G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra Review: A Cinematic Action Mess Lacking Both Character and Direction

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With the summer blockbuster season there are always a few mindless entertaining films that amuse us with flashy spectacles of digitized effects or even with silly and absurd humor and are successful with their presentation. But most of the time these summer blockbusters go beyond mindless, where you check your brain at the door, with  a film that is mind numbing, where they suck out your brain and leave it behind in the theater resulting in a loss of your senses and intelligence. This is the case with Stephen Sommers’ new summer film G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, that seems to take action spectacles and make them into disastrously absurd moments that are infinitely better than the film’s gut wrenchingly poor acting segments. Sommers’ has made a career out of making light hearted energy efficient summer blockbusters, such as the over hyped The Mummy series or the bland and ridiculous Van Helsing, yet G.I. Joe takes his career to a new level and that doesn’t mean up in the chain of creativity. This film has no redeemable qualities: a cast of characters that are as unsympathetic to the audience as they are unbelievable in persona, action that is a mess and progressively gets more illogical and laughable as the film goes along, and ruins its only realistically plausible or genuinely exciting moments with corny dialogue and a bland presentation. If this film is successful and is any indication of where cinema might head towards in the future, then our civilization just might be on the brink of disaster.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra just might rub you the wrong way especially seeing the Hasbro logo in the very beginning. You might start to think, “These aren’t the American toy soldier’s that were a reflection of patriotism that I enjoyed as a kid.” Well they’ve come a long way from that seeing as how these soldier’s have mechanized suits that can make them jump really high, run really fast, and shoot a lot of bullets that never seem to stray off and hit passing pedestrians. The story is quite convoluted but to give the film credit it’s pretty easy to understand. An arms dealer named McCullen has developed a warhead that ignites a vast amount of particles known as nanomites, which can eat away at any sort of metal, and could destroy an entire city unless deactivated with a safety switch. It is this threat that brings our protagonist Duke, played by Channing Tatum in a performance so dry that John Cena might as well look like an academy award contender, and his friend Ripcord, played by Marlon Waynes, while not recognized for any particular acting attributes comes off as the most convincing performance of the whole farce that is G.I. Joe. These men save the nanomite technology from capture and are rewarded by Generl Hawk, a bland and phoned in performance from Dennis Quaid, to join the international weapons team known as G.I. Joe, making this practically a multilateral organization despite it being mostly funded by the United States. The “Joes” must put a stop to a secret criminal organization called “Cobra,” which plans to act as a weapons dealer and weapons defense system all at once, creating profit from both sides of war. While there’s more detail in the rest of the characters personal stories, that are done in poor flashback mode, this is the basic gist of the story so let’s move on to why this seemingly interesting idea takes a plummet to the depths of absurdity.

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For one, Sommers is not a good director, never has been and probably never will be. A good director can be seen in the quality of the performances in the film and if this is any hint at what a good director can be than Sommers is far from reaching the goal. The emotional segments, or blatantly forced to be emotional segments, are extremely lacking in depth, presentation, and credibility. Especially in regards to the character of Snake Eyes, played in good stunt fashion by stunt man turned actor Ray Park, who experiences flashbacks along with his counterpart Storm Shadow, which are presented in almost cartoon fashion taking away from the truly complex past these two dedicated fighters share. The credible depth of character that is lacking in this film can be attributed to his vision and how his directing focuses on elaborate effect use rather than having those action segments contribute to defining his characters. In the same vein as Roland Emmerich and Michael Bay, Sommers uses a lot of action, yet the difference seems to be that Sommers is not as refined in his action presentation, so the most intense sequences, such as the underwater segment with submarines and pulse cannons, come off as messy and confusing rather than exciting and fresh. G.I. Joe is mainly just a regurgitation of what the latest action films have already done but in its effort to make it technologically futuristic the result just gets progressively worse and more laughable as it goes along.

Speaking of laughable, the cast of the film, while not having much good material to work with from screenwriters Stuart Beattie and David Elliot (30 Days of Night and Four Brothers respectively), give some of the most strained and unbelievable performances in recent cinematic history. The film’s performances take some diverse paths ranging from the emotionally bland, such as Sienna Miller and Channing Tatum, and the ridiculously over the top, with such actors as Arnold Vosloo and Byung-hun Lee. However, there are a few exceptions to this acting rule with Marlon Waynes actually exuding some charm to his character and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a teetering performance as Cobra Commander, almost tilting towards corny absurdity but that’s mostly due to the scripts ending. Despite these select few examples the film never breaks free from convincing the audience of the futuristic world the filmmakers have placed you in as the film gets more and more unbelievable as it goes along and perhaps the actors recognized this as it went along. Something tells me that Dennis Quaid definitely knew where this was heading, which is why his performance comes off so forced and unchallenged.

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Forced and unchallenged could definitely describe the ambitions of such filmmakers as Sommers who feel that they can disguise poor script writing with explosions and effects but such weaknesses in character development and story progression will be noticed if it gets worse and worse as your film tugs along. Sometimes these movies get a free pass such as Transformers 2, which is not nearly as bad as this action endeavor, but G.I. Joe will feel the repercussions of an extremely poor and half-assed attempt at an action movie. There are practically too many bad qualities to this film to be discussed in such a short amount of time, but the messiness of the action sequences and the lack of sympathetic and charming characters take away any enjoyable qualities that the film might have possessed if taken seriously. But fortunately, if you’ve read this review, you know of the atrocities that are layered throughout this film, and knowing is half the battle.

Grade: D-

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Comments
2 Responses to “G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra Review: A Cinematic Action Mess Lacking Both Character and Direction”
  1. derek says:

    For some reason I am not surprised. judging from the previews it looked like shit. I was never even going to see it…I am shocked you did. I have a rule…if the film is overly hyped with previews it probably sucks. Another example on the horizon is the new slasher/hawaii moview (getaway?)…been really hyped and it will probably suck.

    Derek

  2. Brilliant review, and I agree with you. It was a waste of money going to see it, and the only reason I went was because I was out with my friends. Nobody agreed with me when I told them that it was shithouse, but everyone is entitled to their own opinions.

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