GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Review by Jack Foley
STEPHEN Sommers hasn’t directed a good blockbuster since he first broke onto the scene with The Mummy.
The sequel to that film was overblown and wretched, his take on Van Helsing was a complete disaster, and now he squanders the GI Joe franchise.
The main problem with Sommers is that – like Michael Bay – he seems to struggle when it comes to directing actors and holding a coherent plot together, let alone keep his camera still for more than a minute.
Yet while Bay at least compensates by delivering jaw-dropping spectacle on the grandest scale, Sommers again comes up short. Hence, watching his films often feels like a tedious exercise in using CGI for the sake of it.
GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a particularly spectacular travesty. It boasts a starry cast, is derived from a much-loved toyline and cartoon series, and should come ready-made to appeal to the boy in every man… and those that haven’t quite reached puberty yet. In short, it should be a guilty pleasure not unlike the first Transformers (another Hasbro juggernaut).
Instead, it’s a mess – a loud, showy, soulless succession of set pieces that barely make sense.
GI Joe is a covert, multi-national group of soldiers tasked with achieving the impossible (“when all else fails, we don’t!”). Joining them for the first time are new recruits Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) on a mission that involves protecting a lethal formula from the clutches of an evil organisation led by a notorious arms dealer.
Along the way past relationships and betrayals are uncovered, which include a failed romance between Duke and the Baroness (Sienna Miller) and an intense rivalry between good Joe Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and bad kid Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun).
Yet anyone anticipating much room for character development or worthwhile emotional investment had better think twice given that GI Joe barely stops to draw breath in between its shouty set pieces.
Sommers would rather blow things up or drop sexual innuendos than deliver anything or anyone worth caring about, and doesn’t even appear to have time to ensure that everything makes sense.
An attack on Paris provides the film’s one showpiece moment, but even that pales by comparison to the Transformers set pieces, while characters are generally judged by the sexiness of the outfits they wear or the niftiness of their martial arts ability.
Dennis Quaid looks embarrassed to be there, Channing Tatum barely registers in the pivotal central role, and support from the likes of Miller and Rachel Nichols is merely window dressing.
Sommers, meanwhile, is content to rip off far better movies and blatantly references everything from Team America and 007 movie Thunderball to Transformers and Star Wars in each set piece – some of which feel a little too strong for the younger viewers the franchise is supposedly aiming for.
Of the villains, Christopher Eccleston is wildly OTT as a Scottish arms dealer and Joseph Gorden-Levitt is buried in make-up and wasted as a surprise late nemesis. But then no one really emerges with much credit.
Worse still, Sommers brings things to a close with obvious loose ends, thereby suggesting that a sequel is an inevitability. At this stage, we can only hope that somebody sees sense and either calls a halt to this shambles, or puts faith in another director.
GI Joe is, quite comfortably, the dumbest blockbuster of the summer and one of the worst movies of the year (especially in light of the money spent on getting it to the big screen).
Running time: 110mins (tbc)
UK DVD & Blu-ray Release: December 7, 2009
- Buy it on Blu-ray (Amazon)
- Read the review
- Sienna Miller interview
- Marlon Wayans interview
- Stephen Sommers interview
- GI Joe: Poster Gallery
- GI Joe tops US box office
- GI Joe: River Thames stunt photo gallery