A wise woman once told me that the older she got the more she tried to see the good in things rather than the easier route of criticizing everything. I have thought of that comment virtually every day since she said those words, but never more than while watching GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.
The problem for me with this movie is not that it brings to life the Hasbro action figures first introduced in 1964 - that's kind of cool - but it does so with none of the freshness or originality of other similar efforts like Sin City or the humor and self-deprecation of the Superman franchise, or the passion of Iron Man. The creators bumbled a golden opportunity here to laugh at the effort itself, you know, the tongue-in-cheek stuff. There is nothing interesting about this effort and no humor to buoy the comic book dialogue. See the good.
The movie centers on the possession of Nano technology, a powerful weaponry capable of destroying entire cities with steel eating parasites. And the weapons dealer whose lineage in this dubious trade goes back to 1641 is a Scot named McCullen (Christopher Eccleston). Like all good megalomaniacs, McCullen is not happy simply making huge profits. He wants world domination. And we long for a more villainous bad guy as we watch. Great villains do save bad movies.
Standing in the way of his noble ambition is General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) and the under-the-radar G.I. Joe crew he leads. It's certainly sad to see Quaid diminish his reputation and squander his considerable skills in this plastic performance. But again, see the good.
The unit recruits Duke and Ripcord (Channing Tatum and Marton Wayans) from the U.S. Army, and spearhead efforts to reclaim the Nanomite warheads from Cobra. Duke's ex girlfriend, Ana (Sienna Miller) has gone to the dark side because Duke accidentally sautéed her brother.
I have little objection to one-dimensional characters. It's expected in this kind of film. I also have no particular objection to explosions, endless shouting, general mayhem, showers of sparks, torrents of water, military bases under the polar ice cap, or characters who survive direct hits at short range from Blackhawk helicopters.
What surprises me is that for an hour and 58 minutes, we are presented with explosion after explosion, near escape after near escape in what feels like an exercise rather than a mission. And even with the mediocrity of this screenplay, the film might have been rescued with some truly remarkable visuals. And, frankly, I think we've come to expect movies like this, at the very least, to keep up with the special effects status quo. Visually, this film screams 2002 or earlier.
Director Stephen Sommers was also at the helm of the Mummy franchise, leading me to wonder if is employing the same sequel-minded thinking to GI Joe. There is absolutely no doubt - whether you like it or not - that when this film mercifully ends that there is more to come.
G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra ★✩✩✩✩
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, Channing Tatum. Directed by Stephen Sommers. Rated PG-13