Film Review: G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra

Posted in Film, Reviews
By Sam Bathe on 5 Aug 2009


Based on the iconic American action figures, unlike the debut of Paramount’s other collaboration with toy manufacturer Hasbro for Transformers, G.I. Joe has been greeted by waves of bad buzz and unforgiving reports of early test screenings. With specialist Stephen Sommers at the helm, however, this action-thriller was always deserving of a chance, and might yet, not ruin the name of the legendary toys.

Set in the near future, G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra follows the US army’s covert special forces team, in charge with stopping terrorist forces across the world. With the help of mechanical suits and futuristic weapons, and joined by two of the regular army’s leading soldiers, when a group known only as Cobra attempt to steal nanomite-powered warheads to wreak havoc across the planet, the Joes know they’re about to face their biggest test yet.

G.I. Joes was always going to be on the fantasy side of action-thrillers, but based around two conflicting teams at times it feels like a spoof. Packed with the clichés that fill similar films, only here struggling to portray them seriously, G.I. Joes is feels alarmingly close to Team America: World Police. The big difference; Team America was meant to be satirical, G.I. Joes is not, and therefore one works far more successfully than the other.

A lot of the film is far-fetched, even given the fantasy element, which is a problem with the script not the premise. Brendan Fraser makes an ill-advised cameo and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s awful English accent further condemn the tone. But for a film so heavily reliant on computer graphics, the biggest disappointment is the below par CGI. Most of the set-piece effects look good, like the collapsing Eiffel tower you’ll also see in the trailer, but the backdrops, futuristic planes and development shots feel akin to video game cut-scenes, nowhere near the visual realism of something like Transformers.

One thing you should always expect from action-thrillers, is at least a fun popcorn experience, and here G.I. Joe just about manages to convert. Stephen Sommers’ direction , however, lacks focus and the film stutters as it attempts to explore the convoluted plot which breaks up the intensity. Where Sommers comes into his own is during the action sequences. All of the Joes feel like they have a purpose and a use and not just in the film for one specific scene to aid the lead, Duke (Tatum).

As you might expect, G.I. Joe suffers from its fair share of over the top performances. Dennis Quaid, as General Hawk, once again makes you question why he’s a name in Hollywood while Joes Channing Tatum (Duke) and Marlon Wayas (Ripcord) tick the action star boxes without trying anything new. The surprise performances comes by the way of Sienna Miller. The beleaguered actress pulls off devilish siren the Baroness with a suave sophistication and confident aggression.

G.I. Joe: Rise Of Cobra is a very throwaway experience, likely to be forgotten by the film world very quick. If you’ve got a free evening, though, it certainly offers fun in spades, though you’ll have to look beyond the countless frustrations along the way. Paramount certainly had a sequel and likely trilogy in mind when making the film, and G.I. Joe aptly introduces a raft of characters it could be excited to develop in films to comes, but given a reported $175m budget and further $150m spent on promotion, whether it’ll make that back could well decide plans down the line.


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