GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Review)

GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Directed by Stephen Sommers

We all knew GI Joe was going to get a movie the second Transformers made a gajillion dollars at the theaters and suddenly every toy franchise in the universe got a movie deal (coming this summer…Starriors: The Movie!) and GI Joe was the other major 80s toy line Hasbro had. So the question is, would it be as horrible as the Transformers franchise? Surprisingly, GI Joe is not as terrible as Transformers. Or maybe it isn’t that surprising, as it is pretty hard to be as terrible as Transformers. Entire generations have lived and died and not made a movie as horrible as Transformers 2, but that is another review for another time. Now, we dip out pen into the mediocre ink that is GI Joe.

The GI Joe toy line started in 1964 with 12-inch action figures (in fact, the GI Joe line invented the term action figure. I have to pay them $3 every time I use the term “action figure”) and the modern 3 3/4 inch line began in 1982. As that is the line that was around when I was a kid, it is the best line ever and all others pale in comparison. The modern GI Joe line were dubbed “A Real American Hero” and spent their time fighting a terrorist group known as Cobra that wished to conquer the world. As those who watch the cartoon are aware, Cobra would come up with a lunatic plan to take over the world, GI Joe would bumble into the middle of it, Snake Eyes would breakdance, Cobra Commander would have a Trillion dollar secret base shaped like a 6 mile high giant cobra, and Shipwreck would get drunk and puke on Scarlett. Then the plan is foiled and Cobra Commander and crew get away, with no casualties ever. Except a few in the comic book (and some in that multi-part alternate universe cartoon episode that was awesome!)

So now, with the US actually in a controversial war on terror and the international fallout of such war, one wondered what that would do to the GI Joe movie. Because, nowadays, many movies make more money overseas than in the US. And, amazingly enough, movies where the USA runs around and blows up whoever they want willy-nilly doesn’t get a lot over play overseas. Movie studios are soulless corporations that desire only one thing: mad money. Sorry to burst your bubble if you thought movie studios cared about telling good stories, but the recent trend of rebooting everything under the sun should have opened the eyes of the few of you still living in the dark. Thus, GI Joe is now a multi-national secret organization. To prove how multi-national they are, they have two foreign dudes. This generated some controversy among pundits, but pundits are morons, so who cares what they think. The main thing is they changed things a bit from when I was a kid, and thus they raped my childhood with a red hot poker. Sideways.

Actually, I don’t care that much. What I do like the least about this film is it is an origin story. Why do we need an origin? Who cares how GI Joe got started, I want to see them blast up some Vipers! Save the origins for the tie-in comics. I am sick of origins. What’s next, a prequel showing us what Lil’ Duke did in high school and how Cobra Commander had sex with a pie? Because if Eugene Levy is in it, I’ll go see it. No I won’t.

They did two things to try to appeal to an international audience. First, they got the most British-est US president they could find. The last time someone that British was in charge of the USA, we were thirteen colonies shooting from behind fences. Second, GI Joe is now an international team. In fact, G.I.J.O.E. is now an acronym for “Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity.” Someone get the rape whistle!

So do you like nanotechonology? Because this movie will nanotechnology the frak out of you! If you believe this movie, nanotechnology can do anything! Every scene is just “Nanotech, nanotech, nanotech!” and then things blow up. Nanotech is this movie’s magic fairy dust. It explains everything, even what the writers are too dumb to explain properly themselves. Nanotech also explains why I am reviewing this so late, because I was fighting a nanotech virus. I nanostabbed it in its nanosoul, and it nanodied.

We’re going to assume you are familiar with the 1980s cartoon for the purposes of this review, so if you ain’t, jokes are going to fly over your head. So you better be prepared! Because knowing is half the battle…

