30
Dec
09

Movies on DVD/BD Review: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra

What, no Serpentor?

Starring Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Dennis Quaid, Marlon Wayans, Christopher Eccleston, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Directed by Stephen Sommers. Based on the toy line by Hasbro

It’s Shakespeare for six-year-olds (pending your six-year-old kid isn’t stuck-up and/or going to a private school). It’s over-the-top, laser-blasting, bodies flyin’, shit blowin’ up, fast-paced, unbelievably cartoonish action featuring macho guys, hot chicks, and fight scenes between good and bad guys. In short it’s a literal translation from the cartoon TV show to live-action movie. And it’s entertaining as hell.

Stephen Sommers gives backstories to characters that don’t really need them, but I guess he felt the need to be a “good” filmmaker and clue the audience in on the history of the characters. This only comes into question with the beginning segment showing a “weapons dealer” named James McCullen who, in 1641, was given an “iron mask” for dealing weapons to both the Scots and the French. His received the name “Destro,” short for “destroyer of worlds.” Yeah, okay.

Fast forward to the “not-too-distant future,” where McCullen’s descendant James McCullen runs MARS (Military Armaments Research Syndicate), a weapons contractor that has designed nanomites, micro-robotic bugs that look like green acid when they eat away at metal but come with a safety killswitch. McCullen has armed four warheads with these and wants them transported.

The convoy transporting the much-sought briefcase is sent off-course and intercepted by soldiers with technology far superior than theirs. Of the survivors there is Duke (Tatum) and his best friend Ripcord (Wayans), saved by Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), and Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui). Duke, Ripcord, and the case are taken to “The Pit,” G.I. Joe HQ.

The Pit is a gigantic training facility buried deep beneath the Egyptian sand. This place has LEVELS: shooting, hand-to-hand combat, and a water park addition that you makes you navigate through hoops –literally. Imagine the scene in “Wayne’s World” where Wayne opens the door to the room where “people are being trained just like in ‘James Bond’ movies” and multiply that by 10, adding some cool hi-tech gadgets; you get my drift. General Hawk (Quaid) presides over The Pit and G.I. Joe, a multi-national group of “the best of the best.” They pour over what facts they have and Duke offers up info on Ana (Miller), a woman he had proposed to 4 years earlier and one of the enemy combatants. Duke and Ripcord do a training montage and are officially Joe-certified.

There’s a reason for McCullen’s backstory as we find that he did the old con man “protect this for me while I hire someone to take it from you” routine. He’s hellbent on playing all sides against the middle just like his ancestor. Another member of COBRA is The Doctor (Gordon-Levitt), a man breathing through a mask who injects the nano-technology into subjects creating “super soldiers” whose bidding he controls via computer. Also, the Baroness/Ana, is married to Baron deCobray (Grégory Fitoussi), a noted French research scientist. I almost forgot to mention: his base is multi-leveled and underwater.

Peril is the name of the game as McCullen and COBRA unleash one of the four nanomite weapons on the Eiffel Tower. Ripcord and Duke don Delta-6 suits which allow them to run, jump, and shoot faster than anyone or anything else. Duke manages to save most of the Eiffel Tower but is captured in the process. It’s up to the Joes to get Duke back and save the world.

This is the kind of movie I had expected “Transformers” to be: whiz-bang special effects with shallow story, plot, characters, and motivation. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing because do you really need depth in “G.I. Joe?” There are a few instances where Sommers tries rising above the source material by giving the characters backstory but really, this is the kind of movie that doesn’t call for that. Tough guys with guns and lasers, bad chicks in leather and high heels, tech-geek weapons, ninja fights… it’s your inner child’s wet dream.

The one downside to this film (if you’ve already accepted it for what it is) is the inconsistency of the special effects. Some of them are really well done while some of the more massive vehicles (especially those in water or the air) seem to be need another layer or two of rendering. Outside of that as long as you know that this movie is as literal a translation of the cartoon as there ever has been… you’re green for Go.

Why watch the movie? Sienna Miller is hot. So is Rachel Nichols. Cool tech-geek stuff. You’re inner six-year-old which remembers the halcyon days of “Yo Joe!” watching real American heroes take down Cobra needs its fix. Or watch it because Sommers got right what Michael Bay gets wrong.

Watch for “Mummy” alums Arnold Vosloo, Brendan Fraser, and Kevin J. O’Connor.

My grade: C (and knowing is half the battle)

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