G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
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Release date: 21 August 2009 (India)
Director: Stephen Sommers
Box office: 30.25 crores USD
Budget: 17.5 crores USD
Awards: Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Actor: Action/Adventure
Nominations: Teen Choice Award for Choice Movie Actress: Action/Adventure, MORE
Art directors: Anne Seibel, Kevin Ishioka, Randy Moore, Brad Ricker, Greg Papilla, Chad S. Frey
Written: Stuart Beattie & David Elliot
Starring: Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ray Park, Rachel Nichols, Christopher Eccleston, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Byung-hun Lee, Karolina Kurkova, Saïd Taghmaoui, Arnold Vosloo and Dennis Quaid


OVERVIEW – G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

The simple truth of the matter is that I should have known better than to watch this film. I have no one but myself to blame. My morbid curiosity of seeing how a big-screen adaptation of ‘G.I. Joe’ would turn out got the best of me. Now I know, and knowing isn’t half the battle; it just deadens you inside. ‘G.I. Joe’ is one of the few franchises from my childhood that I hold near-and-dear to my heart as do many others and ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ does fans no favors.

After seeing the results of a live-action ‘G.I. Joe’ film, I want to go back to happier times. Simpler times. Times when this film was nothing but a rumor talked about in the backrooms of comic conventions and on Internet forums. ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ is a painfully uninspired live-action adaptation of the classic 80’s property that completely ignores the source material and bores audiences with two hours of dull action and cardboard characters.

One filled with intriguing characters that you came to care about, admire and occasionally hate. ‘G.I. Joe’ was first and foremost about characters, and second about military action with a little bit of ridiculousness thrown into the mix. It had surprisingly intellectual stories that didn’t talk down to kids. It might have been nothing more than a vehicle to sell toys to the children of the 80’s, but it was stealthfully disguised as a Cobra Ninja in the night.

Everything about this film looked bad from the start of its production. ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ was not going to be one of the biggest budgeted summer blockbusters of 2009. It was also being given into the directorial hands of ‘The Mummy’ and ‘Van Helsing’ director, Stephen Sommers. ‘G.I. Joe’ and ‘Transformers’ were two of the most iconic 80’s properties. ‘Transformers’ was put into the hands of Michael Bay, someone fully skilled to do a big-budget action film with explosions and transforming robots.

Say what you will about Michael Bay, but he was someone who wanted to do the ‘Transformers’ film. ‘G.I. Joe’ was placed into the hands of Stephen Sommers, someone who has helmed some of the most disposable action films of the last decade. ‘G.I. Joe’ should be a memorable film, and this directorial choice was a foreshadowing of how this property was going to be handled.

‘G.I. Joe’ would no longer be “The Real American Hero”, but instead an international strike team. Instead of individual and identifiable costumes, the Joes would be outfitted with bland, tight, black body armor, which was unoriginal, and an unenthusiastic creative choice. The casting of the film was budget casting at best. Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller and Marlon Wayans are the most notable talent attached to this film.

When it became clear that the ‘G.I. Joe’ film that fans had been eagerly awaiting for years was going to happen, it also became clear that it was going to be put together haphazardly with a blatant lack of attention to the source material. After watching the film, I can honestly say that ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ is one of the most superfluous films of the year, and a slap in the face to fans of the original 80’s series.

Beyond the character names, there is hardly anything in ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ that makes this recognizable as a G.I. Joe film. There are a few specific vehicle names and a few minor character names that are tossed out. As with ‘Transformers’ there were a few halfhearted attempts to nod-and-wink to hardcore fans, referencing the original series and characters. In ‘Transformers’, the filmmakers did this appropriately and, say what you will, they created a decent modern adaptation of the 80’s property.

‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ does the opposite. They subvert everything the original series was attempting to do and dumb it down; stripping any originality out of it. Visually there are more elements from the ‘Star Wars’ prequels in this film than anything that visually resembles anything familiar to ‘G.I. Joe’. If you’re going into this film knowing it’s going to be bad, but still hoping there might be a shred of what made ‘G.I. Joe’ fun and cool in the past, you will be sadly disappointed.

Don’t even bother staying through the credits, because there’s nothing bad a terribly remixed version of The Black Eyed Peas’ “Boom Boom Pow.” There could have easily been an updated ‘G.I. Joe’ theme put into the credits, or a PSA to play off of that nostalgia of the campy but lovable 80’s ‘G.I. Joe’ PSAs. I’d like to know what went behind the creative decision making process that allowed them to force a Black-Eyed Peas song into the credits- it’s almost offensive. A generic song forced into the credits of a generic film. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

There is absolutely nothing in this film for fans of G.I. Joe. Every character’s origin story is distorted, and warped into something incoherent and just plain dumb and overly simplistic.

