“Evil Never Looked So Good*”
Directed by Stephen Sommers
Starring Channing Tatum, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Lee Byung-hun, Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce and Dennis Quaid
When a new generation of nano-machine warheads falls into the hands of a new and non-specific terrorist organisation, it falls to the world’s premier multinational military taskforce, codenamed G.I. Joe, to stop them.
A convoy led by Duke (Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans, God help us) is attacked by the Baroness (Miller) and rescued by the elite G.I. Joe task force: Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Scarlett (Nichols), Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui) and Snake-Eyes (Park), under the command of General Hawk (Quaid). James McCullen ‘Destro’ (Eccleston), heir to a long line of arms manufacturers of dubious Scottishness , creator of the nano-tech missiles and actually – gasp – the baddy – sends the Baroness and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun) to retrieve them.
There follows a protracted and fairly nonsensical ramble of action scenes and exposition, liberally spiced with dubious ultratech weapons, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in a really horrible wig and prosthetics, and a scattergun blasting of clumsy references to the original franchise.
What’s wrong with it?
The Rise of Cobra is a baffled mess of loosely connected scenes.
Destro has a very dodgy accent, but then so does his ancestor.
In common with many hardware fetishist action movies, it continually introduces new weapons and pieces of equipment, each of which is used precisely once and then discarded. This includes the power armour which is wheeled out for an undercover op in Paris.
Expository dialogue is fired off at machine gun speed, as if it’s a chore to be got out of the way. Even when backstory is revealed through flashback there is more telling than showing.
G.I. Joe is the best of the best of the best, but aside from the lead four, they really suck, a small Cobra strike force basically owning the entire force in their own house.
The Joes are set on going after the Baroness before she comes after them, then spend what appears to be days training Duke and Ripcord to join them.
Tough, detached Joe Scarlett gets her arse kicked in the designated girl fight and suddenly falls for Marlon Wayans’ irritating charm. Also, Marlon Wayans’ irritating charm.
Snake-Eyes’ mask has lips.
Scarlett’s armour has boobs.
Once more, it turns out that we won’t always have Paris.
The Baroness, one of the great villainesses in cartoon history, is downgraded from a self-aware, motivated and ruthlessly professional femme fatale to an innocent brainwashed into becoming a cooing, oversexualised killer who is redeemed by the power of love. This sucks. Likewise, Cobra Commander is no longer a multi-eyed snake man from the Cobra-La, but a demented scientist willing to pimp his own mind-controlled sister twice.
What’s right with it?
There are some competent action scenes, and Tatum is a likable lead.
On the plus side, at least when Paris gets eaten by nanites, the characters act like this is a big thing, even Marlon Wayans getting serious for a moment.
How bad is it really?
The film is dumb as a post and despite good action fails to involve on any emotional level.It mucks around with the source material to no particular end, resulting in some headscratching moments and some unfortunate implications.
Best bit (if such there is)?
- Cut off from their escape route, Storm Shadow tells Baroness to “Follow me,” and takes a twenty foot jump off a platform to the floor. Baroness watches and snorts: “Yeah; like that’s gonna happen.”
- I also quite like the payoff, where it turns out that the whole thing was a feint to get the President into a bunker built by Destro.
What’s up with…?
- Destro’s plan, in general and specific? I get that he wants it to look like someone else nicked the warheads, but why does he need to marry Baroness off to a scientist in France to get him to activate them, instead of just giving her a switch?
- If the Eiffel Tower has been evacuated, why are so many people just standing around the base of it?
- CSI GI Joe? Breaker uses a gizmo to ‘hack’ the visual centres of a dead Viper’s brain. Seriously.
- The international force launching an operation in Paris without letting the French know? And for that matter, if they’ve not made themselves known, how did they get the Tower evacuated?
- The plane with weapons controlled by voice commands… in ‘Celtic’? Not Gaelic or Gallic, Celtic.
Production values – It’s pretty pretty, and the Alan Silvestri score is top notch. 6
Dialogue and performances – Oh, man… this is not its strong point. Apart from Marlon Wayans, who is at least less annoying than in Dungeons & Dragons, the cast is decent, but the dialogue is rubbish. 14
Plot and execution – A simplistic plot is needlessly confused with backstory that adds no emotional resonance and just undermines one of the lead villains. 15
Randomness – The main offensive here is the catalogue of one-shot weaponry and laughable hypertech gizmos. 13
Waste of potential – Seriously, I yearn for secret reptile kingdoms and the late Chris Latta. “I was once a man! A MAN!!!” 14
*Yes; the major selling point is Sienna Miller in leather.