G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Though G.I. Joe started out as a Ken-sized action doll in the '60s and '70s—"with kung fu grip!"—the name became increasingly and enduringly popular in the '80s after its reinvention through toys, comics, and cartoons. Since then, millions of boys (self included) spent their childhood geeking out over the super-team of military specialists and their extensive array of space-age hardware devoted to fight against the world terrorist organization known as Cobra.
There are bound to be some 10-year-olds (and adults who still think they're 10) who will praise this movie adaptation with an enthusiastic "Yo Joe!" (the G.I. Joe battle cry). The rest of us, fans or not, will more likely be crying something like "Say it ain't so, Joe!" While it's not the worst summer movie of 2009, that's faint praise in a season that has brought us Land of the Lost and Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen. And as implied in the title, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is an origin movie that leaves several doors open at the end for a potential franchise—at least Paramount hopes so, but heaven help us if it comes to pass.
The film follows the story of two NATO soldiers code-named Duke (Channing Tatum of the awful Step Up movies) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans of the awful Little Man and the Scary Movie series), assigned to protect a new top-secret warhead from falling into the wrong hands. An ambush on their transport by mysterious terrorists with advanced weaponry is foiled by agents of G.I. Joe, an organization utilizing the best military operatives from around the world, also armed with the latest in combat technology.
Duke and Ripcord quickly join the team headed by General Hawk (a gruff and grouchy Dennis Quaid), featuring long-time favorite characters like Scarlett, Heavy Duty, and the silent-but-deadly Snake Eyes. In simplest terms, their mission is to stop a crazed arms terrorist from attacking the world with nano-mites—little bio-mechanical bugs designed to kill cancer cells, now repurposed to destroy everything in their path (including the Eiffel Tower in a key scene). But is the arms terrorist the real target, or is there someone else pulling the strings in this plan for world conquest?
Yes, like most summer blockbusters, it's as far-fetched and silly as it sounds, though in all fairness, the original cartoons and comic books were too. You can't really accuse director Stephen Sommers (responsible for the first two Mummy remakes and the atrocious Van Helsing) and his writers of straying too far from the source material. In many ways they do it justice—perhaps too much so, by which I mean that this G.I. Joe tries too hard to cram in a ridiculously nebulous plot. It's like a soap opera or comic book series trying to fit a season's worth of plot twists and relationships into two hours.
Case in point: The over-emphasis on a character named The Baroness (Sienna Miller), who in the original toys/comics was an excuse for a slinky villainess in Cobra's ranks with romantic ties to Destro (the aforementioned arms dealer). In this movie, she's still a slinky villainess and remains Destro's lover, but is also married to a rich scientist (in effort to get close to his work), and a student of the evil ninja Storm Shadow (to develop her own combat skills), and previously engaged to Duke (pure as white snow at that time), and the sister of a friend from Duke's past who also happens to be … well, to say more would give away a key plot point for fans of the franchise, but you get the idea.