The tread of making movies based on popular toy properties would never stop, regardless of how it’ll turn out in the end. Though there’s a possibility to gain a new and refreshing audience to get onboard just like those who grew up with them in the ’80s or ’90s. But if anyone of us thought the $175 million adaptation of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra would save the drought of the summer movie season of 2009, maybe it’s best to look somewhere else.
What’s the Story: Armed with the latest in military and spy technology, the team of elite soldiers known as G.I. Joe travel around the globe to wherever their services are needed. In their latest assignment Gen. Hawk (Dennis Quaid), Duke (Channing Tatum) and the rest of the G.I. Joe team take on Destro (Christopher Eccleston), a corrupt arms dealer, and fight the growing threat of the mysterious Cobra organization.
Anybody who was obsessed with all things action when they were a kid must’ve been in love with G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero when talking about the collection of action figures, the television series of the same name airing on Saturday mornings, or the Marvel comics that knows how to put the “can” in American. It had never associated me with them. Talks about making the movie come to life came about for years with fresh ideas in hand, and it was Transformers‘ success at the box office that Hasbro pushed this reality forward.
But one question has to be answered: Was anyone looking forward to this? Just from re-watching the trailers, I wouldn’t be shocked if the level of interest went down when thinking this looks like nothing that came to mind. Even when I was 13-years-old, I didn’t care too much about it thought it was alright when I saw it opening weekend. Now watching it for the first time in 12 years, I thought about turning it off because holy pork chop sandwiches, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is one gigantic mess that shouldn’t have its defenders.
To be clear, I wasn’t expecting high art when all it can do is go up after the studio made us all feel disgusted after watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. All I wanted was to experience is a fun and adventurous movie with some familiar characters. But it was like this was destined for teenage boys who went into this not expecting to be bored with a lot of stuff going about. Director Stephen Sommers (The Mummy, Van Helsing) clearly wasn’t a fan of the property, so he and his trio of writers, including Stuart Beattie (Collateral), threw these characters with an over-the-top action movie that doesn’t even try to be like a G.I. Joe movie. Even I knew little before walking in and I felt they explored the lure insultingly and more it convoluted and cartoony. Does Sommers offer some goofiness aspects that made the cartoon and toys ridiculous? Somewhat, but it could’ve been cooler; that’s all I’m asking.
It was like it briefly inspired him to be like Michael Bay and determined to make a G.I. Joe movie that doesn’t take itself seriously. You can see where he thought to take all the joy out and deliver a piece of trash entertainment that will have people leave the heart or watch something else.
But if you thought the directing was lousy, ask yourself why none of the acting has improved in its two-hour runtime. Besides the fact I gave little chance to care for any of them, I’m baffled by how mediocre everyone was, despite knowing it wasn’t going for Oscars. Channing Tatum as Duke was the blandest performance I’ve seen from him, and this was way back when I thought he couldn’t act in anything worth his time or just wasn’t buying he was this cool soldier; Marlon Wayans as Ripcord wasn’t the smartest move to have a comedic actor into an action movie since he was unbearable; and then you have Sienna Miller and Christopher Eccleston as the villains The Baroness and Destro, respectively, which I couldn’t stand any scene with them when it’s so wooden and unbelievable. Other performances from Rachel Nichols as Scarlett, Dennis Quaid as General Hawk, and even freakin’ Joseph Gordon-Levitt (why) didn’t have to be here. The only cool character was the silent ninja Snake Eyes (Ray Park) because he didn’t have to say anything. Also, I’m still confused why Brendan Fraser made an uncredited cameo for a minute.
As someone who loves his fair share of action, I honestly found it to be unengaging and derivative whenever there’s anything relentless happening in front of me. Not being invested if someone gets hurt is one thing, but it doesn’t help when it’s directed so poorly. Just the set piece in Paris where Duke and Ripcord are in these stupid accelerator suits in hopes to capture The Baroness was so cheesy, and the CGI was laughable in some places. The destruction of the Eiffel Tower wasn’t too bad, though. It didn’t even try to improve into the third act where one location takes place underwater, which was already too little too late when I wanted it to be over with ASAP.
Most won’t care if fans are angry with how they butchered the source material, but they have the right to since it was difficult coming up with a story revolving around the Joes vs. Cobra with bigger stakes. But was there any way of getting a better script? Because I found the writing to be absolutely horrible. Most of the dialogue said by these actors was embarrassing when it consists of bad jokes, dumb one-liners, and forced catchphrases only fans will know by heart. I even unintentionally laughed during the ambush sequence early on when the helicopter pilot said, “Oh my God,” he said as he’s about to get blown up. It’s even worse when they have a romantic past between Duke and The Baroness that’s a way of change that won’t suit well, or including having flashbacks of them or with Snake Eyes and Stormshadow (Byung-hun Lee) showing why the latter is such a baby.
Something tells me Paramount was worried since they held off screenings before the release, and it was no surprise it didn’t get the best reviews from critics, although it made $150 million. One of my favorite reviews of this was the Schmoes Know, and even though it’s not in their channel anymore, the reaction to Mark Ellis saying Tatum’s performance was “the worst leading performance” was priceless and I don’t think he finished it. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was so bad, Tatum and Eccleston themselves hated working on it years later, with the former saying it was part of a picture deal with the studio. Can you blame him? On the awards side, it was nominated for six Razzies, including Worst Picture, Director, and Sienna Miller won for Worst Supporting Actress.
Final Thoughts: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is an insult to all the fans of the popular IP when everything about this live-action adaptation cannot be an exciting action movie it desperately tried to be, especially with its poor performances and horrendous writing. It’s not the dumb fun that’s describing itself as a “guilty pleasure”; it’s just terrible. I can’t say it was a surprise the studio released two of the worst movies that year. Now you know- and knowing keeps you from staying away.