G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is about as hollow as big, dumb action extravaganzas come. In his quest to make the next Transformers, director Stephen Sommers has failed to successfully turn an inherently campy premise into a final product that is even slightly enjoyable. Paramount can expect solid box office returns during the film’s first weekend, but less than enthusiastic word of mouth is bound to spread quickly and seriously undermine its staying power. A franchise has hopefully not been born.
G.I. Joe ’s plot could not be more painfully generic. A weapons company develops a new kind of nanotechnology with the capability of destroying an entire city. The bad guys want to take control of said technology and it’s up to the good guys—an elite teams of soldiers known as G.I. Joes—to stop them. Yawn. The lame plot would almost be forgivable if the pyrotechnics it supported were exciting. Unfortunately, the action scenes are painfully dull and composed of some excruciatingly mediocre special effects. G.I. Joe often feels like a 14 year old boy recorded parts of a videogame and pawned it off to Summers and Co. as cinema. And when the bad guys finally do wield the power of the destructive technology, the result is a sequence that shamelessly caters to the same crowd that thought changing French Fries to “Freedom Fries” was a great way to show our disdain for France.
I sincerely hope that every actor who accepted a role in this film was paid tons of money because otherwise they were wasting their time. Only Sienna Miller, playing a former good girl who has fallen from grace, manages to revel in the campiness and have a little fun. Channing Tatum delivers a wooden performance that makes Hayden Christiansen’s turn as Anakin Skywalker look like Marlon Brando in The Wild One. Marlon Wayans is wheeled out every so often to deliver some stereotypical comic relief. Sadly, Dennis Quaid comes across the worst. His General Hawk is a walking military cliché and Quaid never provides a wink to the audience that says he’s in on the joke. The talented actor would have been wise to have studied Al Pacino’s performance in Dick Tracy or Johnny Depp’s in Pirates of the Caribbean to see how to have fun with a one-dimensional caricature.
The biggest disappointment may come from the fact that Sommers has shown that he is perfectly capable of making the kind of brainless but fun spectacle that G.I. Joe so pathetically tries to be. The director’s Mummy films played liked gangbusters in front of a packed audience and they are still good escapist entertainment—when nothing better is on television. It’s not that Sommers bit off more than he could chew here, but rather that he aimed too low and thought he could just coast his way through.
There’s a certain disrespect for mainstream audiences in G.I. Joe that is almost appalling.
Cast: Channing Tatum, Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols, Jonathan Pryce, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christopher Eccleston
Director: Stephen Sommers
Screenwriters: Stuart Beattie and David Elliot & Paul Lovett
Producers: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Bob Ducsay and Stephen Sommers
Rating: PG-13 for strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout.
Running Time: 120 min.
Release Date: August 7, 2009