Captain Duke Hauser (Channing Tatum) – Duke is in the House! Wait a minute, I thought Duke was his code name? Oh, well. Duke is the main character and he was also best buddies with Cobra Commander and was dating the Baroness until they all went evil, so now he is in GI Joe.
Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) – We need a Wayans brother in this movie or it ain’t a GI Joe flick! Ripcord is an army dude who always wanted to fly jets, which is why he joined the army and not the air force or the marines.
General Abernathy / Hawk (Dennis Quaid) –General Hawk runs GI Joe, but after he gets injured the Joes pretty much run themselves and Hawk doesn’t seem that useful.
Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) – Shana O’Hara has red hair and will kick your butt. That’s her entire character.
Snake Eyes (Ray Park) – The mute ninja dude who was so cool in the cartoon is now cool in real life. Except for the fact his character has fake molded lips on his costume! What in the world were they thinking? And he doesn’t get Scarlett, she’s too busy being picked up by Ripcord. Sorry, Darth Maul!
Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui) – Let’s add a French Moroccan dude to GI Joe! No one will notice! Oddly enough, this Breaker is more memorable than the original Breaker, of which I remember nothing except that he died.
Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) – It’s….that guy! I don’t remember him from the old series, and barely remember him in the film. That’s not Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje’s fault, that is the movie’s fault for being terrible.
Destro (Christopher Eccleston) – James McCullen is Destro, the military hardware company executive who goes all terrorist to increase sales….um….I’m not sure why he went evil. But now he has a metal head!
Rex Lewis / Cobra Commander / Dr. Mindbender (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) – Okay, he isn’t the real Dr. Mindbender, but he spends half the film pretending to be. Like Cobra Commander would spend most of the film in hiding. With his ego, he’d be out and in front. This is a guy who carved his face into the moon!
Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) – Snake Eyes’s nemesis who shows up here because we need to complete the Snake Eyes arc. Won’t kill women, which makes him sort of honorable. In the comics he was framed, but here he’s too dead for us to find out if he was framed. But he’ll probably be back in the sequel.
The Baroness (Sienna Miller) –The Baroness is really named Anastasia ‘Ana’ DeCobray because we gotta be very obvious about how she’s affiliated with Cobra. She also used to date Duke and is the sister of Cobra Commander. And she’s being controlled by nanobots because hot women would never be evil by choice!
Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) –He’s the master of disguise who doesn’t have giant face tattoos and a changing face color. Which means he can actually do disguises better! Actually pulled off rather well.

In 1641 France some guy gets a hot metal mask put on his face! You’re totally owned, masked dude. That’s what you get for selling arms to both sides while not keeping enough arms for yourself to not get caught. the not too distant future (next Sunday AD) there was a guy named Destro, not too different from you and me. Except for his metal head! Oh, wait, no metal head. Dammit! Destro is going all Inconvenient Truth and having a powerpoint about his weapons company MARS industries and their magical nanotech warheads that eat tanks and make a delicious chicken gravy. Mmmmm…. delicious chicken nano-gravy.

General Dennis Quaid…I mean, General Hawk and a lady who the credits claim is Cover Girl are in the audience. Thanks for the hot audience action shots, movie! Blah blah, time to ship the nanos! We ships nanobots in the middle of the night through the countryside, escorted by a bunch of soldiers including a Wayans Brother and a guy named Duke (real name: Earl)

Things go from boring to military porn as a magic super-ship appears in the sky and starts blasting up the military convoy. It drops soldiers with laser guns and a chick we’ll Call the Baroness, because she is the Baroness. And Duke knows her. Wait a minute…. The Cobra dudes have cool laser guns that just blast guys left and right (remember when no one died? Not in 2009!) so soon only Wayans Brother and Duke are left. But then Snake Eyes and Scarlett arrive, and only they are cool enough to be able to kill some Cobra Super Soldier dudes. Also Joes Breaker and Heavy Duty are there, who cares. The nanos are saved, but Duke and Ripcord won’t give them to the Joes even after the hologram of General Hawk yells at him. So they take Duke and Ripcord back to their base. In Egypt. Has anyone told the Egyptians that we have a secret base in their country?

Let’s namedrop “Kung fu Grip” and “Knowing is half the battle,” because we have to. It is the law. Now that that is out of the way…

So the Egyptian GI Joe base is called The Pit, and it is filled with a billion people practicing all sorts of dangerous stuff out in the open next to everyone else practicing different dangerous stuff, making me believe it is impossible for them to not have 1000 fatalities during practice time every day. A hologram of Destro calls and you’d have to be blind to not know he’s evil. EVIL!!!!

At Destro’s place, there are holograms of The Baroness, Storm Shadow, and the real Zartan. Accept no imitations. Okay, I am about tired of all these holograms calling each other. If I want to watch a bad films with hologram telephones I’ll watch the Star Wars prequels. Destro is currently underwater heading to an underwater base. I am incredibly disappointed this giant underwater headquarters for Cobra isn’t shaped like a giant cobra head. Someone dropped the ball here. Dr. Mindbender shows off the Neovipers who are now fearless and feel no pain thanks to nanotechnology. The nanotechnology is another word for “watching the entire run of According to Jim.”

The plot rams its way into the way of the crazy nanotech action as we get a Baroness flashback and see Duke proposed to her back in the day (from the looks of the party going on, it was back in the 1950s!) She agrees to marry him, and Rex her brother is also in the military and she says not to let him get hurt. Rex Baroness? Anyway, that flashback will be concluded later, but as Rex Baroness is played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who we know plays Cobra Commander thanks to advanced press materials, we all know Rex Baroness is gonna gets wasted. We’d know that even if we didn’t know he was Cobra Commander. Oh, well.