The story in ‘G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra’ is what you would expect. There’s an elite military strike team, but they are not so elite and secretive that the evil organization M.A.R.S doesn’t know the location of their super-secret base. This is a script that is all about getting from one action set piece to the next. This is a film that is also heavily padded out with flashbacks. Way too many flashbacks. If you love pointless flashbacks that heavy-handedly give you a look into the origins of characters, than this film is for you.

The casting of the film feels as unimaginative as the empty character development that the script tries to pull off. The main character, Duke, is played by Channing Tatum; he is once again forced down our throats in Hollywood’s attempt to tell us that we should like this line-mumbling “from-the-streets” actor. Duke’s romantic back-story with The Baroness (Sienna Miller) is forced and nonsensical. I will say that Sienna Miller, while lacking The Baroness’ iconic Russian accent, is one of the best things about this film. She’s not just stunning to look at, but seems to embrace the role, especially the character’s more despicable moments.

Also worth mentioning is Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who goes over-the-top with his portrayal of The Doctor/ Cobra Commander. The character’s background is muddled, but at least Joseph Gordon-Levitt runs with the paper-thin material he’s given.

The Doctor/ Cobra Commander’s origin is laughable, but Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives his best Bond-Villain interpretation of the character. It should also be noted that Joseph Gordon-Levitt is not even referred to once in the film as Cobra Commander and is even credited as playing The Doctor. Technically Cobra Commander doesn’t exist in this film.

The rest of the ‘G.I. Joe’ team is portrayed adequately, but never rises beyond simply names without interesting back-stories. Snake Eyes (Ray Park) briefly gives us glimpses at what could have been. Snake Eyes is one of the most iconic ‘G.I. Joe’ characters created.

His rivalry with Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) should be legendary to see unfold on screen, but it feels trite and anticlimactic when we are shown flashback after flashback of how these two ninjas came to be rivals. There is also the very bizarre creative choice to give Snake Eyes rubber lips on his mask. I did a double take before I realized that those lips were molded rubber. It looks silly. Aesthetically it looks like something borrowed from The Power Rangers.

Rachel Nichols pads out the casts required quota of eye-candy as expert marksman, Shana ‘Scarlett’ O’Hara, who also has an obligatory romantic interest in Ripcord (Marlon Wayans). Expectedly, Marlon Wayans panders to the lowest audience common dominator. Ripcord isn’t an interesting character and seems to be only in the film to fill out the “black friend” role.

The most seasoned actor of the film is, without question, Dennis Quaid who plays General Hawk. Quaid seems to have forgotten that he’s actually Dennis Quaid, since he resorts to scowling the entire time, and proceeds to shout all of his lines at the camera; like an old man who’s angry at people walking on his lawn. Quaid looks directly into the camera more than once, almost to try and silently signal to the audience “Get me out of here, now.”

There was also the much rumored about cameo of Brendon Fraser in the film. Early reports listed Fraser as playing the classic G.I. Joe character Gung-Ho, but sadly those reports were false. Fraser plays Sgt. Stone, technically a classic G.I. Joe character, but not one anybody was dying to see on screen. Yet another example of a missed perfect opportunity to give fans of the original series something. Frasier’s cameo was unneeded and altogether pointless. Stephen Sommers should have just given Brendan Fraser ten more minutes of screen-time, so at least they could bill him on the poster.

I have no problem with the characters that were picked to be the G.I. Joe team roster. It just would have been much appreciated fan service if the filmmakers found a way to thrown in any cameos of any other recognizable G.I. Joe characters, even if it’s something as simplistic as Shipwreck hanging out in the break room yelling at his parrot.

Obviously this is an action film, and I really hate to sound like a disapproving parent, but I was shocked at how gruesome and actually gory this film was. Considering the tone, the level of violence is all over the place and inconsistent. For a PG13 film, there are an awful of Cobra Neo-Vipers getting their eyes gouged out, G.I. Joe members getting impaled and Cobra agents melting into piles of goo. These are not even very inventive kill scenes, but since the film feels like a light action film, these harder scenes of violence are surprising.

Hollywood will never make the ‘G.I. Joe’ film that I want to see. While I’m OK with that, I’m just disappointed that such a classic and iconic 80’s property was handled so poorly in it’s big-screen translation. The filmmakers took the ‘G.I. Joe’ property and picked-and-chose what they wanted and forced those elements into one package. Director Stephen Sommers has once again put his name on another hollow and forgettable action film.

One which will most likely garner a big enough box office to receive a even bigger and equally as mindless sequel. People who enjoyed the 80’s version of ‘G.I. Joe’ in either comic or cartoon form, will be curious to check out this film and see what’s up. ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’ is 118 minutes of sheer boredom and stupidity. I urge people to vote with their wallets and avoid this film.

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