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Movie Review: G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra

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Stand aside Michael Bay, Stephen Sommers is officially the new king of 'splosions!

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is not so much a movie as it is a two-hour long sizzle reel for Nerf Accessories. It's a non-stop barrage of cheesy gadgets and totally absurd technology, which is usually fine. Even in Bond films they have some crazy stuff. But here it's so silly that it's virtually impossible to take it seriously enough to care.

Well, is it at least fun? Moderately, yes. I wish I could tell you to shut your brain off and just sit back and have fun, which I am very good at doing. But this… phew! This is some other new level of ridiculous. This is the next generation of ridiculous. Even movies like Shoot 'em Up, that are clearly supposed to be over-the-top and balls-out stupid, are far more engaging than this. Rise of Cobra has its moments, but, sadly, nothing more than moments.

Snake EyesSnake Eyes and Storm Shadow are among its only redeeming qualities and their fight scenes together are always cut short right at the moment you begin to feel invested in them. And this goes for just about everything else. The film is in so much of a hurry that the scenes/shots aren't long enough for you to escape in. I can let myself sink into the dumbest of movies, believe it, but it almost felt like Sommers never wanted you to. It's like they took three good movies and smashed them together into one two-hour long trailer.

Well, is the action at least cool? Sometimes, but more often downright goofy. The first half of the first action scene was way awesome. I thought, "Hell, this is going to be better than I thought!" Then they use that same scene to introduce three quarters of the cast in less than two minutes, therefore killing any chance at great heroic reveals or any sense of intrigue.

The one scene I'm sure everyone is waiting to see is the one in the trailer where the guys leap through the train and dodge missiles while sporting gaudy Robocop suits. Well, this must have been the first scene they finished because 90% of the trailers are made up of shots from this exact scene, again making this utterly uninteresting because I had seen all of this in the trailer already. Not only that, but those suits provide nothing useful other than several dizzying minutes of two idiots running fast and doing flips over cars like shiny versions of those creepy tube men that flop around on top of car dealerships.

In that same scene I bet you that at least 40 cars were flipped into the air and blown up. I wish I were exaggerating. Sommers destroys more cars in a single action scene than Michael Bay has in his entire career. After the first five or six cars it kind of loses its impact. After 10 or 15 of them it starts to become laughable. After 20 or 30 of them it's redundant. At the 40 mark it's embarrassing.

With action scenes this extensive and this mindless, you start looking at your watch. Start looking around the theater. Start wishing it was over already. Don't get me wrong, I know how to switch off and enjoy a stupid ride. When I say 'mindless' I mean it's as if Sommers ate a great action scene then pooped this one out.

All of this might be tolerable if more than a quarter of the movie was live-action. Rise of Cobra is a borderline animated film. So much so that it takes hefty involvement in dulling a majority of the action. It all looks so rubbery and flat.

Speaking of rubbery, when is Hollywood going to get over the anatomically correct hero suits? Why is it necessary that Snake Eyes has rubber lips? What purpose could that ever serve besides looking dumb? Who is the idiot who said, "Yeah, give 'em rubber lips. That would totally look necessary and add to his character." Snake Eyes doesn't speak. So, perhaps by some extremely sophisticated film geek artistry that's beyond my comprehension, the lips had some profound ironic meaning for the character.

There isn't much that is good about this movie. The stuff that is worth your time is still victim of breakneck editing. Anything better than crap lasts about 10 seconds, if you're lucky. And, sadly, that's no exaggeration. Then, after your 10 seconds are up, the focus shifts on someone or something else.

There is a good movie in there somewhere. Two good ones, actually. If Sommers just took his time and had not wanted to bust his load so quick, this has the potential to be a lot of fun. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Cobra Commander is fun to watch. I've always loved Arnold Vosloo and in my opinion he is a vastly underused actor. His Zartan has a small but cool role. Just about all of the heroes are unlikable except Snake Eyes, whose awesome action scenes get snubbed by shaky editing. Snake Eyes' arch enemy, Storm Shadow, is pretty cool as long as his mouth is shut. And some vehicular combat can get exciting for tiny momentary spurts.

Ultimately, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a huge mess. The plot is really simple, albeit utterly inane, and gets cluttered up with crammed action scenes edited into Swiss cheese. If you found every TV spot and trailer for G.I. Joe and just ran them together for a two-hour loop, you'd have a better experience than I did paying 10 dollars to see it. Rent it, if you must. It's not worth the overpriced popcorn.


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About Jesse G. Barnes

  • jt

    honestly, i think this critique is about as credible as the movie. although i think sommers would actually love it, from a technical point of view.

  • Jesse G. Barnes

    @jt

    How credible is the movie, really? And to whom? The general movie going audience seems to like it a lot. Critically, it’s split.