So Duke and Ripcord are joining the Joes. So we gotta have a montage! A training montage! A Brendon Fraser montage? What the Mummy? So we got super-suits and submarines that think they are spaceship fighters or something. Because all ground soldiers need to be trained in advanced underwater craft dogfighting. It’s like they know that Cobra has an underwater base. Or at least the script knows.

The baddies invade the Pit by smashing in with a giant drill machine, including Baroness, Storm Shadow, and Zartan, who wanders along collecting various costumes. Although Zartan isn’t the way he is in the cartoons, he’s probably my favorite update of a character. Soon we have a big fight, including a dead Cover Girl, General Hawk getting slashed, nano warheads grabbed, Snake Eyes vs Storm Shadow, Duke not being able to shoot Baroness, Baroness vs Scarlett fighting, invisible Scarlett, and escape via those flying jet pack wing things that the toys had.

We get a flashback of Snake eyes and Storm Shadow fighting as kids (Snake Eyes is a thief.) How exciting little kids fighting is! Not. If I wanted to watch little kids fight I’d go to Chuck E Cheese. The one thing this flashback gives us is Gerald Okamura!!! YEAH!!! (See Gerald in Samurai Cop, Ninja Academy, and Master Demon.) It gives us nothing else and soon this is another multi-part flashback. I’ll give you the spoilers now: Gerald Okamura is killed and it looks like kid Storm Shadow did it. But if you remember the toy line plots, you know that he didn’t kill him and was framed.

Cobra is going to bomb Paris for revenge. Revenge of…something. Because the French suck and the writers are too dumb to realize they are walking right into the beginning of Team America. But Team America had puppets crapping on each other, and it turned out better than GI Joe. Oh, Zartan is also getting injected with nanotech to let him modify his face into whatever they want. Like Pac-Man. They should totally do that!

More flashbacks of Rex Baroness getting killed by an airstrike that Duke called in, but it came early. Duke, you murdering bastard! You need to step up. To the streets. About your murdering of that Third Rock kid. There is a funeral in the rain for fallen Rex Baroness, and Duke is on a motorcycle riding by the funeral but not going into it. How many movies does the hero ride by a cemetery on his motorcycle? Ghost Rider, some other movie, probably more…Okay, I’m too lazy to bother to remember any, but I bet it is a lot.

Baroness gets her hubby to weaponize the nanowarheads, because her husband the Baron just happened to be the Baron of Nanotechnology.

GI Joe is ready to stop them. We have Duke and Ripcord wearing super suits (why are the two newest, goofiest guys wearing the super suits?), Snake Eyes doing his ninja stuff, and Scarlet on a motorcycle, all giving a big chase through Paris after those evil Cobra brats. In the chase, everyone gets hit by cars every two seconds and everyone is also obvious CGI. Paris gets trashed because the characters we know aren’t going to get killed dodge missiles in slow motion, said missiles blowing up all sorts of innocent French people. Then, the two heroes in their super suits smash through a train that has also crashed and probably several hundred Parisians were injured and killed. Real American Heroes, these Joes!

The fight moves to an office building made of 99% glass (straight outta Battlefield Earth!) and the fight results in the Eiffel Tower getting blasted, with Duke managing to hit the kill-switch so the entire city doesn’t get nano-eated. We have an awesomely gross sequence where Breaker jams needles into a dead Cobra Neoviper’s head to try to get memories, but then nanomites eat the body into goo. Then all the non-snake Eyes Joes get captured by the Paris cops and Duke is grabbed by the Cobras. GI Fail.

Trifflin’ Eifflin’!
GI Joe Rise of Cobra Eiffel Tower
The Joes use shadow lengths to figure out the secret Cobra base is in the arctic. Holy writer was paying attention one day in math class, Batman! Duke is brought there and Dr. Mindbender yells at him, then reveals he isn’t Dr. Mindbender, but is Rex! He survived being dead and is now a nano-fetishist. He runs, the internet’s #1 nano-fetish site. Only $19.95 a month, and you get all the pictures of hot chicks with nanobots you can handle. Baroness then saves Duke, revealing she was nanocontrolled and all that junk and her love let her overcome it. Even nanotech can’t defeat the power of love. You don’t need money, don’t take fame. Don’t need no credit card to ride this train.

As an aside, the Baroness being nanocontrolled is the weakest plot point ever. All I can figure is the powers that be wanted the Baroness to become good so they could give the ladies something to pay attention to besides Channing Tatum’s abs.

The Joes send all their Joeiest Joes to go attack the base, except the only ones doing anything by land are Scarlett, Ripcord, Breaker, and Snake Eyes. Everyone else is attacking by minisub. Lame!

