G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra or “We’ll always have Paris- Wait! No we won’t, we blew it up.”

G.I. Joe does the badass walk.

"General Hawk, your beret is great. Just kidding, you look stupid."

For all the negative advance buzz, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a fun action movie. Dumb, overly violent, but still fun. Unlike the tedious Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen or the painfully nihilistic Terminator: Salvation, G.I. Joe focuses on energetic action sequences that are filled with verve and edited with a nod towards coherence. That cannot be overlooked or overstated.

The plot involves the sale and stealing of a special metal eating nanobot system, so powerful it could hold the world ransom. The guy doing the selling and stealing is McCullen whose main beef is that his villainous ancestors had hot metal masks shoved on their faces, Doctor Doom style. He’s assisted by the Baroness, Storm Shadow, The Doctor, Zartan and a seemingly endless supply of grunts called Neo Viper’s.  They are challenged by the forces of good that is G.I. Joe, consisting of Duke, Ripcord, General Hawk, Breaker, Scarlett, Heavy Duty and Snake Eyes. Now, these names are either exciting your memory and evoking nostalgia or confusing you to no end. G.I. Joe: TROC does not go out of the way to properly introduce many of these characters. Instead, packed in between the action sequences we are treated to quick flashbacks that either function to explain character relationships or in some cases just let you know what a character was doing 20 years ago.

The action sequences are wild and woolly, with an amusing disregard for collateral damage, to the point where it becomes impossible to stifle thoughts of Team America: World Police. That said, I’m pretty sure this is the first action film in awhile to actively acknowledge the damage done, when an adviser meekly informs the president, “The French are really mad.” The big set piece is the chase through the streets of Paris that gets the French so angry, where we are treated to a ninja hanging onto a hummer, a lady on a motorcycle, and two guys in super suits (Delta-6 Accelerator Suits if you’re nasty) flipping cars and dodging missiles. It’s insanely over the top and delirious fun, which director Stephen Sommers has admittedly pulled off in the past. Sommers has one big weakness that has reared its head in all of his films, a tendency toward shoddy CGI. G.I. Joe is sadly no different, with a desert shot so cheap looking I thought they’d run out of money 15 minutes in. Luckily, this tends to be the exception. The Paris chase is particularly sharp looking, and a undersea battle holds out for the most part, probably thanks to the murky conditions.

Yup, looks great.

Yup, looks great.

The performances are all over the place. Dennis Quaid’s General Hawk seems way too old for this shit, and tends to talk as if he is speaking phonetically, unsure of the actual meaning of his words. Other times he sounds like he’s recovering from a stroke. It’s weird. Channing Tatum is another great example of the anti-presence phenomenon currently sweeping Hollywood. His Duke is a largely expressionless block of wood whose greatest emotional moment is riding a motorcycle to a funeral in the rain, wearing sunglasses. Apparently Sam Worthington was the first choice, which would have given us the same result, but with a slippery accent. I know some people are wondering about Joseph Gordon Levitt as The Doctor. The guy is clearly having a great time here, hamming it up under a strange breathing apparatus and talking in a voice that evokes a certain villain without doing a direct imitation. His encounter with another old G.I. Joe villain (who shall remain nameless) had me in stitches.  Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko from Lost) plays Heavy Duty with a slight unhinged nature that the film surprisingly does little with. At one point he’s shooting two giant chain guns, laughing like a maniac, and I wanted more of that. Marlon Wayans is jokey jokester, not that grating but I never missed him when he wasn’t on screen. Rachel Nichols plays Scarlett with about as much intensity as she can muster, but can’t compete with Sienna Miller’s performance as the Baroness. Miller is the big surprise. By no means a breakout talent, she still more than held her own, projecting great menace and authority and most importantly, is crazy hot. Insanely hot. You don’t know how hot she is in this movie. And it’s all the hair and glasses (ok, and the boobs). She has some flashbacks as a blond sans specs and I could have given a shit. Later she’s spraying defenseless civilians with machine gun fire as blood drips down her face and I wanted her to have my babies.

Sexy specs indeed.

She needs glasses to better shoot you in the face.

But I’m not talking about the guy everyone wants to know about: Snake Eyes. First, he’s in it, and he’s awesome. Second, he’s awesome. From what I could tell from some reviews, people unfamiliar with G.I. Joe aren’t picking up on the awesomeness of Snake Eyes. Let me help you out: he’s a ninja who never speaks, can fuck you up with any weapon(or his hands!), and the only person who can match him is ANOTHER NINJA! That would be Storm Shadow. I read a review that made the backhand observation that two ninja’s fighting is “kinda cool”. Yes it is, asshole. So what’s your problem? “Two ninjas fighting is pretty awesome, and these ninja’s fighting are very awesome. But I dunno.” Rest assured, for all the changes made to character back-story and the amount of meathead Duke this film has, the Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes material is A+. Storm Shadow is fucking people up with ninja stars in like every scene! It’s wonderful! He does that when he isn’t running up and down hallways WITH A MISSILE LAUNCHER.

Which leads me back to the topic of collateral damage. So many people die in G.I. Joe: TROC. One grunt is killed by a giant drill coming out of wall. One of those Neo Vipers has a grenade blow off his head. Zartan stabs a lady through the chest with a giant knife, and then essentially calls Storm Shadow a pussy(I KNOW!) I already mentioned The Baroness shooting civilians, but I failed to mention when they drop the Eiffel Tower on a bridge full of people. To paraphrase my good friend Gerard, “France, you got got!” The Paris chase has so many cars being thrown and flipped and not once do any of the Joe’s say, “These normal people are fucked!” Heck, the Joes can barely pay any regard toward the safety of fellow teammates. During the Paris chase, Snake Eyes has been assigned to hang on to the enemy Hummer and stab it. This doesn’t work out quite as planned and Mr. Eyes ends up hanging underneath the vehicle, at which point the pursuing Joe’s take it upon themselves to shoot a missile at the Hummer, with a quick precusor of “Hold on, Snake Eyes!” Yeah, hold on to the truck we’re shooting with a missile. I know he can’t talk but damn.

Speaking of damn, damn.

Speaking of damn, damn.

You might find this hard to believe, but some of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a little far fetched. Plenty of things come to mind, but the most egregious is a super plane that can fly from the Arctic to Moscow to Washington D.C. in about eleven minutes. I might need to check my math here Houston, but that might be fucking ridiculous. But whatever, this is intercut with a ninja battle and an underwater gunfight that resembles a Star Wars X-Wing battle. So before you get a chance to ponder just how fast Mach 6 actually is, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are back on screen and you’re thinking, “NINJAS! GOD YES!”

God yes.

God, yes.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra manages to evoke it’s source material better than any other film of it’s breed. Roger Ebert calls it “a 118-minute animated film with sequences involving the faces and other body parts of human beings.” Nailed it.  Also, ninjas. Can’t say it enough.

Post script: I showed up to my screening about ten minutes early, yet I sat through nearly twenty minutes of commercials, hosted by a young man named Bradford Howe. His teeth gritting delivery and dead eyes belie a man with nothing left to live for. It was torture. Also, I saw a myriad of trailers for films of all stripes, including Shorts and District 9. The trailer that evoked the biggest audience response: Old Dogs. What a world.

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One Response to “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra or “We’ll always have Paris- Wait! No we won’t, we blew it up.””

  1. Justin Says:

    I have a feeling that your review is much, much more enjoyable for me than actually watching G.I. Joe ever could be. Truly, this is a really good one. Better than most, one might say. Perhaps even…”definitive”

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