Title: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Director: Stephen Summers
So the latest craze in Hollywood is taking a cartoon from the 80s and turning it into a big budget special effects filled movie. It happened with the Transformers, which Michael Bay and his trigger happy crew turned into a huge box office success. Not to mention that the film already spawned an equally successful sequel, which by the way was for me one of the worst films made this year, but that’s a whole other review. The latest of these 80’s cartoon adaptations is G.I. Joe, which was one of the most successful cartoon series to emerge out of the 80s. Whoever was a kid during those years has to remember the show. It lasted half an hour and basically served as a commercial to sell the Hasbro produced G.I. Joe toy line. Its basic premise was that of a top secret military operation which was trying to stop Cobra, a terrorist organization hell bent on conquering the world. Aside from that, the show itself also served as a propaganda machine for the U.S. Military. Now I see that, but when I was a kid I did not realize this at all, to me it was just a cool show. In reality, it was a show trying to infuse kids with a desire to serve the U.S. Military services with pride, get that patriotic pride going at an early age. I guess it was made in part to get kids to want to serve their country just like the characters did in the show. The main slogan of the show lets you know this: “G.I. Joe! A Real American Hero!” The premise of this new film has the Joe’s trying to stop Cobra from destroying the world with a new kind of technology. Basically, a bomb of nano machines (read: microscopic machines) that will eat through anything and continue eating through whatever comes along its path. The Joe’s have to stop Cobra from using this new weapon to bring the world to its knees.
Basically this movie was exactly what I was expecting. Not much invested in depth or a good story, but lots invested in special effects an action. The movie brings absolutely nothing new to the table in terms of storytelling, in fact, it feels tired and done. Many of the plot devices on this film can be traced down to other films we’ve already seen before. For example, when you see the final confrontation between G.I. Joe and the Cobras where the Joes infiltrate Cobras hidden underwater lair, you kind of feel like you are watching a remake of Return of the Jedi or something. Right down to having the Joe’s go into the underwater base as if they were infiltrating the Death Star and escaping mere moments before it blows up into smithereens, just like the death star blows up in the last moments of Return of the Jedi. There’s a confrontation between two ninjas in the film (named Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow) that feels and looks a heck of a lot like the final confrontation between Darth Maul and Quai Gon Jin in Star Wars Episode I. The suits that the Joe’s use in the film which augment their strength and agility are directly influenced by Paramount Pictures Iron Man (2008). Scenes like that just let me see that the director wasn’t trying to be original at all. He was just going down the easy path of doing what others have already done. For Christ sake, we even get a character who is evil but tries to turn good, just like Anakin.
That’s the main problem with films like this one. They are produced so fast, and so little time is taken to come up with a worthwhile story to tell that we just end up getting more of the same. But aside from that, did the film entertain? Let’s face it, while watching a film of this kind, I don’t going in expecting a masterpiece. I was just looking for a fun time, and I went to the theater simply out of nostalgia for this old cartoon show I use to watch when I was 12 years old. I went to see these characters Id seen in my childhood brought to cinematic life. And I have to be honest, that’s exactly what I got. We get some of the key characters from the show, and they looked exactly like what I would have expected them too. The premise of the film mimicked that of the show, which was always about trying to stop Cobra from trying to take over the world. There was nothing ever truly profound of life changing about the shows themes, it was just a poorly animated show made to sell toys. The movie took the cartoons basic premise and went with it.
Have to admit it, nostalgia got the best part of me. It was cool to see the Joe’s secret facilities with all these nifty vehicles and jets, it brought me back to when I was 12, watching the show . It was cool to see Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow kicking each others asses. It was cool to see Cobra becoming Cobra and Destro becoming Destro. And I’m sure this is a movie that many a little kid will find entertaining. Me, I was just a big kid in the theater remembering the Joes. And I had a good time in doing so, there’s lots of car explosions, lots of non stop action sequences, and lots of fx to keep you entertained for half an hour. After a while though, you might feel the CGI overdose light go off inside your head, cause let me tell you, there are times when I felt like the only real thing in the film where the actors and the other 90% of the film was made up of computer generated images. But whatever, that’s a whole new genre of films that’s emerging. That’s where Hollywood wants to go now. I guess it brings down costs some, its cheaper to build something in a computer then building it for real. Sadly, this is the state of big budget special effects films, 90% of what you see on screen exists only within the confines of a computer.
But most of director Stephen Summers movies have always been like this. One look at his resume and you will find CGI infested films like The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, Deep Rising and Van Helsing. Also one look at this films cast and you see that Summers has brought many of his old friends back, like Arnold Vosloo who played the mummy in The Mummy movies. Heck, even Brendan Frasier is here in a small role training some of the newer Joe’s.It was a fun movie for what it was. I recommend it to fans of the G.I. Joe cartoons. Those thirty something guys who grew up watching this show in their afternoons after school. I’m sure they will be happy to see their childhood heroes brought to life. Movie goers who dont know what the hell G.I. Joe is will find an empty yet entertaining special effects driven film, that’s derivative of other films and doesn’t try in the least to show us something new or meaningful. It simply wants to wow you with its gee whiz effects, never keep you bored for its entire duration, and have you leave the theater feeling like you just had a sugar rush, only thing is you'll probably forget the film five seconds after you leave the theater.
Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5