G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
If she’s a villain, I’m joining the henchmen’s union today!

Theatrical Release Date: 08/07/2009
Director: Stephen Sommers
Cast: Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, Ray Park, Lee Byung-hun, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Saïd Taghmaoui, Arnold Vosloo, Jonathan Pryce

Growing up in the 80s, I was a happy victim of cartoons created solely to sell toys. There were many of them and they all appealed to the primal need of any adolescent male to own the newest and coolest piece of metal or plastic. First and foremost among them was … “Transformers” … but running a close second was “G.I. Joe”.

The saga of an elite group of soldiers defending the free world from the clutches of the shadowy organization named Cobra, as a child the cartoon was cool and featured one-of-a-kind commandos with cool names like Duke, Scarlet and Hawk. As I grew up, the true cheesy nature of the cartoon sunk in (most notably in the post episode morality tales preaching important messages to young kids like the danger of talking to strangers).

Now that I’m all grown up (in the eyes of the law), the idea that Hollywood would rehash my childhood nostalgia is something I can’t stop and I’m done trying … it only hurts my brain and my pride. So with numb acceptance, I awaited the arrival of a live-action G.I. Joe film. Due to some bad initial press, the studio decided to forgo the traditional screenings and only allowed dependable bloggers and such an early look. This usually means that any hope the film will be worth more than the popcorn you bought should be extinguished.

However, much to my welcome surprise, I didn’t hate this film (and what a wonderful compliment that is). I think the casting overall worked pretty well. All of the supporting cast did a nice job of being interesting and pretty stereotypes, which is all you should ask or want from those roles. The ladies (Sienna Miller & Rachel Nichols) especially did a nice job of being both eye candy and giving the film a welcome dose of variety to all the boys and their toys.

And while Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje and Saïd Taghmaoui play decent enough good guys, perhaps my favorite casting was Arnold Vosloo as the master of disguise, Zartan. The character was always a little shadowy and although I couldn’t help but make the connection between director Stephen Sommers and Vosloo from their work together on the Mummy franchise, this really was a great choice.

Of course, whenever you’re making an omelette you have to break a few eggs. Enter in my first disappointment, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Normally, he does a fantastic job and he does what is asked of him in the script here so I’m not necessarily blaming him. The script however paints the ominous character of Cobra Commander in a less than menacing light and it’s sort of mad scientist rather than egomaniacal wannabe ruler of the world.

Adding to my annoyance, the mask he dons to hide his deformed face is simply awful. I don’t know why they felt the need to update the idea of a smooth mirrored mask … I’m okay with changing the rest of the costume so as not to appear too cartoonish but there was nothing wrong with the mask (sorry, I had to nerd out on this issue). Hopefully, the check earned on this one will help with a few more independent features where Gordon-Levitt is really shining these days.

The next, and most glaring of the casting issues arises from Channing Tatum as Duke. In the cartoon, he’s the All-American’s All-American (not a Jack Swagger reference) and is the wise field leader of the Joes. Well, here Duke is more like your garden variety super soldier and Tatum is unable to impart any semblance of a personality on the character. It’s basically the two-bit car thief from “Step Up” getting to dress up in fancy armor and wield a gun.

Also on my not-so-hot list are some of the special effects. I readily admit that most of them worked within the tone and context of the script and direction. However, there were many instances of effects looking far more like a video game than reality and needing some more polish. This is most evident in the chase down Paris streets as the Joes attempt to stop Cobra from wreaking havoc on the city. The use of advanced combat suits to increase the wearer’s natural abilities is a cool concept but most of the time that they were dodging cars and avoiding weapon fire, it looked like my computer’s processor was on overdrive and everything was sped up unnaturally (or as natural as the scene could dictate).

Still, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” lived up to my initial expectations when I had seen the first trailer and delivered mindless action of the sort one expects from big budget spectaculars during the summer months here in North America. I’m not sure why Paramount was so afraid to show this to critics based on some initial bad press because it’s not something that its intended audience cares about. The opening weekend take, while not quite of the mega-variety ala the Transformers franchise, will most likely end up netting the producers a profit once worldwide and DVD revenues come into play – which is all that those in control really care about anyway, right?

I wouldn’t say that this is must see material but it didn’t offend my sense of nostalgia too much, the script is dumb but I don’t need a Merchant Ivory production every time out and the high tech action was laughable at times but matched up to the rest of the film. The bottom line is that “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” was senseless fun and delivered what it needed to. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5 and hope that sometime between now and the sequel, Channing Tatum develops a personality. Then maybe it could really be all that it could be. Though if the sequel gets called off, you won’t find me reaching for any tissues.