GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Dan’s Take): (***)

g_i_joe_ver12With all the flaccid  outrage (read: Why didn’t I get invited?) by critics over Paramount’s decision to screen G.I. Joe to only a handful of audiences and critics (including CHUD’s spot-on review by Devin Faraci) and KSL’s Doug Wright mistakenly reporting director Stephen Sommers quit the project (he didn’t- nor was he ever fired), a huge question remains: “OK, but is it any good?”

The short answer: Yes. Remember Stephen Sommers pre-Van Helsing? He’s back with a GI Joe that’s a frenetic, 200 BPM blast of Double-Bubble fun.  Not to say G.I. Joe is high art– it’s not even trying to be– but if your anticipation lurking somewhere between the mud and silt of Lake Expectation, you’re going to be pleasantly entertained.

GI Joe: Rise of Cobra (or as Westates embarrassingly labels it: Rise of THE Cobra) is exactly what the title describes– the origins and organization of GI Joe’s (now an international special ops force) terrorist nemesis: Cobra. Yes, there’s obvious aims at a franchise here.

Sienna Miller is not unattractive. She's also the Baroness.
Sienna Miller is not unattractive. She's also the Baroness.

The plot details aren’t important, other than to say “pre-Cobra” is a well-funded organization determined to create terror across the globe via weaponized nano-technology in an effort to turn the hearts of the world’s population to a preordained political savior puppeteered by pre-Cobra itself. Racing across the globe, the GI Joe team (including a British Heavy Duty and Moroccan Breaker) attempt to thwart their plans at every turn. The rest is explosions, rending metal, fights, cool ships and flying bodies.

However, unlike its sister toys in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, GI Joe punches up a magazine full of mayhem and noise that actually drives a half-decent plot populated with characters to mildly care about (including some fun cameos by an ex-Tarzan and a Victoria’s Secret underpants model who shouldn’t quit her day job). In a realization that left me smacking my forehead in disbelief, Marlon Wayans (Ripcord), my arch-nemesis and top third reason why I dreaded this movie, comes off as a warm addition as a dose of heart/comedy relief. A special note must be made of Sienna “I’m the linchpin” Miller’s Baroness and Rachel “I’m the Irish hottie” Nichol’s Scarlett. At the risk of sounding like my inner 12-year-old was unabashedly appealed to (he was) , the selection and inclusion of these two ladies makes watching GI Joe all the more awesome. Both are svelte eye candy, but Miller incredibly doles out a pretty decent performance. While that’s not saying a lot considering the material, she’s an enjoyable highlight.

Rachel Nichols is not unattractive. She's also Scarlett.

In hindsight, I’m sure low expectations sugarcoated my  GI Joe experience but to its credit, GI Joe refreshingly presents itself as nothing more than what it is: summer’s first a crazy action-adventure with cavernous secret bases, bad guys and vehicular mayhem. In fact, it’s very true in spirit to the afternoon cartoon of the 80’s and the big screen progeny of the way you (or your brother) used to play with GI Joe action figures… and that’s the way it should be.

That’s not to say the film isn’t flawed– it is. Tatum Channing, playing the titular role of GI Joe hero Duke, is an energy sapping Hayden Christiansen-esque black hole of emotion, but with all the other fun hurtling in your face for 120 minutes, his uncharismatic presence is easily sidelined– as is some bargain basement CGI (to be fair, there’s also some fantastic CGI as well). Of course, that comes with the territory as this is a Stephen Sommers film after all. Still, none of these modest gripes interfered with the fun in what turns out to be the surprise of the summer.

As a word of warning for parents with kids clamoring to see this one, GI Joe earns its PG-13 rating. Yes, Sommer’s Joe is a fun homage to the tonal style of the early cartoon, but this isn’t a movie about friend and foe alike running through a barrage of laser fire unharmed. Amid some spicy language, there’s surprisingly violent content (arrows to the eye, exploding heads, stabbings, throwing stars to face, etc.) that should give anyone contemplating taking a kid eight or under some pause.

For the rest of us, the keyword is fun: think it and you’ll get it. GI Joe’s a go.

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