G.I. JOE: THE
RISE OF COBRA
STARRING: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje,
Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Byung Hun Lee, Sienna Miller,
Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Said Taghmaoui, Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Dennis
2009, 107 Minutes, Directed by:
An elite military unit comprised of special operatives known as G.I. Joe,
operating out of The Pit, takes on an evil organization led by a notorious arms
Controversy has followed G.I.
Joe: The Rise of Cobra ever since the film sprinted into production early
last year amid writer strike restrictions, with fans feverishly voicing their
objections to the director, the fetish-wear costume design, and character arc
alterations. The buzz was so toxic on this feature, Paramount fearfully withheld
the film from press screenings to preserve whatever goodwill was left to profit
from. It’s not been an easy journey for Joe, but the toy-inspired film is
finally ready to show, and to be perfectly frank, Paramount was smart to hold
the picture until the last possible minute.
Reclaiming a state-of-the-art
weapon that allows microscopic nano-technology to eat away anything in its path,
arms dealer McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) has taken his prize to Cobra, an
evil organization bent on controlling the world. Alongside members Storm Shadow
(Byung-hun Lee), The Doctor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, embarrassing himself), and
Baroness (Sienna Miller), McCullen sets out to prove Cobra’s might, attacking
landmarks and terrorizing the public. Coming to the rescue is G.I. Joe and its
team of highly trained soldiers, led by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). A secret
global organization created for defense, the Joe squad welcomes new members Duke
(Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) to their ranks, joining the likes
of Scarlett (Rachael Nichols, enjoying herself) and silent ninja Snake Eyes (Ray
Park). Setting out to spoil Cobra’s scheme, the Joes find a powerful enemy that
will stop at nothing to control the world, forcing Duke to confront his personal
demons and lead the heroes to victory.
"Ordered to make something loud, dumb, and fun, director Sommers
only manages two of the three!"
Transformers hit unreal box office highs during
the summer of 2007, it was only a matter of time before Hollywood would try to
recreate it, mining the 1980’s toy line gold rush further, settling on the
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero
plastic dynasty. Well, the whole American Hero label has been carefully peeled
off the packaging, but Rise of Cobra salvages the rest of the inflated
ingredients, setting up a cartoon tale of ornately costumed good vs. evil,
battling each other with outrageous weaponry, crude one-liners, and slick
vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Director Stephen Sommers is no stranger to
these animated demands, having directed Van Helsing
and two installments of The Mummy. In a weird way, Sommers is perfect for
the Joe job, having cut his teeth on boisterous, deafening entertainment
for teen boys.
While Sommers can conjure up
action figure caricatures with one hand tied behind his back, the man has never
revealed any ability to direct a feature film. Joe is the latest bloated float
in Sommers’s sad parade of cinematic shame. Ordered to make something loud,
dumb, and fun, Sommers only manages two of the three mandates, going overboard
trying to sell the whimsy of the product, but leaning too long on the smother
button. Action sequences (and the film is wall-to-wall mayhem) are a blur of
edits and movement, following the Joes as they spring into battle.
It’s a hyperactive aesthetic
that kills the merriment; Sommers almost appears to be going out of his way to
fudge spatial relationships. The toy line was all about appearances and the
careful study of machinery, welcoming close inspection. The feature film
maintains a furious pace, turning a whirlwind, globetrotting tale of green
screen war into a needless and repetitive sensory assault. Rapid fire is the
director’s crutch, and one would think that for a universe as vivid as G.I.
Joe, he could’ve taken a little more time and effort to bask in the glow of
the exhaustive mythology that was built on the backs of a million allowances. I
think the fans deserve better than this guy.
(yes, the line “And knowing is half the battle” is uttered) and characters winks
pepper Joe, along with purposefully exaggerated special effects that result in
at least one marvelous sequence (a Parisian assault with the Joes in turbo
suits). Sienna Miller also adds some needed sparkle as the slinky, warm-blooded
Baroness, while Dennis Quaid goes to town on a John Wayne impression for Hawk.
The film needed more of these
fine actors and less of Marlon Wayans (for obvious reasons) and Channing Tatum,
who reduces Duke to a vague, dim Vanilla Ice presence - in a film that requires
nothing from the cast outside of the ability to maintain a strict diet, Tatum
can barely spit out his dialogue.
The franchise pawns are all in
place by the close of Joe, and Cobra does indeed rise, as will sequels.
Ditch Sommers, recast Duke, and spend some of that budget on decent CG work, and
there could be something special in store for future big screen Joe
adventures. Keep Sommers around and all G.I. Joe is going to be is a glorified
Cannon Films production with a nasty case of ADD.
- Brian Orndorf