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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009) Review

By   Aug 07, 2009 12:27 PM EST
I had been worried about this film ever since reading in the trades about how early word of mouth was horrible, and that Paramount had put an embargo on pre-release screening by critics. At the same time however, Paramount did show it to a select few, and screened it for our nation's military at Andrews AFB. Reports from those showings seemed to indicate a decent film.
And they were right. Not sure what to expect, especially since this was my favorite comic book growing up (not to mention the toys and the original animated TV show). G.I. Joe is an innovative reimagining and modernizing of the G.I. Joe comic books. While the original show and comics have the Joe team as "Real American Heroes", this version sees the Joe team transformed into an international anti-terrorist unit, along the same lines as Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six. This fits well with more international reach of the current and future terrorists. As for the movie's pace, once the action starts, it doesn't really let up. At the same time, it avoids the problems that plagued Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen: The movie's plot is simple, with simple minor subplots that don't interfere or in fact, complement the main plot, and the dialogue is appropriate for the age groups that the movie is marketed to. While characters bleed in this movie, the violence isn't that graphic with a few minor exceptions, and even then they are very brief.
Story/Script/Plot Development (A-):  The movie doesn't try to be anything but a story about G.I. Joe and the origin of their arch-nemesis: a terror organization called Cobra. Of the four main Cobra characters, minor subplots explore their origins, and the last one, while we see his origin, the movie doesn't try to explain why their character acts the way they do. To quote Michael Caine (as Alfred) from The Dark Knight "Some people just want to see the world burn." We also see a little bit of playful flirting between two characters, but it doesn't distract from the whole movie – it's kind of a fun little interlude that shows some humanity during the rest of the "trying to save the whole world" mission they are on.
The scriptwriters got in the infamous "Knowing is half the battle" line in, and the funny lines are appropriate for the character they were written for. Other than that, the dialogue isn't exceptionally cheesy.
Cinematography (A):  While the movie has their "Matrix" moments, the use of intentional slow-motion during several scenes adds to the visual impact, so you can actually follow the action. Very well done. No major problems with scene angle choices – the movie is very straightforward.
Acting/Chemistry (A-):  This has to be the best surprise of the movie. Marlon Wayans, who was an issue with the prerelease discussions, actually fits very well in his role of Ripcord. His funny personality is allowed to shine while still being a professional soldier. Channing Tatum is excellent in his portrayal of Duke, and his character actually has to grow during the movie, as he initially wants to join the G.I. Joe for revenge. Some of the minor characters, three of which are from the Mummy (Brendan Fraser, Kevin J. O'Connor, and Arnold Vosloo) do a great job in the small roles which they play. Arnold Vosloo will hopefully get more screen time in a hopeful sequel. Additionally it was nice to see real martial arts on display with Ray Park as Snake-Eyes and Byung-hun Lee as Storm Shadow. I was actually a little disappointed in Dennis Quaid as General Hawk. He seemed to be more of a desk soldier rather than the military hero is supposed to be playing. Granted, he does come from a desk in the comics if I remember correctly, since the first leader of the Joe team was killed early in the comic series. But the best star was Sienna Miller. Playing in what are really "dual" roles, she is the Baroness, whom we also see as "Ana" during flashbacks throughout the movie. And she plays each role well, and the movie explains what happened to her, and why if you are paying attention. From the subtle body language and eye gestures to her vocal inflection, it would be nice to see her recognized by the Academy for her role in this movie, but I highly doubt that this kind of movie will garner that kind of attention.
Use of locations/Costumes/Special Effects (A):  The movie actually only takes place in basically four main locations across the globe, and the locations are appropriate for the plot of the movie. The costumes, another sore point of prelease discussion, fit well with the modernization of the Joe team. The special suits they wear that you see in the trailer are just one of the many future weapons the Joe team has at their disposal. Everything that I noticed in the film is actually being researched right now, and could actually be created in the not-so-distant future (which is how the movie reads). But what happens if the bad guys have the same or even better weapons? Watch the movie to find out. Steven Sommers used an almost perfect blend of CGI and live special effects in this movie, obviously using special effects when it would be easier, and of course, the effect of the Eiffel Tower being destroyed is something that I hadn't seen before – most other times it's more rapid than the method used in this movie – you'll have to see it to find out.
Movie Score (C): Probably the weakest point of this movie. There are no ongoing themes that I could pick out, but at the same time the music is appropriate for each scene. My scoring here could have been worse.
Final Grade: (A-): The final scoring came in at 3.475, so I gave the movie a little extra credit for giving it the good ol' Joe try and coming so close. This movie isn't going to try and teach you something – it's an action movie with characters that some of us have followed since the 1980s. Because it doesn't try to be something that it's not, G.I. Joe has succeeded where Transformers failed. Joe hasn't lost their swagger. (hint for the ending credits song)

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