Review – G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra


“Wait!  This didn’t suck?!  I want my money back, damnit! And what the HELL does this have to do with Spider-Man, Berryman?!”

Earlier tonight during one of the Crawl Space’s regularly scheduled Skype chats I disclosed fully to my peers that I fully expected the new G.I. Joe movie to suck.  Wait – let me take that back.  My expectations were that this movie would redefine what ‘suck’ meant in today’s modern pop culture.  When I envisioned the future I saw Paramount taking a financial bath on the entire fiasco, perhaps followed by some public executions in Hollywood.  Not just hanging either.  I’m talkin’ drawn & quartered then burned kinda stuff.  And then, as I drifted to sleep the past weeks, I dreamt of the entire film franchise rebooted a la the Hulk franchise in about five years, by far more competent people.

It’s important to understand that  I wanted this to suck.  I love G.I. Joe that much.  Every bit I’d read about this movie was troubling to me – and in all honestly much of it is, and there is plenty here for hardcore lifelong G.I. Joe fans to be all angsty over.  I wanted this despite actually liking Stephen ‘The Mummy’ Sommers as a director.  All because of the liberties I’d read that were being taken and certain elements of the plot.  And make no mistake – the stuff I’d read was right and there were a few moments where this Joe fan (since 1980!) wince and even groan.

I don’t often admit I’m wrong.  Why?  Because let’s face it – you’re more likely to find a robot monkey made out of freakin’ diamonds than you are to find something I’m wrong about.  So in those rare times I am legitimately wrong, which happen with the frequency of a visit from Halley’s Comet, I admit when I was wrong.  And folks I was wrong about ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.’ Though in all honesty my low expectations probably led to my immense enjoyment of the movie.  And so, without further delay, I present to you the Good, the Bad, and the God Awful Ugly about this comics & toy adaptation.

Pangea-Sized Spoilers Below!  Abandon All Hope, Ye Who Enter Here!

THE GOOD

This movie has two, and only two, major strengths going for it.  The first is the eight trillion metric tons of action in here.  Really it’s more like two hours of ongoing action with little to no downtime.  The movie rarely seems to drag, but when it does you do feel it.  You mostly feel the drag when Channing Tatum or Marlon Wayans try to act.  But don’t worry.  Things get shooty again quick enough.  The climactic undersea arctic battle is a lot of fun, as is the fight inside Destro’s base.

The second strength this movie has is Sienna Miller, who really comes into her own here.  She gobbles up the screen with presence, charisma, charm and talent and refuses to let anyone else outshine her.  Hell, she’s even unconscious on the floor in one scene, surrounded by Duke, ‘The Doctor’ (more on him later) and Destro – and she still manages to be the most interesting element in the scene.  She’s a greedy cinema shark and all through this movie she’s achingly pretty and on the prowl.  RAWR!  She makes me wish the movie had just been titled ‘The Baroness Vs. Planet Earth.’

Christopher Eccleston of ‘Doctor Who’ fame comes in second behind Miller and he turns in a solid performance as Destro.  He’s really more of a James Bond villain here but that angle works.  It works until the point where ‘the Doctor’ uses nanites to deform Destro’s head into the famous metal mask we’re familiar with.  That scene was painful to watch.  But up until that moment, Destro’s pretty solid here.

Others turn in passable performances or are hardly in it enough to gauge them on their roles.  Arnold Vosloo (Zartan, who gets to kill a Joe) and Jonathan Pryce (the President) are good for the little time they have in the movie, but they’ll ostensibly have more screen time in the sequel thanks to the twist ending here that the filmmakers basically stole from the ending of Bryan Singer’s first X-Men movie.  Byung-hun Lee is adequate as Storm Shadow but he’s limited here by the script, which can’t decided if he’s supposed to be a throw away ‘Rush Hour’ villain or Stuart Townsend’s Dorian Gray from ‘The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.’  Ray Park isn’t given much to do here as Snake Eyes except kill people.  Even with the mishandled scenes between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow there’s not much chance here for him to get that much into the role.  He does do a lot of killin’ though.  Rachel Nichols is good but wasted as filler for Wayan’s loss of a character Ripcord.

THE BAD

Stuart Beattie, David Elliot and Paul Lovett phone it in with a truly bad script here.  A lot of the ‘buddy’ dialogue comes off as stale, at best, and as garbage, at its worst.  There is so much to dislike with the script.  The big reveal at the end is that Cobra Commander was there all along and has been pulling the strings.  But why did he even become a villain in the first place?  It’s anyone’s guess and the filmmakers decided it apparently wasn’t that important.  The script glosses over silly character issues – you know, like basic motivation – and just throws characters into their assigned roles, either with no sense or little sense. 

For example: Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes.  You’d think it would be hard to destroy the most celebrated rivalry in G.I. Joe fandom – but you’d be wrong.  People are apparently paid big bucks to fail with the premise of this movie.  The story does go into the shared history between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, even including the Hard Master, but misses the point in leading us to believe that Storm Shadow was the one who killed his Master.  This robs us of one of the better, more complex stories in G.I. Joe history.  It takes a Ruth’s chris steak and turns it into a cold, congealed McDonald’s ‘all beef’ patty. 

