These Aren’t The Joes You’re Looking For- Andy Burns on G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

If you’re particularly precious about your childhood, you might want to avoid G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, because the characters you knew and love didn’t exactly make a smooth transition to the big screen.

Me? I loved my Joe action figures. I was one of those kids who cut out all of the file cards on the back on each package. I saved my points and sent them in to Hasbro to get both my Duke and Zartan figures. Sadly, I missed out on the Sgt. Slaughter exclusive. I collected the comic books starting from Issue 1 (remind me to tell you the story of how I scored that particular treasure someday), and I watched the tv series regularly (my favourite episode, and possibly yours too, was the one vit da viper). And while I’d say I’ve got a long history with the Joes, I don’t feel particularly passionate about them, which is why I was able to accept some of the changes director Stephen Sommers made in bringing G.I Joe to life. But that doesn’t mean I think those changes make for a good movie.

A romantic link from the past between two main characters? A brother/sister relationship between others? Scarlett not realizing just how hot she is? All unnecessary.

Assuming you may not have been a fan, a quick summary. G.I. Joe is a clandestine, counter- terror group. The members of the team have code names like Duke, Breaker, and Heavy Duty. Historically, they have done battle with the evil terrorist organization Cobra, led by Cobra Commander, arms dealer Destro, and The Baroness. She’s a baroness. Unfortunately, seeing as how the film is called “The Rise of Cobra”, we’re saddled with an origin story rather than a full blown Joe vs Cobra shoot ‘em up.

While this decision doesn’t really hurt the Joe’s storyline (there will always be conflict between team members whether it’s an origin story or not), it does leave us without the villains that were essential to G.I. Joe in all its permutations. Destro never really becomes Destro until the end of the film. The same with Cobra Commander, who while there, is never really who we want him to be until the final moments. And even then he’s saddled with a bad mask. Some things you can’t improve upon, and Cobra Commander’s classic look is one of them.

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra does get some things right. Snake-Eyes, everybody’s favourite ninja, is as cool as a fan boy could hope for, as is his long-time rival, Storm Shadow. Theirs is one origin story that is worth telling and the film does a decent job of doing so. Things also blow up nicely throughout the movie, and the scene in Paris with Duke and Ripcord running around in accelerator suits played out far better than the trailers would have you believe.

You probably don’t go to see a G.I. Joe film expecting stellar performances. At least, I hope you don’t because you’ll be let down. Channing Tatum is wooden as Duke; Marlon Wayans tries too hard as Ripcord; and Dennis Quaid seems to only ever bark his lines as General Hawk. Sienna Miller as The Baroness and Rachel Nichols as Scarlett, the films two female leads, assert themselves a little better than their male counterparts. As for our villains, Christopher Eccleston seems to be having fun as James McCullen/Destro, but the film needed more of Arthur Vosloo’s Zartan and Joseph Gordon-Levitt as The Doctor.

If you grew up loving the Joes, I’m fairly certain the changes made for the film will feel like sacrilege to you. If you didn’t, you’ll likely watch G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra and wonder what all the fuss was about. But if you’re looking for a summer blockbuster that would prefer it if you don’t think too much and just marvel at the big explosions, you’ll probably get a kick out of the movie.

Personally, now that the Cobra has risen, I’m eager to see what happens next.

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