a critiQal film review G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Plot: Armed with the latest in military and spy technology, the team of elite soldiers known as G.I. Joe travel around the globe to wherever their services are needed. In their latest assignment Gen. Hawk (Quaid), Duke (Tatum) and the rest of the G.I. Joe team take on Destro (Eccleston), a corrupt arms dealer, and fight the growing threat of the mysterious Cobra organization.

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  • ...the action-packed effects, coupled with a solid storyline, should have viewers yelling 'Yo Joe!' - despite some so-so acting and dialogue.

It’s definitely the summer to be a child of the 80’s, isn’t it? After seeing the sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) last month, I was anxious to see my other childhood toy/tv show fave turned film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, as our Summer At The Movies ’09 rolled on.

Would this new film be as fun as the first Michael Bay-directed Transformers (2007), or would they muck it up even worse than they did Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)? With Stephen Sommers, the director of The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001) on board, I had high hopes for G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Just like in the comics and TV show back in the 80’s, G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra has quite a large cast. However, again taking a page (ahem) from the comics and show, the filmmakers decided to concentrate on only a few of the personnel, and use the rest as background. For this film, viewers get to witness Duke (Channing Tatum), Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), Hawk (Dennis Quaid), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) show what they’ve got for the good guys, while going up against foes Destro (Christopher Eccleston), Cobra Commander (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), The Baroness (Sienna Miller), Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) and Zartan (Arnold Vosloo).

While not everyone performed at top levels (Channing Tatum, for one, seemed a bit too stoic for such a large part), there were a couple of stand-outs. While Dennis Quaid looked to be having fun spouting classic lines like “knowing is half the battle”, the girls managed to take center stage away from the guys with flair, with Sienna Miller and Rachel Nicols delivering just the right amount of toughness and comedy to make them highlights of the film. True, Miller’s performance breaks down a bit towards the end, but this time around, the girls nearly steal the show completely from the guys.

Marlon Wayans is another surprising stand-out in the film, toning down his comedy enough for viewers to actually take him seriously for the first time in his career. It’s shocking, but he’s also a high point of the film – and that’s not because the movie is bad, either!

Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who’s managed to parlay his fame from “3rd Rock from the Sun” (TV) into quite an eclectic movie career, uses his guise as a disfigured scientist (who would become Cobra Commander) to turn in another subtle and quirky performance. He plays the mad doctor with just the right mix of genius and insanity, making a character that could easily have become a cliche into something worth another look.

While die-hard fans may be upset at the liberties the filmmakers have taken with the storyline (there are a couple more rather important “ties that bind” between both the good guys and bad guys), the changes actually enhance the storyline of the film. With those closer ties, the reasons behind the characters’ actions actually make a lot more sense than if they had left them out, at least as far as this film goes. What they will do with them in the future, however, could be markedly different.

The action sequences, typical of a summer action flick these days, are astronomically huge, and threaten to take over the picture entirely. Thankfully, despite the almost non-stop action and CGI – and unlike Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009) – the viewer never gets lost amongst the effects, and can keep up with the storyline throughout. True, there are a few flubs amongst the effects (seems like CGI artists are still having a problem with showing weight), it doesn’t destroy the film, thanks to the solid storyline.

While die-hard fans may boo this new version, I accept G. I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra with a healthy “Yo Joe!” True, it’s not exactly the same as the comics or TV show that I remember, but then, what is when it’s translated into a different medium? And even if it’s exact (Watchmen (2009)), it’s not without it’s faults.

Fans of the 80’s version should welcome this new translation of the story. It’s action-packed and has a solid storyline behind it – and even if that storyline is slightly different from what you remember, they make it work for this film. Think of it as having your favorite translated to a different medium, and enjoy being able to see the characters come to life on the big screen. If you’re still bummed, die-hard fans, think back to the G. I. Joe: The Movie cartoon and count your lucky stars they didn’t use that film as their kick-off point.

With the intro story out of the way – and exciting changes near the end of the film – it’s obvious the filmmakers are looking towards a 2nd film. Will they make it? With a large number of characters not even introduced yet, and the emergence of Cobra as a strong enemy for G. I. Joe, they’ve got all the material for it – and I for one will be there if and when it hits theaters.

In the meantime, this one is going on my DVDs-to-own list – along with the newly re-released season of “G.I. Joe” (TV).

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