Yet another fail for the story here is the Baroness’s motivation.  In the comics the Baroness is one of the most deliciously evil women you can find.  She’s cold, calculating and totally rutless.  She’s just no damn good.  Here she’s just a good girl being mind controlled by Destro and ‘the Doctor’ through their nano technology.  That’s a great disservice to one of the best villains in this franchise.  The intense romance and history between her and Destro is also wiped away here, though the two do get to kiss in one scene and flirt a couple of times.  Which is fun until you realize she’s been mind controlled and really still loves Duke.  Gag!

Also gone in the movie is the romance and partnership of Snake Eyes and Scarlett.  Instead the movie fails with its use of Scarlett as a romantic foil for Ripcord.  The story of Snake Eyes and Scarlett in the comics is epic.  It’s the stuff of legend.  The two are a blood-spilling version of Beauty and the Beast.  Him – a tragic, scarred figure who can no longer talk or show his face due to wounds he suffered saving her life.  Her – a beautiful, deadly woman drawn and bound to the man who almost gave his life for her.  But apparently the filmmakers thought that wasn’t gripping and decided she needed to be with that suddenly-wackly Ripcord.  I’ve read comments from the filmmakers before saying how they had problems seeing Scarlett act off of a “guy in a mask.”  They really missed the point. But really the entire script does.  I think though that they meant to make this a love triangle between Scarlett, Snake Eyes and Ripcord.  Early on in the movie, albeit briefly, Scarlett is shown to be hanging all over Snake Eyes in a control room during a briefing – but then the movie goes right into the forced relationship between Scarlett and Ripcord.  It doesn’t make sense and it’s something that I hope isn’t revisited in any sequels.  Let Scarlet and Snake Eyes pair up and cause some real damage.

Compounding the short-changing we get from the missing relationships is the removal of the ‘American’ from the ‘Real American Hero.’  Hasbro has stupidly decided to try to make G.I. Joe – formerly ‘A Real American Hero’ – into an internationally appealing prism of international diversity.  Suddenly Heavy Duty is British, Breaker is Middle Eastern and our wonderful Scarlett has been changed from a Georgia peach into a piece of Canadian bacon.  As salt in the wound, the G.I. Joe base (the Pit) is no longer in America.  No, it’s out in the Sahara Desert now.  Cause you know – that’s not in America so it must be better.  You know folks, the list of wholly American movies that make fantastic bank overseas is long.  Most recently, ‘The Dark Knight’ dominated the whole globe with its tale of a superhero and his archenemy, both American, in an American city.  The last time I checked the international version of the movie hadn’t moved the city of Gotham into Belgium and it hadn’t made the Joker Swedish.  A lot has been sacrificed here on the altar of political correctiness and the franchise suffers for that.  Why couldn’t they just re-edit the movie with different takes for international audiences and call it ‘Action Force’ the way they did with the old Marvel comics?  That would’ve been more palatable.  The end result feels more like Disneyland’s ‘It’s A Small World’ with headshots.

Rounding out the bad?  The editing during the swordfights between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.  It’s way too quick.  These two characters are both trained ninjas and we should really be able to watch more of the action without nanosecond-long cuts that are hard to follow.  Seriously, we needed Errol Flynn and Basil Rathbone action here, not the MTV movie editing of the big fight in ‘The Crow.’

THE GOD AWFUL UGLY

Channing Tatum is supposed to be the lead here, with Marlon Wayans as the ‘funny man.’  Both woefully fall short here.  Tatum’s performance is wooden and tense.  In the scenes he has with Sienna Miller, she consumes him whole while he stands there trying not to get hurt.  Wayans may have come a long way from ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ or that movie where he played a midget pretending to be a baby, which was so bad I can’t be bothered to look up the movie’s title after having forgotten it.  But he’s trying too hard here and falling flat. 

Also made out of complete fail – laughably so – is Rex/the Doctor/Cobra Commander.  He’s the ‘mad scientiest’ of Destro’s army who’s acting as the puppet master, finally becoming ‘the Commander’ and bringing a scarred Destro under his control.  His big reveal is truly the stuff of epic fail.  The Commander’s costume is horrible.  The character from the comics and the cartoon is iconic thanks to his look but here he’s given the poor man’s Micronaut treatment.  It’s like the art design folks were daring each other to see who could turn in the worst possible outfit – and that’s the one the filmmakers went with. 

And yes, the ‘accelerator suits’ are just as horrible as they looked in the trailer.  Even worse, really, since we have to deal with them for an extended amount of time during the Paris street chase scene.  They’re so out of place and come across more goofy than cool.  Here’s hoping we’ve seen the last of that jackassery.

So to sum up?  A lot of bad – and I mean a lot of it.  But with that bad comes some pretty freaking awesome battle scenes and a whole lot of Sienna Miller gobbling everything up in front of her.  And that’s really all this movie is about.  If you’re a hardcore Joe fan – and by hardcore I mean hardcore, not “oh I dabble and dig Snake Eyes” – then there’s going to be things here that disappoint and fall short.  If you don’t know a freaking thing about G.I. Joe then you’ll probably really dig this movie.  If you just like guns, hot chicks and lots of ‘splosions then you will exit the theater doing cartwheels, all giddy and a’flutter.

RATING: 3 out of 5.  Go to a matinee, expect the worst and be awed when you come out actually thinking it was a little bit of alright.

Oh… you’re still wondering how this ties in with Spider-Man?  Well!  Feast your eyes on the following tidbit from Amazing Spider-Man #254, my friends, and take a gander at what we see in a toy store while Spidey is duking it out with Jack O’Lantern.

That’s it from me!  Have a great weekend, folks!

–Tell ‘Em George Berryman Sent Ya!

 

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