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Dustin Putman

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G.I. Joe:
The Rise of Cobra  (2009)
1 Stars
Directed by Stephen Sommers.
Cast: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, Christopher Eccleston, Dennis Quaid, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Arnold Vosloo, Gregory Fitousi, Gerald Okamura, Kevin J. O'Connor, Jonathan Pryce, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Leo Howard, Ray Park, Said Taghmaoui, Brendan Fraser.
2009 – 118 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for strong sequences of violence and mayhem).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, August 7, 2009.
The latest 1980s Hasbro toy property to see its way to the big screen, "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" is not a cinematic abortion and train wreck all wrapped into one like 2007's "Transformers" and 2009's "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen" were. Instead, it's merely shiny and plastic, a boldly accurate representation of the military action figures themselves. As directed by Stephen Sommers (2004's "Van Helsing"), this $175-million parade of CGI effects opens loudly and furiously and then remains on that heightened crescendo for the two-hour duration. Viewers certainly won't be able to accuse "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" of lacking in sound and fervor, but that's just the problem. With nothing else to latch onto, the picture's ceaseless bombastic overload grows tedious rather than exciting.

Set in the not too distant future, weapons expert James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) has created nano-technology warheads so powerful that they can eat through anything, capable of destroying entire cities if unleashed. When he sells four of these warheads to NATO, it falls upon U.S. Army soldiers Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) to transport them to their new home. When the nefarious Cobra force attempts to intercept, Duke and Ripcord are saved by the G.I. Joe secret ops team and delivered, along with the weapons, to their underground lair headed by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). Duke has personal ties with the Cobras—his former fiancée Baroness Anastasia DeCobray (Sienna Miller) and her brother, the now-deformed Rex Lewis (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), have turned to the dark side—and takes it all the more personally when they successfully steal the warheads and head for Paris. With the world in grave danger, the G.I. Joes set out to stop the Cobra's maniacal mission.

"G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" will please 12-year-old boys and the overly indiscriminate. Everyone else needn't bother with a film that marries garish costume designs with stylish interior art direction, then concentrates on the number of explosions that can be had. Screenwriters Stuart Beattie (2008's "Australia"), David Elliot (2000's "The Watcher") and Paul Lovett (2005's "Four Brothers") are working on autopilot here, penning types rather than people and pitting virtuous, uncomplicated good guys against power-hungry villains and brainwashed henchmen. The plot doesn't make a heck of a lot of sense if one actually dwells upon it for any period of time, and the only underlying message that there seems to be is that military men (and women) are coin-bouncingly ripped. Luckily, the film is not as self-congratulatory and jingoistic as Michael Bay's oeuvre, though it does share the look of a sleek car ad.

Taking place on earth but more closely reminiscent of an alternate universe, the movie thinks nothing of tossing the protagonists into accelerator suits that turn them into indestructible energizer bunnies weaving through traffic and crashing through bus windows. The complete destruction and disintegration of the Eiffel Tower follows, along with inevitable deaths left up in the air and uncounted. As Paris is torn apart, the rest of the world is barely seen batting an eyelash while the U.S. President (Jonathan Pryce) sits around in the Oval Office and looks concerned. From there, the narrative heads to the Arctic for a punishing, practically never-ending third act that gets to be so chaotic and repetitive you almost forgive the film for imagining that a person can fly from the polar ice craps to Washington, D.C. with the snap of a finger. It's as silly as it sounds, and director Stephen Sommers is shameless in his continued tricks of ADD-inflicted filmmaking.

The cast of "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" would probably be the first to tell you their work here isn't exactly about acting. Channing Tatum (2009's "Fighting") continues his dumb, likable lug routine as hero Duke, while Marlon Wayans (2009's "Dance Flick"), despite having to utter a moldy cliché like "All right, ladies!" to his comrades, is more understated than expected as Ripcord. Dennis Quaid (2008's "The Express") is dreadful as General Hawk, speaking with a stale authoritative voice that simply sounds as if he has been stripped of emotion. Joseph Gordon-Levitt (2009's "(500) Days of Summer") deepens his voice to a growl and all but disappears behind latex as the future Cobra Commander. Adding the all-important female quotient are Sienna Miller (2007's "Stardust") and Rachel Nichols (2007's "P2") as The Baroness and Scarlett, fetchingly sewn into their leather outfits. All involved will live to see better roles and a brighter tomorrow.

Technically, "G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra" suffices. The special effects are well-oriented into the live-action surroundings. The G.I. Joe unit's underground fortress is mesmerizing in its brief establishing shots, with some visually pleasing moments set underwater. There is also a creative shot of a polar bear's tranquility broken as an aircraft breaks through the ice beside it and flies off. The remainder of the film is regrettably subpar, with relationships, like the one between Duke and the Baroness, carrying no weight; and the pacing so pushy that all the movie boils down to is flash and freneticism without a point or a soul. By the end, your senses will be all but deadened and you won't care even a little bit about what you've just sat through.
© 2009 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman