G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
If you brand it, they will come. Toy manufacturer Hasbro follows up Transformers 1 & 2 with the granddaddy of action figures, G.I. Joe. Joe – renamed “Action Man” in Britain, for obvious reasons – made his toy shop debut back in 1964, which makes him a veteran in department store circles, though he’ll always be Barbie’s kid brother.
Joe was relaunched in the early 80s with a whole new support team and a new adversary in the form of the Cobra Command, and it’s this scenario that inspired the movie, written by Stuart Beattie (and several uncredited script doctors) in an intense three-week period running up to the 2007 Writers Guild strike.
In the circumstances it’s not surprising that the screenplay is not in the Billy Wilder class. To the extent that it makes sense at all, it’s only because it’s plotted in the join-the-dots style of a kids’ cartoon series.
In brief, US infantrymen Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) are signed up to the elite G.I. Joe commando unit after their detail has been wiped out by a Cobra assault team led by the Baroness (Sienna Miller), who happens to be Duke’s ex fiancee. The Joes thwart Cobra’s attempt to steal a devastating new weapons technology developed by MARS, but not for long…
(Confusingly, MARS and Cobra are revealed to be one and the same, which makes you wonder why they need to steal the warheads in the first place.)
Can Duke and his new buddies get the nano-missiles back into safe hands before Paris, Beijing, Moscow and Washington are decimated? Well, three and a half out of four ain’t bad…
Paramount created minimal expectations for this $170 million production by releasing a ropey trailer and then withholding the movie from the critics until the last possible minute… At the risk of falling into the studio’s cunning marketing trap, I’ll have to say it’s not that bad – but only if it’s judged as suitable fodder for ten year olds.
I believe it is. (The BBFC rates it 12A for moderate violence). The action is non-stop – numbingly so – but it’s scarcely more intense than your average episode of Power Rangers. There’s little blood – more spaghetti sauce – and the movie doesn’t dwell on pain, unless you count the torture inflicted on the audience’s eardrums.
Above all, the fantasy is pitched at that age-appropriate audience, with easily identifiable good guys and bad guys (the villains have a more flamboyant dress sense), and a light, jocular, unpretentious tone. Fifteen year olds might turn their noses up at it – and they should – but for this fortysomething, G.I. Joe seemed preferable to Transformers 1 and 2 precisely because it doesn’t pretend to be anything but juvenile.
I’ll give it extra points for some attractive design and CGI effects-work (a submarine climax is reminiscent of Jules Verne), for the clever throwaway moment when the Baroness shoots out a glass ceiling that separates her from her pursuers, and for Joseph Gordon Levitt’s evil Doctor, an arch enemy who could teach recent James Bond villains a trick or two.
Would I recommend you take your kids to this film? Not especially, but while we’re all waiting for the next Pixar you could certainly do worse, and if your pre-teen is anything like mine, they’ll thank you for it.
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