Paramount // 2009 // 118 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // November 11th, 2009
All the great toys are getting their shot at big screen time, so why not the Joes? Usher them into cinematic glory, director Stephen Sommers, a man with the subtlety of an imploding star.
"When all else fails...we don't." These macho words are uttered by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid, In Good Company), leader of the top-secret, multi-national, global crime-fighting something or other known as G.I. Joe. These guys operate out of a base buried deep beneath the desert, accepting only the best soldiers in the world...as evidenced by the one guy who hides from the villains behind a door like a pantywaist and promptly gets sliced in half by an evil ninja.
The villains: Cobra before they officially become Cobra, led by a raspy deformed mad scientist and his hot librarian sidekick, the Baroness (Sienna Miller, Interview).
Joe's newest recruits, Duke (Channing Tatum, Fighting) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans, White Chicks), show up just in time. Cobra's gotten their hands on some killer nanabots which can eat through metal and are threatening to wipe out three huge cities...for no other reason than just wanting to be massive pricks.
Full disclosure: I never watched much G.I. Joe during its back-in-the-day cartoon run. Whether it was my mom being reluctant to have my brother and me view animated soldiers shooting each other in the hands with laser rifles, or my own disinterest in the intellectual property, I just never really made Duke and the gang a pillar of my impressionable childhood. I did watch enough, however, to know that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra doesn't look much like the Joe I remember.
This is bombastic and hyperactive. If that's all you want in a live-action interpretation of an intercontinental cartoon war between grown men and women with nicknames, then Sommers has you covered with gigantic exploding set-pieces hot on the heels of gigantic exploding set-pieces; goofy characters reeling off cringe-worthy one-liners, most of which they say to themselves while smack in the middle of life-or-death situations; and a plot that doesn't move much further than The-Bad-Guys-Want-To-Do-Really-Horrible-Stuff-So-They-Can-Make-a-Lot-of-Money, even though they have a healthy enough cash flow to build a frickin' underwater city in the arctic circle.
As stupid as it is, I'd be willing to get on board with this hullabaloo, if the whole enterprise didn't feel like a soulless exercise in visual effects run amok. There is big action, but it's all so dependent on CGI and reality-jarring impossibility after impossibility (Duke and Ripcord, despite being brand new to the unit, can operate advanced combat suits and fly experimental prototype super-planes like experts) that connecting with the action on a gut level is impossible. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is guilty of similar brain-melting displays of detached action, but I'm willing to cut that overblown warhead a little more slack because a) all the mayhem involved large robots and not real people, b) the quality of the effects was much better, and c) I like Transformers more than G.I. Joe. In Joe everything is so synthetic-looking and computer-powered it's no stretch to claim that (technically) we're still dealing with animation.
Even if you can get past the cold, empty action set-pieces, incredibly stupid moments like Ripcord shouting in Celtic to get his secret plane to shoot lasers (really), insipid flashbacks of a young Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow beating the crap out of each over a stolen lunch (thus causing their timeless rivalry, because the Bushido code is crystal-clear on the penalty for pilfering a hoagie), the shockingly awful Baroness plotline, and the fact that four Cobra operatives can infiltrate the Joes' compound, which weirdly doesn't have anything resembling an intruder alarm (not even a Doberman or a ropes with soup cans tied to it), run up the idiot tab to stratospheric levels.
The Blu-ray is suitably loud and easy to look at, deploying a rock-solid 2.40:1 MPEG-4 AVC video treatment that pushes out these ludicrous levels of mayhem with ease, and yes, even a bit of splendor...until your brain synapses cease firing under the weight of the sensory onslaught. For audio, you get a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio which pounds out a relentless, hugely aggressive mix. There aren't many releases that promise to punish your eardrums like this. Extras: Commentary from the filmmakers, featurettes on the making-of and visual effects, a Digital Copy.
I like big dumb fun, but GI Joe: The Rise of COBRA is too big, too dumb, and not nearly enough fun.
Review content copyright © 2009 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.40:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 118 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Digital Copy