24 January 2010

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

No Substance Whatsoever in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
By Kristin Battestella

Halfway through seeing the 2009 live action G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I wished I hadn’t bothered. Generally, I try not to be negative in my reviews, but I can’t find any substance or redemption in this bad CGI and effects laden picture that destroys the joy of the original cartoon series.

Nato soldiers Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are transporting dangerous warheads with nanotechnology developed by MARS leader James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston)- but their convoy is attacked by Duke’s ex-flame the Baroness (Sienna Miller). Duke and Ripcord are rescued by a team of G.I. Joes and subsequently join General Hawk’s (Dennis Quad) Alpha team in retrieving the warheads. While Ripcord romances Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Duke confronts the Baroness and the deformed Doctor of the Cobra Organization (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Joe ninja Snake Eyes (Ray Park, The Phantom Menace) also renews his longstanding conflict with Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee, Hero) as master of disguise Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) helps Cobra infiltrate the heights of global power.

It’s taken literally years, dozens of writers, and numerous rewrites, drafts, scripts, and screenplays to bring G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra to the big screen. If this is the best they could do then director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing) and credited writers Stuart Beattie (Pirates of the Caribbean), David Elliot and Paul Lovett (Four Brothers), and Michael Gordon (To Live and Drive in L.A.) shouldn’t have bothered. Yes, you can’t have a rose colored view like the eighties Joe cartoon with America being perfect and the best or the bad guys parachuting out at the last minute- a positive moral for kids can’t really be applied to an action war picture, even if ‘knowing is half the battle.’ Perhaps a big screen adaptation had to involve global cities and locales and highlight an international Joe team. However, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra didn’t have to be nothing but two hours of useless effects. Sommers (who should really retire, retrograde after The Mummy) said he didn’t want an old school white boys Vietnam-esque tale, but I would much rather have seen a modern, realistic look at a bunch of harden Joes who’ve been around the block and know what secretive ops sacrifices really cost. When Bond got to this low point with Die Another Day, it got rebooted to the opposite gritty extreme. Who was G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’s intended audience? I can’t imagine old school, pre Sergeant Slaughter folks who adored the toys and the cartoons can enjoy this- and do modern teens and younger read the comic books? Do they have the DVDs in all their glory? Heck, do little boys still play with 3 ¾-inch action figures?

Flashbacks and built up back-stories that conflict with the established canon also hamper G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. The Baroness is with Duke, Scarlett with Ripcord-Huh? Arnold Vosloo (The Mummy) is barely there-for his Zartan obviously disappears halfway through the film to assume the identity of the President. Even if we weren’t scratching our heads as to why anyone would cast perpetually twelve Joseph Gordon-Levitt (3rd Rock from the Sun, Stop-Loss) as Cobra Commander, again it’s ridiculously obvious that this dead brother Rex and The Doctor are one and the same. And frankly, for a film subtitled Rise of Cobra, we end for the inevitable sequel with the newly crowned Cobra Commander in prison. Yeah, he rose really far, didn’t he? And why oh why does he have a milk carton on his face? Keep the damn blue hood! So what if it looks like the Klu Kux Klan. Let’s remind folks that a villain with an idea, the means, and the power is bad, not comical.

The production team is obviously trying not to offend anyone whilst simultaneously making ready for the sequel. Good Lord I hope Storm Shadow isn’t really dead. We could have had an entire development film for Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow ala Batman Begins. Don’t flashback in a useless first mission movie. Start at the frigging beginning of how each recruit came to be Joes. Let’s see the 12 year old Scarlett graduating then kicking her brothers’ butts, show Ripcord flying that crop duster, open with our young ninjas instead of Medieval France- um, yeah that’s what I said. Give us people that we know and like, then the mission doesn’t matter. Oh no, that would mean the effects wouldn’t matter, and oh by gosh by golly we can’t have that!

Part of the original toys and media fun was that there were too many dang Joes to keep track off; but here, there aren’t enough of them and yet everyone feels the dang same. Where are Flint, Lady Jaye, Shipwreck, Blowtorch, Spirit-hell Junkyard! More emotion could have been had with some cute or heroic dog in danger scenes before an unrealistically hokey Paris attack and underwater battle. Although I think the first X-Men film suffers from being an introductory piece, it gave fans all the things they were looking for-nods to the suits, montages of powers and characters hinted. In Rise of Cobra, there’s one scene of a woman kicking butt while testing an invisible suit. I’d like to think its Lady Jaye, but I don’t think Karolina Kurkova’s Cover Girl was even introduced! The displacement of beloved characters for poor CGI is unforgivable.

Though some of the name cast is able to stand out amid this weak, mismashed script, sometimes it’s understandable that certain people are placed beneath effects. My friends were bemused because I thought the guy from Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Star Trek, and G.I. Joe were one and the same. Channing Tatum (Stop-Loss, Public Enemies) is another blondie cookie cutter chiseled pseudo bad-ass that we don’t need. Marlon Wayans’ (White Chicks, Scary Movie, In Living Color) Ripcord easily outshines the miscast Duke. I wish more development was given to Rachel Nichols (who for the life I me I can’t remember being in Star Trek) as Scarlett. At least Dennis Quaid (Any Given Sunday, The Rookie, The Day After Tomorrow) and Brendan Fraser (School Ties, The Mummy, again. Did Sommers cast all his buddies?) are having fun with their parts. Nothing they’ve done yet has really interested me, but Christopher Eccleston’s (Doctor Who, Heroes) Scottish accent and Sienna Miller’s (Factory Girl, Layer Cake) conflicted Baroness are over done at the expensive of proper introductory Joeness. Make us like the Joes first, then give us the dark and villainous Act II. Imagine if The Empire Strikes Back had come first: no Alec Guiness to introduce us to the Force, no reason for Vader to seek Luke, and why should we care if Han and Leia kiss?

G.I. Joe has the material and potential to be a serious franchise again. In this day and age of constant unoriginal remakes and updates, I’d be seriously happy if this series was chewed up, spit out, and rebooted over this drivel. Rise of Cobra was ill conceived to begin with, and should never have made it to the general public with this many amateur faults. I am strongly opposed to another viewing of this, and the blu-ray set only intensified the bad effects. Why on earth would you need six effects companies for one movie’s CGI? How do you expect six different graphic teams to mesh together and look good? True fans should stick with the classic cartoon and all its idealistic and charmingly drawn imperfectness. Even fan fiction is better that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.


Lyz said...

Got to say I agree with your review, but try using spell check or a beta reader. Van Helshing is Van Helsing, Ku Lux Klan is Ku Klux Klan (hence the KKK). I say this to help the site get better, for me as a reader typos take me out of the review and when you are reviewing mainstream movies that so many other sites cover then you need to try and keep your audience.

Kristin Snouffer said...

Hey Lyz, thanks for stopping by with your insights. This movie was so bad it messed up my spelling! ;0)

Lyz said...

Haha, excellent excuse. Check out my site for my review of the film. If you find any spelling errors you can call me out on it too.

Kristin Snouffer said...

There's nothing wrong with thoughtful critiques, discussion, and analysis. It's spam I can't stand. I actually don't review a lot of modern mainstream films-generally, this is why! I much prefer offbeat shows or classics.