The Cobra base launches two missiles targeting a US and Russian city, thus causing…something. Boy, this film still wishes that Russia was the USSR and totally evil. So Ripcord has to get into the super voice controlled jet that was sitting around fueled, armed, and ready to fly sitting outside at the subarctic temperature base. Which works perfectly, despite US jets like the F-22 being brought down by slight rain. Maybe Destro should have just became a senator and gotten his jet approved via military contracting subcommittees. Heck, we already have a British president in this reality…

Underwater there is a giant minisub fight with like 9000 subs which we knew was going to happen because of the minisub scenes in the training montage. Lots of minisubs flying around, it is CGI pixels blasting CGI pixels at each other, then lots of underwater explosions. I think the Joes are blasting up the Cobras, with Joe Heavy Duty leading them, but the whole sequence is like the space battle in The Phantom Menace where we don’t know or care about any of the pilots and the entire battle is an emotionless mess.

The minisubs do an attack run or something but fail and Snake Eyes stops a big cannon, then fights Storm Shadow with swords. Storm Shadow and Snake Eyes are fighting in the engine room of the big cannon, which is complete with electric zappy things that will kill them dead if they get electrocuted. This room is almost as dumb to fight in at the giant useless room with the force fields that they fought in during The Phantom Menace.

Baroness and Duke chase after Cobra Commander and Destro (now with a burned face) in CGI minisubs as the CGI base CGI self destructs or something. All this CGI action is confusing and cost millions and millions of dollars just to bore me to tears. And children are starving in Africa.

we got Ripcord shooting at missiles, subs being chased by other subs, and the most British President ever getting replaced by Zartan and a ninja swordfight. But it’s all hollow. Too many loose ends disrupting the story arc that the film was trying to do by following Duke. GI Joe manages to walk into the same problem Star Wars Episode I did by having too many endings at the same time. Episode I had four different story endings at the same time, and GI Joe has four endings (the sub attack, Storm Shadow/Snake Eyes, Duke and Baroness, Ripcord and the missiles) It is just ridiculously confusing and dramatically all over the place. But back to the British President, didn’t we fight a war in 1776 to kick these British bastards out of our government? Why is one elected president of the USA? Are we in some screwed up Alternate Earth? Because this must be the alternate reality where everything is stupid.

I keep comparing this to Phantom Menace because both are dumb, in case you haven’t figured that out yet.

Storm Shadow is killed despite being shirtless. Ripcord hits the other missile but gets nanomites on his ship, so he flies up into space and ejects. It seems like this maneuver should have landed him the nickname Ripcord. And if the nanobots are already armed, why aren’t they eating up the missile that is carrying them?

Cobra Commander goes to blow the icepack, and all the CGI subs scatter. The base is also going to blow up, because that’s what secret bases do! Scarlett and Mainframe and Snake Eyes are still on the base and must escape. Will they do it? Duh! Maybe if it was Heavy Metal, Doc, and Quick Kick they’d be dead, because those Joes actually died. Hey, Breaker actually died as well! But he doesn’t die…dang it!

Oh, and Cobra Commander injects Destro with nanos that give him a metal head, and Cobra Commander becomes Cobra Commander with a very stupid looking mask. Any of Cobra Commander’s real masks would have looked better than this. A mask bought from the local closeout Halloween store would have looked better.

Destro and Cobra Commander are captured. Captured??? They’re supposed to always get away! Did the writers see the cartoon at all? And why are they put in some stupid secret Magneto prison? Way to support the US putting terrorists in secret jails, movie!

The doctor who is taking care of the now mental ward living Baroness is some guy I recognize from a bunch of commercials, so that weirdly took me out of the movie more than all the bad effects and bad writing.

Zartan is still president as the Joes go off to do…something….okay. With Cobra in jail, just who are the Joes going to go after? The Oktober Guard? The Decepticons? The Brady Bunch?

Just waiting for the pictures of rallies where people hold up pictures of President Zartan dressed up as Hitler. No blood for cobra venom!

This wasn’t bottom of the barrel awful like the Transformers films were, but this wasn’t totally cool. It reads more like an existing (and stupid) script that they tacked the GI Joe characters onto because they just didn’t care. The giant spectacle to recreate a shot that was done in a puppet movie is just icing on the cake for not caring. GI Joe is lucky that Transformers 2 lowered the bar below the bottom levels of Hell, making this forgettable trash seem average and even somewhat good. Now, I did like how some characters were done, such as Zartan, Breaker, Duke, Storm Shadow, and even Ripcord. Many other characters just blurred together and were forgettable, which is a shame since some of them were Snake Eyes, Scarlett, the Baroness, Destro, and even Cobra Commander. It is not the actors’ fault, it is the script’s fault. We should not accept mediocrity, so I will not accept GI Joe. I will keep dreaming for a real American hero movie.

Rated 6/10 (White Arctic Ninja, button cam, Cover Girl, nano, Nanomissile, eagle time!)

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