If you’ve come here seeking War and Peace, you’re in the wrong place.
G.I.Joe – The Rise of Cobra is war, war, war, war and more war. Separated by brief breaths of character backstory and villain monologues, this is a full-auto film. Using battlegrounds of ice, land, water and desert, G.I. Joe, a top secret unit comprised of the world’s elite soldiers, must act and react against an unknown terrorist group bent on releasing a weapon that can devour entire cities.
G.I. Joe follows a plethora of comic and cartoon adaptations to the big screen. Director Christopher Nolan has made Batman into a realistic, physical, dark vigilante in a Gotham city reminiscent of Chicago. Michael Bay made robots from space into beings with character, surrounded by lots of explosions, in the Transformers franchise. X-Men, Iron Man, Superman, Spider-Man…the list goes on and on.
G.I. Joe walks a tight line, seeking to entertain the present generation of children and those born in the 70’s and 80’s who grew up on the 3 ¾” plastic soldiers. The film does its best to give the characters depth, but at its heart, the goal is to bring to life the memories of endless battles between heroes like Duke, Flint, Hawk, Scarlett, Snake-Eyes and others against the endless (and often inept) forces of Cobra. This film (the first in an inevitable franchise) provides just enough characterization and lots of violence, explosions and all the things that most little boys (and some girls) imagine while banging together hunks of humanoid plastic painted to give it a personality.
Writers Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett have done their best to give the Joes unique identities, wrestling against the challenge that most toy-line movies have. The film presents just enough of each hero. Viewers who enter the movie with a desire to like the Joes will. Those going to see the movie just to spew internet hate will be equally satisfied.
One facet of the G.I. Joe story which can’t really be criticized is the subplot of the ninja hero Snake-Eyes and his clan mate, Storm Shadow. These two (portrayed by Ray Park and Byung-hun Lee respectively) steal every moment of their time on-screen. The mute Snake-Eyes has most of his origin told via flashbacks, leaving Park to kick ass on-screen and waste no time with words. Other characters may seem too soft, too humorous or too different to win the favor of purists. Those seeking a human version of their old toys will also snarl at changes to Rip Cord, Cobra Commander and maybe even Breaker.
Sienna Miller (Baroness) is key to the film’s success and she delivers in several ways. She captivates in action and romance scene alike. Marlon Wayans (Rip Cord) makes the most of his one-liners without being overly campy. Rachel Nichols (Scarlett) is the heart of the team. The villains are slightly less compelling, but far more competent than the cartoon writers ever allowed them to be.
At just under two hours, Sommers gives audiences plenty of visual thrill ride, leveraging a large amount of slow motion, computer graphics and quick cuts. He composes several interesting cuts between contiguous action that I had never seen before. Those expecting to see some remnants of his work on the Mummy franchise will not be disappointed.
Some will argue that the G.I. Joe movie is a decade overdue, and others will argue that the film never should have been made. The movie pits heroism and courage against greed and vengeance. It’s a good vs. evil story at its core, just as the cartoons and comics before it. With some great high-tech gadgetry, massive combat, humanity and heart, G.I.Joe is a great summer popcorn movie.
Suspend disbelief, root for the good guys, load your clip and sit back in your seats. G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra is a two-hour venture into playing war…on the largest scale possible.