfect choice for such a film, but this reviewer can honestly say that after watching the film a few times the music is absolutely forgettable, with not a single theme, leitmotif, or melody coming to mind.
One more issue that needs addressing is that of the costumes. The military armor looks cool, and the outfits do provide a uniform look for the team, but the franchise always sported colorful costumes for their colorful characters. The second half of the movie has almost everyone from the main heroes to the generic faceless foot-soldiers wearing the same boring all black body armor. Snake Eyes and Baroness are supposed to be in black, so that’s fine, but there could at least be different outfits for the main characters. At least Storm Shadow is sporting his usual white Ninja get-up, so that’s nice.
The acting is mediocre at best, with a few standout performances from the likes of Chris Eccleston (Destro), Dennis Quaid (Hawk), and Lee Byung-hun (Storm Shadow). Most of the cast members provide serviceable performances, while Joseph Gordon-Levitt seems to revel in hamming it up, playing a truly over the top villain.
The special effects are awesome, with destruction and explosions galore. The set pieces are exactly what you’d expect from G.I. Joe, with secret underground bases, hidden snow fortresses, and underwater military facilities, complete with an epic underwater battle featuring one-man submarines getting into ridiculous jet-fighter style dogfights. It’s like a cross between a crazy 80s sci-fi flick and an old school melodramatic 40s adventure serial. In other words, it’s absolutely pitch-perfect.
As a the next incarnation of an ever-changing franchise of movies, cartoons, comics, and toys, this movie is easily an 8 out of 10.
As a film in general, I’d say it’s an entertaining 7 out of 10.
Is it a great film? No. Is it a fun, odd, over the top action flick that delivers a crazy yet cliché wild ride? YES. That being said, if you’ve not seen this film, go check it out! If you have seen this film, grab some junk food, grab some friends, and have a fun night watching it again!