Review: ‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’

Dare I say it? Not only is G.I Joe a just apology by Steven Sommers for Van Helsing, it’s also a reminder why Michael Bay’s Transformers franchise is so forgettable.

McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) is a weapons maker about to deliver four next-gen warheads to NATO, trusting the US Army with their safe delivery. Duke (Channing Tatum) and his buddy Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are in charge of the mission… and all that remain when an unknown force with superior firepower nearly destroys the entire convoy. Fortunately, a group of equally mysterious specialists arrive before the warheads fall into the wrong hands: Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Snake Eyes (Ray Park), Breaker (Sa?¯d Taghmaoui), and Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), all lead by a decorated commander, General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). The two soldiers and their payload are spirited to a hidden location, the international base of operations for a well-equipped, secret team of elite fighters called “G.I. Joe.”

There’s plenty this movie gets wrong, but far more that it gets right. While we are seeing the G.I Joe team in action, their enemies aren’t quite “Co-BRA!” just yet. The plot follows the same rhythm as the series: bad guys try to steal something, Joes show up and thwart it but don’t know the whole plan, bad guys do or steal something else, and so on until the Joes win, someone gets captured (they’ll escape in the next installment), and someone usually gets away. Unlike the Transformers films (in which Michael Bay demands chaos for even the most docile scenes), the final editors of this film should be thanked for reigning in the silliness and tweaking the flow to make two hours of popcorn-munching not-so-covert military action fly by on the screen. Then, there’s the nitpicking…

Scarlett, less rouge, please. Does Snake Eyes need a plastic mouth? Could Storm Shadow look any more like a poser with that turned-up white-leather collar? And what ranking military operation would be allowed to continue when half of the good guys directly or indirectly have history with the bad guys? At one point, you half expect General Hawk to reveal, “My God… I’m my own grandpa!” with all the other revelations in this film. Also, much of the history established here differs completely from the classic cartoons (and even comics) that inspired the film, so the purists will have plenty to lament. Speaking of which, lines that call attention to the fact that the filmmakers took it upon themselves that G.I Joe is no longer “a real American hero” stings like lemon juice in an open wound. And seriously, as the only black man on “Joe team alpha,” is it absolutely required that Ripcord call attention to the fact with some snide or half-bigoted racial reference? We know you’re proud to be black, now please sit down.

By the film’s end, the stage is set for the required sequel or two to follow, and with plenty of characters to draw upon instead of making up stuff (are you listing, Michael Bay?) the sequels could be just as entertaining if not better. None of the principle villainous characters, of course, suffered any setbacks they couldn’t come back from for those sequels as well, so old scores (complete with on-screen baggage) can be settled yet again. The worst atrocities committed toward this film included showing trailers that revealed too little setup and too many special effects. For your next film, might I suggest a little subterfuge on the part of Cobra Commander in the form of viral video and recruitment? You’ve got a good thing going here, Mr. Sommers. Keep smiling, don’t blow it. (with apologies to Robert Preston)

(a three skull recommendation out of four)


  1. If loud noises and things moving across a screen entertains you, then you must see this movie. If story or interesting characters are your thing, then go elsewhere. It’s unfortunate California has figured out no matter how bad a movie is, if there’s enough promotion, people will go see it.


  2. Budgeted at $175 million (and reportedly marketed for another $100 million), the weekend only saw a fourth highest August opening of $56 million. While the film hasn’t opened overseas just yet, it’s a safe bet that it will be a challenge to get that budget back domestically.


  3. Who doesn’t love a good action flick? Explosions and cool gadgets are fun to watch, but this movie is a bit lame!! The special effects were pre-matrix era, and the casting was absolutely terrible! Channing who? That dude has about as much action hero in him as a tofu burger. We loved G.I Joe as kids and we want to love it as adults, so it needs to be a little smarter. Dark Night, Iron Man and transformers have all catered to more mature audiences and have done very well financially. Kids will love any movie as long as there’s action, but adults require a little more..We deserve a little more!


  4. For the record, I intend to avoid this movie like the plague. Actually, I agree with you, G.I. George, and I’m one of those who love an action flick, yet I love good story and characters more. What convinced me not to spend my money on this was the trailers and promo spots that showed the two main male “Joes”. These guys were so cue card plastic, the casting director could have gone with Paris and Britney and had better acting. They weren’t just bad, though – they were boring. Leaving out the long list of greats I usually expound on, look at Christopher Pike: he became the young Captain Kirk in a way that made you wonder if someone shoved Shatner into a time machine. That is how you inhabit an established and well-loved character. I expected these “G.I. Joes” to be like Nick Fury in his 20s, and instead they looked (and acted) like Calvin Klein underwear models who were worried they’d break a nail if they ever figured out how to hold a gun properly.

    I can’t comment on Snake Eyes, having not seen him in action, but I bet if Ray Park can pull off Darth Maul, he can make a decent Snake Eyes. So the question remains: why did they allow these cream puff fools to play American soldiers? If I were a Marine in Iraq, I’d be offended. (And before anyone asks, yes, I served – Air Force). Sure, the special effects looked cool … too bad they made the heroes into talentless jokes.


  5. OK so what gives? His Deathness gave district 9 a 3.5 and this only a 3? Sure it’s cheesy but then so was the cartoon. This movie had good pace, descent story and great special affects except for maybe the accelerator suits. Besides as a first in what they were or are planning as a franchise hey back story needs to be told. And what’s with knocking transforms. Shit this guy calls him self a critic. He needs to craw back in to his crypt.


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