G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

gi joe rise of cobra IMDb

I really wanted to like this film. I grew up playing with G.I. Joe action figures and was really excited when I heard that characters like Snake Eyes, Scarlett, and Cobra Commander were finally coming to the big screen. G.I. Joe is one of the many 80s properties that I believe would be great to see in live action today. After the success of Transformers, it was only a matter of time before more 80s cartoons started getting turned into movies for a whole new generation to enjoy. G.I. Joe was the first one to follow Transformers, and as much as this film tries, it really fails to capture what made G.I. Joe great. Even as I’m writing this, I am struggling to think of what made G.I. Joe great as a kid, but I can tell you this movie doesn’t capture it at all.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra follows Duke Hauser (Channing Tatum) and his best bud Rip Cord (a seriously miscast and unfunny Marlon Wayans). They have been tasked to transport a couple of state of the art missiles to their buyers. During this mission, they are attacked by terrorist organisation Cobra, who happen to be commanded by Duke’s old love interest, now going by the name of The Baroness (Sienna Miller). Duke and Rip Cord are rescued by the G.I. Joes, a team of the best soldiers around the world. They include Scarlett, a crossbow carrying, emotionally distant red head (Rachel Nichols); Snake Eyes (Ray Park), the best ninja ever; Heavy Duty (Mr Echo), a weapons specialist with a weird accent; and communications expert Breaker (Said Taghmaoui). The Joes save the day, and Duke and Rip Cord are invited to join their ranks, led by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), G.I. Joe is a covert fighting organisation featuring the best soldiers in the world. The Joes need to stop Cobra before they can get their hands on these new cool weapons and use them all over the world. Duke uses his knowledge of The Baroness to help G.I. Joe hunt her down, hoping to become part of the team in the process.

Like I said, I really wanted to like this film, but it just seems way too corny for me. Marlon Wayans appearing in this film should have been a huge red flag as to what direction the film makers were going with this. He is the worst part of this film, and not funny in any way. The film can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a spoof or serious, in the end, it isn’t either. The action set pieces are really cool, but most of the characters here seem very generic. The only one I really liked was Snake Eyes, who never says a word. Channing Tatum has shown he has some comedic chops in the 21 Jump Street films, but he was still very young when he made G.I. Joe, and was probably not ready for a role like this. I always thought Duke would be a bit older and more of a seasoned veteran, rather than the new kid on the block. I also didn’t like the back story that featured him and Sienna Miller being former lovers. These characters don’t always need to be intertwined with each other. Why can’t Cobra just be bad guys? They’re evil because that’s the way they are, I don’t need some convoluted plot to connect everything together when all I’m really expecting from this film is cool characters and awesome action.

G.I. Joe has an ordinary cast, or underused good actors such as Dennis Quaid or Christopher Eccleston, which fails to capture the qualities that the 80s comic and cartoon possessed. The best thing about this film is that it showed big Hollywood studios are willing to produce films based on classic 80s cartoons. I can’t wait to see the likes of He-Man, Voltron, and Thundercats made into films. I can take or leave G.I. Joe, but if it leads to me getting a live action He-Man film (this one doesn’t count), then I’ll be glad it exists.

Rating: C-

This is a movie I just can’t get into. I never played with G.I. Joe action figures. I’ve never seen an episode of the 80s cartoon. Ben keeps insisting that I should like this because “they’re real American heroes!”, but this movie is just so ordinary. It feels like a film based on a line of toys, but not in a good way.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a generic action flick a best. There’s nothing special about it aside from the fact that it references a toy franchise that’s been popular since the 1960s. In fact, the biggest problem is that the movie can’t seem to decide if it’s going to embrace its toy roots or not. The filmmakers seem to try to appeal to adults who grew up with the G.I. Joe toys and cartoon, as well as kids today.  The result is a bit of a mess, swinging between overdone action sequences and lame attempts at comedy. I doubt many kids would be inspired to pick up these toys after watching this movie, and even fewer adults would feel nostalgia for their childhood.

One thing Rise of Cobra does do well is include a variety of characters from the franchise’s past. I may not recognize names like Duke, Snake-Eyes, Scarlett, or Heavy Duty, but Ben certainly did. Unfortunately most of the acting is stiff, if not downright terrible. Channing Tatum, who is normally good, seems bored with his dialogue, and Marlon Wayans tries to bring some levity, but is given the worst jokes possible to work with. The villains– played by Sienna Miller and Joseph Gordon-Levitt– are incredibly uninspired and again, come across as bored to death in this. And then there’s former supermodel Karolína Kurková– a.k.a. Cover Girl– who really shouldn’t give up her day job. These really do feel like action figures brought to life, but in the worst possible way.

Ultimately, Rise of Cobra never elevates itself above being anything more than a movie based on a toy. The entire plot would have worked better as an animated feature, keeping in the tradition of the cartoon that heavily inspired it. If you’re going to bring G.I. Joe to the big screen, it needs to be more serious and better developed (I’m not a fan of Transformers, but that movie did this well).

Rating: D

3 thoughts on “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

  1. Pingback: G.I. Joe: Retaliation (2013) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

  2. Pingback: » Movie Review – GI Joe: The Rise Of Cobra Fernby Films

  3. Pingback: Masters of the Universe (1987) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

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