Posted on: August 9th, 2009 G.I. JOE: Rise of Cobra REVIEW
WARNING: This review contains SPOILERS.
Before this film was released, we all scoffed at the idea of a GI Joe film. Then the first trailer came out and we had pretty much written it off already, eyes rolling, groaning loudly. I’ll admit that I myself had the absolute lowest expectations for this film. Although Paramount decided not to screen GI Joe: Rise of Cobra to critics and news outlets prior to its release, there were a select bunch that managed to see the flick a little early. When those reviews came out, we read with one eye open, as if peering through the window as you drove by a horrific car-wreck. But that wasn’t the case. In one of the biggest film review “double takes”, a fair amount of popular, trusted online writers actually dug the film.
I just came home from seeing the film myself, and I can’t recall a film in which I’ve left the theater feeling this much deceit. Deception in the sense that I was almost certain that the film would be a laughable, steaming mess of horse shit, but it wasn’t. I can’t believe that I’m writing this, but on the whole I dug the movie. It’s most certainly not without its flaws, nor is technically sound, smart or by any sense great, but GI Joe can be a fun, well-paced action film if you are a member of the exact target audience it is aimed for. It’s one of the few films I’d consider calling entertaining and dumb in the same sentence.
Before you call me a hypocrite in reference to my ‘Rated S for Stupid’ article, let me explain myself. There are bad movies; films that are created without any thought or technical quality. Then there are good movies; films that are crafted with wonderful storytelling and talent and passion. There’s also good-bad movies in which a film is so unintentionally bad (or on occasion intentional) that they become great, this applies to films like Troll 2, Evil Dead or Jaws: The Revenge. Then there is this weird grey area comprised of films that aren’t necessarily poorly made, but aren’t groundbreaking works of art. They are silly, they are dumb and they split the audience like Moses. The very few of these movies will be debated from now until a nanomite warhead destroys our cities. Gi Joe: Rise of Cobra fits right into this category that’s both defend-able and attack-able at the same time. It’s not about what the film is, it’s about who you are. If you are a boy aged 6-16 you will love it. If you grew up playing with the action figures, watching the cartoon or reading the comic book, you will love it. If you are big on silly, over-the-top, family-oriented action, than the chances are you will love this film.
While I wasn’t big into the cartoon or the comics as a kid, I did spend countless hours with the toys, staging my own battles and rescues on the couch, in the tub and in the yard. I give kudos to the makers of the film for doing just that with real life actors, vehicles and sets. Where Transformers failed to emulate the excitement of playing with robot toys, GI Joe was successful in re-enacting the excessive action that we imagined when we were kids with over-active imaginations. Unlike my brain at eight years old though, Stephen Sommers has managed to streamline that attention deficit into a fairly linear two-hours.
As for the film’s story, it’s not rocket-science, but there are plenty of rockets. James McCullen (shortly before becoming the silver-headed Destro), the man behind MARS, the world’s leading weapons manufacturer, sells four nanomite-laden warheads to NATO (nanomites are those nasty green-cloud effel tower destroying things you saw in the trailers). US army soldiers Duke and Ripcord are assigned to transport the warheads but their mission goes straight to the shitter when they’re ambushed by Baroness and Stormshadow. The bad guys run off and Duke and Ripcord are rescued and recruited by the GI Joe team. A few more action scenes later and the bad guys (not yet Cobra) obtain the warheads and set out to fuck up the earths day. But not if the Joes have anything to say about it.
It’s a pretty straight-forward and simple story but the film is well-paced enough to keep you going. The film bounces around from huge set-piece to set-piece and action sequence and you get the sense that you are in this defined reality that’s not quite real. GI Joe knows what it is,and though it comes dangerously close, doesn’t over-step its boundaries.
Devoted GI Joe fans will most likely not be disappointed with the exception of some visual discrepancies from the source material. There are plenty of little nods to the cartoon here and there, but if you are not in the know then you might not notice – like they say, knowing is half the battle. The characters are pulled off quite well with Baroness, Snake Eyes and Stormshadow no doubt giving fans what they want. Cobra Commander (who doesn’t quite become “cobra” nor “commander” until the very end of the film) looks nothing like his iconic visual presence, but for what he lacks in visual nostalgia he makes up with in voice and dialogue. This character is a real-life comic book villain, his lines equally over the top as they are smile inducing. Although the Cobra Commander voice isn’t quite the same as we hear in our heads (”Coooobbbbrraaaaa!”), it’s so perfectly Snidley Whiplash in delivery. I suspect many die-hards to be displeased with the the costume design – there is no hood or helmet in this one folks. The rest of the cast is slightly more than passable, and for the most part fit their characters well. Do prepare yourself for the occasional cringe-worthy line of dialogue though, and like most PG-13 action films, the comedy is almost never funny. Unless you’re the mid-thirty year old guy sitting next to me who hollered, hacked and clapped at every contrived remark. But hey, if you’re going to do action based on toys, you are bound to have some rat feces in there.
The real star of this film is the same as when we were kids: the vehicles and the guns. This is where GI Joe really nails it. The vehicle design is pretty awesome. GI Joe planes and automobiles were so cool because they were like real ones, but amped up with crazy guns and angles and plates and prongs. That’s exactly what you get in the movie. The planes, specifically the night-raven jet, looks like it came straight out of the Hasbro packaging. The film does a pretty good job at making rocket sleds, jet packs and hover planes fit unflinchingly into its universe. It also embraces some cool in-the-works military technology like personal cloaking suits. All of this is great fodder for decently shot action scenes (much better than recent action fare like Transformers 2 or Live Free Die Hard), the only crutch here being the occasional near wince inducing CGI. Nothing takes me out of an involved scene than a poorly rendered ship.
I really am quite bewildered to be able to write all that. I would’ve put my life savings on GI Joe making Transformers 2 look like American Beauty. At the end of the day you may hate GI Joe, and I can’t say I totally blame you for it. Much like Speed Racer, you will either hate it or you will like it, but it knows what it is and doesn’t apologize for what it isn’t. It’s Stephen Sommers’ most effective film to date in the sense that it has nailed exactly what it intends to do and where it came from. Don’t get too happy though Mr. Sommers, we still haven’t forgotten the absolute mess that was Van Helsing.
If I were eight years old as of writing this, my three favorite films would be Speed Racer, Transformers and GI Joe: Rise of Cobra.
3 Responses to “G.I. JOE: Rise of Cobra REVIEW”
Ben Rankel Says:
August 9th, 2009 at 11:24 pm
I trust your opinion Mr. Ferrier. That said I’m still concerned, and probably will be until I watch the movie.
I have already decided I want to see the film. Nostalgia beckons me back into waters already muddied and littered with glass by the Transformers franchise. Yet I’ll go, barefoot, consciously wincing in expected pain.
I wish myself good luck.
Film-Book dot Com Says:
August 10th, 2009 at 5:55 am
This film actually surprised me in a few cases. I never ever thought there would be a half-written well character in the film but there is Rex and some of the fire fights were intense. The cgi, script, etc needed work and yes, the stupidity factor was high.
August 11th, 2009 at 9:35 pm
I always reckoned this movie was going to be good. not in an artsy, saving privater ryan way but in a kickass, no-brainer, eye candy way. And it was. I say more Dr. Mindbender….and let me ask this…is Brendan Fraser Sgt. Slaughter? It would be awesome if he is. Actually i’m sure of it.