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

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With the incredible success of the first live action Transformers movie it was inevitable that other properties of the 1980s would be mined for the live action treatment. The most obvious choice was G.I. Joe – not only is it a title with a profile to match Transformers, but it is also another Hasbro property; meaning the path was already open between Paramount (the studio behind Transformers) and the toymaker. Now here we are, the arrival of the first of another potential Hasbro-generated movie franchise. I wonder what could be next? We have already had rumors of Monopoly, but how about My Little Pony? You never know.

When I first saw the trailer for this I was positive it was going to be terrible. I mean, they did not have a great director at the helm, the casting seemed a little odd, the costumes are quite different from the originals, and the trailer looked like a watered down combination of Transformers and Iron Man. On top of that, the trailer featured some wonderful dialogue that surely revealed some fascinating characters (read that bit with a good dose of sarcasm). So, off I went completely expecting a terrible movie, I had no choice based on what I had seen.

Here I am, suffering from the after-effects of the experience and prepared to eat my words. In a word, this movie is fun. To add a few more words, this movie does not have a brain in its head. It has a shallow story, even shallower characters, and is just so goofy it cannot be denied. This movie gets a lot of things right that Transformers failed to even fathom.

This movie did something that I had not even considered. It seems that Stephen Sommers and the writing team embraced the inherent corniness of the original series and made sure that the film had a healthy dose of it. This is in stark contrast to the Transformers films, which waver between stupid slapstick and an unfounded air of self-importance. Everyone needs to pay attention — if you want to make a goofy, fun action picture, this is a good way to do it.

The story is a simple one. A Scottish weapons manufacture, McCullen (Christopher Eccleston), has developed nanite technology and has sold the weaponized version to NATO. What follows is a back and forth battle over control of said weapons, told with the backdrop of a couple of new Joes being added to the fold, as well as the emergence of Cobra (as per the title). If you want anything in depth, I suggest you write some fan fiction and fill in the blanks.

With the back and forth over the nanite weapons, you have Duke (Channing Tatum, seemingly channeling Josh Hartnett) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans in what may be the oddest casting) being recruited for the Joe team as they head out to find the Baroness (Sienna Miller), who also happens to be Duke's ex-girlfriend, and her team of masked goons.

Toss in some sexual tension between Ripcord and fellow Joe Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), a silent ninja assassin in a goofy mask (seriously? you put lips on the mask?) called Snake Eyes (Ray Park), and a tech-geek who accesses dead brains, and you have a team. Opposing them is a master of disguise who only learned to whistle one tune (Arnold Vosloo), Snake Eye's adoptive, but evil, brother Storm Shadow (Byun-hun Lee), and a disfigured mad doctor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and you have the bad guys.

None of the team on either side have much of a personality beyond the surface, but it is fun to watch them go about their jobs. This really is about the cheese, which seems to fall in line with the old show. Much like Transformers, the show boiled down to an extended commercial with all of the different characters with their different looks and accessories. Pair that with the large assortment of vehicles and related items. The movie has all of it too, real-world science-defying technology, a wide variety of vehicles, and characters with multiple costumes. Sure there were changes made between the cartoon and the movie, but they kept true to the source and it pays off.

Could I sit here and rip the movie apart? Sure, but where is the fun in that? All right, don't answer that. When it comes to this movie, I was won over by the goofiness. The movie surges forward with reckless abandon. If they need to explain something a line of dialogue is tossed in, if you find yourself in a corner, a touch of added stupidity is written in to get around it. Surprisingly, it all works.

Bottom line. Yes, I am willing to admit my assumption that this would be awful was wrong. That said, I will not say this is a good movie, because it isn't. It is a bad movie made with cheesy execution that happens to be entertaining to this viewer. I will say that it succeeds in a better fashion than Transformers 2 did. If you like stupid fun movies, here is one for you.

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