Friday, August 7, 2009

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Let's get this straight right from the get-go: I had no real expectations with this film except wanting to leave without getting too bored or having the film make my eyes bleed. One out of two isn't bad.

Even with the bar set so low G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra finds a way to slither underneath like champion limbo dancer Hermes Conrad.

Based on a toy line and 80's television show Rise of Cobra plays like one long Michael Bay action reel (think The Rock, if it were directed by Zack Snyder). It's got the brains of the old cartoon down cold (ridiculous premise, tons of vehicles and ammunition) but hardly any of its style.

It doesn't help the C.O.B.R.A. never really exists in this film. Instead we're given a well-funded unnamed group of terrorists. It is also problematic that the baddie chosen to put center stage isn't Cobra Commander (almost completely absent from the film), or even the unmasked Destro (Christopher Ecclestion), but the Baroness (Sienna Miller, because I guess Kate Beckinsale was too expensive).

No one comes off all that well here. Most of the characters from the Joe universe are pretty damn bland, and director Stephen Sommers does a good job casting actors which match that defining characteristic. The only ones who come out with any dignity are Rachel Nichols as Cover Girl and Marlon Wayans as Ripcord. As for the more interesting over-the-top C.O.B.R.A. characters, they are either completely absent or toned down to not overshadow their Joe counterparts.

Even Snake Eyes (played by Ray Park and Leo Howard), the most inherently cool character of the franchise, comes off more than a little half-assed. Yeah, he's good with his swords, but he never feels flesh and blood appearing more like a robotic sidekick Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still than a human soldier. It doesn't help that he's asked to do all measure of idiotic stunts (including outrunning the accelerator suits - don't get me started on those Iron Man knock-offs!) which just made me shake my head and check my watch.

After one of the stupidest intros in any film not directed by Uwe Bowl, the plot of the film kicks into high gear. An unknown terrorist group steals Nanotech warheads and it's up to the elite team of G.I. Joe and their newest members Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Wayans) to save the day. What follows in a near endless loop of non-stop action, only some of it interesting. Rather than attempting to be cool, or good, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra simply tries to be loud. On that point it succeeds.

I never cared if the Joes saved the day, and C.O.B.R.A., or the nameless organization substituting it, is far from cool enough for me to root for them. Though I'll admit the Nightraven was pretty damn sweet (a total rip-off of Firefox, but still cool). Honestly, after an hour or so of this, I just wanted out and didn't much care how the film ended. I wasn't alone.

While exiting the midnight showing full of fans I here's a few of the most positive snippets I overhead: "It's not the worst movie I ever saw." "I don't ever want to see that again." "Was Snake Eyes a robot in the cartoon?" "Boy that guy in the Condorman shirt listening to us is sexy." (Okay, maybe I made up the last one).

The plot is so ridiculous, filled with flashbacks of the Baroness and Duke's "relationship," a twist so late (and lame) it lacks any punch, Destro's masking (which comes off slightly worse than Doctor Doom's similar scene in Tim Story's Craptastic Four), the creation of (and everything involving) the C.O.B.R.A. terrorist soldiers, that even a slow nine-year-old, who I can only assume was the target for this film, would have trouble taking it seriously.

Had G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra been animated and around 22 minutes it might have been passable enough. At nearly two-hours it overstays its welcome. I expected the film to be dumb, but was hoping it was the kind of mindless dumb thrill-ride you can enjoy for a short time. Instead this is the dumb that puts you to sleep, or makes you want to punch everyone involved in the face. Pick any film at random playing at your local megaplex and odds are you'll see something better (or at least not worse) than this piece of crap.

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