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USA 2009
Directed by
Stephen Sommers
118 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
2.5 stars

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Synopsis: When the evil Destro (Christopher Eccleston) obtains warheads containing nano-machines capable of destroying entire cities, the elite secret unit, G.I. Joe, snaps into action and lots of things blow up.

I like Stephen Sommers’ films as a general rule (you can see where I’m going with this already, can’t you?). Deep Rising and Van Helsing are both insanely silly films and great fun. The Mummy films are okay, not quite the same standard, but still fun. But now there’s G.I. Joe which is sorta fun, but not really. To start with, the effects are an awful mix of substandard and average, and certainly are nothing outstanding. Wolverine had worse effects, but something bad must be happening in Hollywood. Tentpole franchise films shouldn’t look this crappy. You could argue that cartoonish CG is appropriate for a cartoonish movie, but it just feels off.

But enough of the complaining, what’s good about the film? The action is fun, especially the scenes between rival ninjas, Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Storm Shadow (Byung Hun Lee) and the final assault on the underwater Cobra base is pretty good too. There’s a good chase through Paris as The Baroness (Sienna Miller) and Storm Shadow race to escape the Joes and fire one of the warheads at the Eiffel Tower. Frog-bashing still pays out and the Scottish Destro’s motivation for the target is a mix of personal history, and funny Anglo-Gallic rivalry. (Why has no one done a film about Melbournian gangsters blowing up the Opera House? Seems kinda obvious in light of this sort of film…)   It’s almost non-stop action, which whilst far from the top of the pile, isn’t boring.  And really, that’s all anyone is going to care about with a film like this. But the characters are wooden, the attempts at backstory (told through laughably poor flashbacks) are pointless and the whole thing could have been cut shorter and made tighter simply by realising that exposition is a waste of time in a film in which the action drowns out the character.  (The literary ideal that action is character meets its negation here.)

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a Saturday morning cartoon of a film, but lacking the knowing wink and childlike enthusiasm of something like Van Helsing to really sell itself. Things go boom, but nobody seems to care, they just don tight fitting body armour and fire more guns. It’s the cinematic equivalent of a Big Mac. Tasty enough at the time, but five minutes later you’re hungry again. Truthfully speaking, I can’t remember a single scene in the whole thing, but then, I didn’t completely hate it either. It’s a contradiction: Enjoyable but disappointing. It’s a real shame, because Stephen Sommers can do great things with cheesy material, but this time he’s missed his mark.

 

 

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