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

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“Technically, we don't exist. We answer to no one. And when all else fails, we don't.”

The movie uses constant special effects, numerous globetrotting location changes including Egypt and Paris, and a fast paced story full of action, but runs low on genuine excitement. Stephen Sommers co-writes and directs this new military adventure and stays close to the pop culture adaptation formula.

In this formula, filmmakers put the characters in dark colored suits (just like X-Men) to match the more serious tone instead of their more brightly colored uniforms from the cartoons/action figure sets. The satisfying action includes an amazing sequence in Paris, France that definitely saves the movie.

Filmmakers wait a while for character introductions opting for sporadic flashbacks to tell individual sub stories beginning with Destro’s. The appealing military elements remain while new elements like the Delta-6 Accelerator suits, nanotechnology and invisibility cloaks appear.

The cast could’ve been stronger on the villain side except for Sienna Miller who plays Baroness (a.k.a. Ana Lewis). This 118-minute movie showcases her character most and connect key background sub stories among several main characters.

Channing Tatum and comedian Marlon Wayans make a decent hero buddy team as Duke and Ripcord. This duo bonds in battle and punches up the story with a few good jokes between action breaks. “He was not born, he was government issued,” says Ripcord when asked about Duke’s background. Dennis Quaid heads the Joes as General Hawk assisted by Cover Girl, played by real life model Karolina Kurkova.

Other heroes include Heavy Duty, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje; Scarlett, played by rising star Rachel Nichols; communications expert Breaker, played by Said Taghmaoui and the silent Snake Eyes, played by Ray Park in an outstanding physical role. Brendan Fraser, also makes a surprisingly short, uncredited appearance as does his fellow Mummy castmate, Kevin J. O’Connor who plays a deranged scientist (a.k.a. Dr. Mindbender).

Diehard fans might miss marine Gung-Ho, Roadblock, helicopter pilot Wild Bill, Stalker, Lady Jaye, Beachhead, Mutt and Quick Kick (some of these characters appear in the spin off video game), but that leaves likely appearances in the sequel(s).

Christopher Eccleston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt do not maximize their high profile roles spending too much time in unnecessary dialogue and, for Eccleston, constant posturing. Their revealing roles and a mild plot twist were also spoiled by the previews, which revealed too much about Eccleston’s sizable, yet unsatisfying role. The capable Gordon-Levitt needed a performance similar to Heath Ledger’s portrayal of the Joker in last summer’s The Dark Knight, but didn’t quite pull it off. Maybe he’ll get a second chance in the likely movie sequel.

South Korean star Byung-hun Lee brings considerable martial arts talent and international appeal as Snake Eyes’ nemesis and Baroness’ teacher Storm Shadow. Arnold Vosloo also stars as disguise/espionage expert named Zartan while Jonathan Pryce plays the standard U.S. President.

The story has good lessons on setting personal standards and people wanting to be the best. “You can’t win all the time,” the Joes say to each other.

Besides the sharp cinematography, the artistic side and story definitely lack depth as pure entertainment must motivate audiences to engage this fighting flick. It never insults audience intelligence, but a good portion of dialogue could be cut and the predictable story will surprise few.

This movie would have more originality if came out in late 1990s (like right before X-Men), so the “been there done that” feeling you get at the end is inescapable. The nanotechnology story angle has been overused since Agent Cody Banks in 2003. The unnatural domino effect, where soldiers from both sides line up and wait to be shot or blown up, hurts the movie’s credibility.

"G.I. Joe", is actually a generic term given during World War II to the general infantrymen of the United States Army. This movie has realistic casualties and does not contain any moments where younger viewers (filmmakers’ main focus) would be frightened, jolted or scared. Rated PG-13 for action violence, a few references, the Baroness’ suggestive dress, peril and mayhem. Recommended with several reservations.

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