GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra – Movie Review
The next movie based on a toy is out, and while GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra delivers far more fun and watchability than the previews would lead you to believe, there is ultimately something strikingly disingenuous about it. You have to give summer blockbusters a lot of latitude, but in the end the film feels for all the world like the script for Untitled Action Movie with GI Joe characters pasted in.
The thing plays out with a kind of creation story battling for attention with the task at hand, and the two angles are fused in rather slipshod fashion. We begin with Duke and Ripcord as members of an elite task force assigned to guard a superweapon. When their convoy is attacked by an unknown group with superweapons of their own, it turns out that the bad guy strike team is headed by Duke’s ex-fiancee. GI Joe, a double-supersecret organization of the best forces from a score or so countries, saves the day.
When you’re going to throw something like that into the works from the word go, a decent helping of backstory is in order. That angle has its highs and lows, and some of the flashbacks are worthwhile. The history ultimately becomes the whole story, and once one snippet leads to another it is revealed that the entire affair is an episode of Scooby Doo… but what can you do? It’s G.I. Joe.
But, why are we watching the entire rivalry between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow? Why not Scarlett’s childhood, or Heavy Duty’s? Well, because ninjas are awesome. That’s really the lowdown on this movie when you get right to it. Does anything about the nanomites, the doomsday weapon du jour, make any sense? No, but nanotech is awesome. Do the battle/chase/fight scenes stand up to any sort of logic, internal or external? No, but that looked awesome.
I would be inclined to say that it isn’t too bad for a summer action movie, but we quickly learn that it isn’t an action movie at all. What it is, is the best video game since Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. No matter how heavy on the action you want your movie, the formula still consists of a story that creates reasons for the action. Here you’ve really got nothing more than exaggerated cut scenes that let you rest your fingers between levels.
Now throw in the fact that the acting is on par with slightly below-average voice over work, and the effect is distancing to say the least. Marlon Wayans gives the second best performance in the film, and he’s behind the guy who never speaks. You may or may not be all that familiar with Mr. Wayans, but a week ago I would have bet that I wouldn’t give him second-best performance in a reworking of The Human Voice.
And yet… for all that, it isn’t the worst summer fare you’re going to run into. It never runs all the way over into insulting or irritating. It’s not quite bad, it’s just goofy. Director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing, and very little else) is sort of the Chris Columbus of action in that he’s a fairly safe choice for your material. He probably won’t turn the script into anything much worse than anyone else, but you won’t end up with anything much better either. On the other hand, Sommers does know how to move things along with a certain flair. His version of hyper-kinetic is somehow less flamboyant and distracting than Michael Bay’s, and he’s pretty good at spinning quaint and cutesy moments (think Brendan Fraser in the Mummy films).
In the end, it’s a bit fun and popcorny, even if it is as daft as it could be… but, I suppose it admitted that on the packaging. The timing makes it hard to avoid comparisons to Transformers, but that’s really a level of dissection I choose to avoid. A lot of people won’t be disappointed, and for much of G.I. Joe‘s run I don’t really blame them, but at some point the sheer goofballiness wins out.
As you’re walking out, what you’ll really be thinking is that Iron Man was kind of awesome.
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