Overview

G.I. Joe: Dumb, Kinetic Fun

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It’s hard to describe G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra as a “good” movie in any traditional sense. It’s silly, the villains are seldom menacing and the dialogue is cringe-inducing at times. However, director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing) approaches the G.I. Joe universe with such unabashed enthusiasm that it’s difficult to fully condemn this film’s cartoonish, over-the-top take on Hasbro’s revered action figure property. This version of  G.I. Joe is nowhere near as captivating as Larry Hama’s Marvel Comics series nor is it as mature as the animated G.I. Joe: Resolute, penned by Warren Ellis, but as far as summer movies based on action figures go, Sommers’ G.I. Joe is a fun, mindless and thoroughly absurd bit of escapism.

Unlike this summer’s other film adaptation of a Hasbro franchise, Michael Bay’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, G.I. Joe never takes its source material too seriously and, perhaps most importantly, it never overstays its welcome. While the Transformers sequel clocked in at a whopping 150 minutes, G.I. Joe is a brisk, well-paced 118 minutes. It rarely wastes time and never gets boring.

G.I. Joe introduces us to Conrad “Duke” (Channing Tatum) Hauser and Wallace “Ripcord” Weems (Marlon Wayans), two NATO soldiers tasked with transporting a new form of nanotechnology developed by Scottish arms dealer James McCullen (Doctor Who’s Christopher Eccleston). The convoy is attacked by masked soldiers with outlandish high-tech weaponry, led by the leather-clad Baroness (Sienna Miller), who apparently has a history with Duke. After the attack, Duke and Ripcord are rescued by members of G.I. Joe, an international anti-terrorist special ops team led by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), who has been trying to recruit Duke for some time. Given Duke’s past relationship with the Baroness—or Ana, as he knew her—he and Ripcord are trained to be Joes, joining brainy redhead Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), the silent ninja Snake Eyes (Ray Park), the aptly named heavy ordnance specialist Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) and communications expert Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui) as they race to thwart this emerging global threat. Based on the title, you can probably guess just what that threat will eventually become.

 

Aside from some smaller character moments and expository flashbacks, G.I. Joe is all about overstimulation. From a breakneck race through the streets of Paris to a massive, futuristic underwater battle in the Arctic, this film just never lets up.  The rivalry between Snake Eyes and the evil assassin Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun), provides us with some kick-ass martial arts sequences, which break up the near-constant barrage of bullets and explosions quite nicely.

As for the acting, well, at least it doesn’t get in the way of things. Most of the cast has fun with the cheesiness of the dialogue, particularly Miller, who vamps it up in her skin-tight leather and heels. Joseph Gordon-Levitt also seems to be enjoying himself as a villainous mad scientist known as the Doctor (he gets a far cooler and more familiar name later on in the film, but let’s not spoil that). Unfortunately, while Tatum certainly looks the part as Duke, his line delivery leaves a lot to be desired. When he’s not cracking jokes with Wayans’ character, Tatum seems lost and disinterested. If he’s going to be the face of what will likely become a massive film franchise, Tatum needs to develop his acting chops.

 At its worst, G.I. Joe may be everything that’s wrong with modern Hollywood. However, at its best, this is a film tailor-made for our sugar-crazed inner eight-year-old. The acting isn’t great and the storyline is a bit ludicrous, but G.I. Joe energetically replicates the feeling of spending an afternoon staging massive action figure battles in the backyard. For kids—namely boys—G.I. Joe provides everything a toy-based action movie needs. For everyone else, it’s pure entertainment. And, every once in a while, that’s just what we want.

 

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Comments

  • Bart Croonenborghs

    Bart Croonenborghs Aug 13, 2009 at 2:53am

    Might watch this one on DVD, looks better indeed than Transformers.

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