Movie and Film Reviews (MFR) Action,Adventure,Comedy G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

GI JoeDue to the great success from parlaying their Transformers toy line and various animated series’ into box office gold, it was only a matter of time before toymaker Hasbro decided to try their luck with yet another of their long-standing toy brands, namely G.I. Joe. However, unlike the overwhelming sense of excitement I had when I saw the various trailers for both of the “Transformers” films, not to mention the actual films themselves; those heralding the forthcoming release of “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” were severely underwhelming to say the least. Despite a low amount of interest in the movie, I did finally get around to seeing it recently. Not surprisingly, much like my reaction to the film’s trailers which were steeped in great disappointment; the actual experience of the movie itself was nothing short of an utter disaster, just on a much bigger scale than even I had anticipated.

“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” is essentially summed up by the title. Basically, an evil organization known as Cobra is attempting to become one of the deadliest terrorist cells on the planet. After a dangerous new weapon falls into Cobra’s hands the world has only one hope for survival…G.I. Joe. A powerful covert military group, G.I. Joe is comprised of the very best operatives this world has ever seen, and when all else fails, they don’t.

Well, whenever a movie is this unabashedly bad the number of complaints that one can level against it can be quite staggering. Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to not bore you by listing every single one of them, but I will touch upon numerous problems along the way. So, the best thing to do is to just start at the backbone for the movie’s failures… the story.

The screenplay from writers Stuart Beattie (“30 Days of Night”) and David Elliot & Paul Lovett (“Four Brothers”), all of whom have written far better films than this one, goes wrong in almost every way imaginable. Since the troubled areas for this movie’s story are virtually all-encompassing, one could easily surmise that the writers never wanted to pen the movie in the first place. To be honest, if someone did have that thought (which I did), I don’t honestly believe you would be that far from the truth.

For a movie based on a continually successful toy line and an animated series that shaped many a child of the 80’s, I was extremely disappointed in the paint by numbers approach the story took. The entire film felt like the writers were simply ticking off items on a checklist; for example, working in numerous classic lines of dialogue from the animated series (which sound extremely cheesy nowadays)… check, vehicles… check, iconic characters… check, and borrowing ideas from movies ten times better than this one… check. The problem with this approach is that none of it ever gelled in a natural fashion; instead, it all felt shoe-horned into the story to meet some sort of quota of G.I. Joe references and affiliations. Honestly, if more time had been spent on polishing up the dialogue, building up character development, and creating an actually interesting plot, then perhaps “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” could have been an entertaining movie, or at least had the potential to be one.

The cast for this film was sub-par at best, which is sad when you realize that it was comprised of several very talented actors and actresses. Together this assemblage of assorted talents should have been able to offer up something better than what was put up on the screen, regardless of the irredeemable script. However, the majority of the cast members’ performances felt stilted and uninspired, which by no means elevated the movie’s already low entertainment value.

Then there’s the fact that I found myself surprised by certain actors’ presence in a movie so obviously inferior to some of their previous films. For those that are curious, the cast members I was most disappointed in were Joseph Gordon-Levitt (who has proven himself to be quite the talented actor with intensely dramatic roles in films such as “The Lookout”), Dennis Quaid (who apparently was in dire need of a paycheck is my guess), and Channing Tatum (whose role in “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” earned him critical notice at Sundance Film Festival). These three actors, and a few others I didn’t mention, all should have known better than to sign on to this movie. To make matters worse, most of the cast members, including the aforementioned, have signed for sequels, so they are stuck for the foreseeable future in what looks to be a horribly ill-conceived franchise.

On the other hand, some of the other cast members I wasn’t as disappointed in, for various reasons. Comedian and actor Marlon Wayans (“Scary Movie”) does his level best to provide as many comedic moments in the movie as humanly possible, most likely in some doomed attempt to distract from the idiocy occurring everywhere else in the film. The problems with Marlon’s character of Ripcord were numerous, but a couple of them would be the fact that his humor fell flat almost 90% of the time and the only real similarity this incarnation shares with his animated counterpart is the fact that he’s an accomplished pilot. The reason Marlon didn’t disappoint me was because I had no real expectations for him. I mean, consider his body of work, there’s not much there to really be proud of, in my opinion.

As for the actresses in the film, Sienna Miller (“Stardust”) and Rachel Nichols (“Star Trek”) added very little to the story other than the obvious eye candy for the predominantly male audience. I can say this about the two female leads, while their performances weren’t impressive, they did excel in the aforementioned area that their presence was geared towards from the get-go. So at least in that respect, they did not disappoint either.

Lastly, Ray Park’s character of Snake Eyes was the sole member of the cast of characters that I was actually intrigued by. What makes this kind of humorous to me is the fact that he is never given any lines to speak; which is probably what allowed him to remain interesting. I almost feel sorry for Ray Park, because yet again his prowess with weapons and martial arts are the only reasons he was even included in the cast (other examples of this would be “Star Wars – Episode I: The Phantom Menace” and “Sleepy Hollow”). If this were the silent era of films the man could be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood rather than a glorified stuntman. You know, if the acting gigs ever dry up, perhaps he should consider becoming a mime. Then if someone didn’t pay enough attention to him he could beat the snot out of them. Seems like a plausible scenario to me.

Even though my expectations for this film were low from the very beginning, I thought that at least the movie’s visual effects would stand some chance of impressing me. My belief that because the film was being directed by Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy”), that the movie’s effects would be solid throughout was completely misplaced. I knew that from the previews a few of the scenes looked a little on the weaker side, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt on the off-chance that perhaps these were early cuts of the scenes that hadn’t been fully finished at the time. However, shortly into my viewing of this movie I became well aware that much like the rest of the experience; the CGI would also prove to be an area of extreme weakness.

The film utilized multiple effects houses, as is often the case with big budget blockbusters, so pinpointing one effects house as the source of the film’s visual shortcomings is difficult. However, from what I can gather, it does appear that Digital Domain has been tagged as being responsible for the lion’s share of the work in the film. That being the case, I feel it’s only fair for me to hold them accountable for the majority of the abhorrently bad visual effects.

What makes this failure on the part of Digital Domain even more shocking, in my mind, is the fact that their body of work has been downright stunning in past films. For example, they took part in some of the recent summer blockbusters; such as “Star Trek” and “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”. So, my question Digital Domain is this, “What went so horribly wrong with your work on this film?” One visual effects trouble-spot was whenever CGI stunt doubles were being used. The lack of weight in their movements made them stand out like a sore thumb, and left me frustrated with just how unrealistic they appeared. Other problematic areas would be most of the shots involving various G.I. Joe or Cobra vehicles in action or completely CGI created set pieces that lacked any sense of realism. What this all boils down to is that almost every single visual effects shot in this film looked shoddy, and in my opinion there is just no excuse for this to be allowed given the capabilities we see on display in movies these days.

So, what did I take away from this experience? Not a whole lot, aside from a newfound understanding of just how ridiculous some of those classic lines from the animated series really were or that the name G.I. Joe makes me laugh due to how comical it sounds. But seriously, this movie is a poor excuse for a summer blockbuster, and the fact that it can’t even qualify as a guilty pleasure speaks volumes to just how horrible this movie is.

“G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” is rated PG-13 for violence and language.

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