Monday, August 10

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Review

The classic cartoon goes live on the big screen.

I'll admit it... the first time I saw a trailer for G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I wasn't at all pleased. Really, the trailers SUCKED. All I remember from them were the hokey Accelerator Suits and Marlon Wayans; Honestly, these two things formed the basis of my reservations with the movie; I was afraid that the flesh and blood Joes would become CG cyborgs, and that Wayans would turn this into a very Scary Movie. However, in the end I got over these little bumps and convinced myself to give this action movie a good ol' fashioned look-see. Yeah, it wasn't screened for critics, but from every review pretty much I saw online, word was that it was not bad. Not bad at all. Well, I watched it last Friday... is it a Yo or a No?

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is set in the 'near future'- which means the world still looks pretty much like today, but with stuff existing that can make James Bond's Q Branch look like a shoe factory. The bad news is, the bad guys have more hi-tech toys than the good guys, it seems. When James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston), the head of MARS, the world's largest weapons developer, supplies NATO with a new nanobot-powered missile, veteran special forces soldier Duke (Channing Tatum) and his buddy Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) head up the security detail for the superweapons. The two men of action soon find themselves neck-deep in a secret war between the super-secret international strike force known as G.I. Joe and a terrifyingly well-financed unknown enemy armed with next-generation weaponry. In short, it's The Joes versus Not-Yet-Cobra.

An origin story may get cynics flinching, but as Iron Man has proven, start-ups aren't always bad. In fact, they can be pretty good. Thankfully in this case, director Stephen Sommers has somehow rediscovered that fun gene he tapped into when he made the original Deep Rising and the first Mummy film, but lost when he made the Mummy Returns and Van Helsing. G.I. Joe is a fun ride, packed to the gills with action and set up with likable characters off the bat. Unlike some other big cartoon-to-movie sequel that utterly horrified some time ago, this adaptation pretty much does everything right; at the very least, there's a distinct lack of tasteless supposed-comedy or racial slurring (although there is your usual funny French accent) and the action is actually easy to follow. ZOUNDS!

As a longtime fan of the original cartoon, I have my little fanboy nitpicks, but it's all still good. Yeah, the Baroness doesn't have an accent but man, Sienna Miller is killer with those glasses and black leather, and she's a pretty slick character who's central to the plot (which is great, since she's pretty much the poster girl of the movie, even more so than good soldier-girl Scarlett (Rachel Nichols). Storm Shadow (Lee Byung Hun) looks like he's gonna bust out a mike and start singing a Korean pop song at any moment, but he's still every bit as bad-ass and lethal as the Cobra ninja should be, so why not. Ray Park's Snake-Eyes has a MOUTH but at least he never talks, and well... IT'S FREAKIN' RAY PARK.

But my biggest gripe has to be with a big secret of the film- which you see coming after a bit. I miss the old design for the character, and I wish they stuck to it. Man, if Attack of the Show can do this character almost perfectly (even if in comedy), why not the big movie version?

I also found it quite entertaining to see so many faces from the Mummy movies making appearances, from little cameos like Kevin J. O'Connor (Benny from The Mummy) and Brendan Fraser to much bigger roles for Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (bad guy Lock-Nah from Mummy Returns) and the always-reliable Arnold 'Imhotep' Vosloo. Where's Rachel Weisz and John Hannah?

Anyway, the story moves along at a fast pace, with several big setpiece sequences and tons of firepower and explosions going off all movie long. The CG effects are fine and dandy, and it all sets up the franchise perfectly for what I expect will be a fast sequel coming up next year. Yes, I want that sequel, especially after the cliffhanger ending!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is high-octane action entertainment, a fun popcorn movie that's sure to entertain action junkies, and there are lots of nice little details and nods to the original series that will make fans smile. Great production values, engaging action scenes and likable characters make this something worth watching for the young and the young at heart.

No, it's not Oscar material. No, it's not rocket science. But neither was the source material. It's a refreshing throwback to the days when cars could just pop out missiles and other defenses at the push of a button, when at the end of the movie you can expect the cavalry to arrive and a big freakin' battle over the enemy's secret base can be expected. We see far too little of that kind of action these days- too much handheld-cam crap for action, with an overabundance of grit and blurring of lines, too many shades of gray. G.I. Joe is simpler but still smart, fantastic without being too over the top, fun without being too kiddy or juvenile. In short, it's exactly what it needs to be... a live-action version of one of the coolest cartoons of our youth.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is now showing in theaters all over the Metro. Mobilize and Watch it NOW! YOOO, JOE!!!