Gregg’s Reflection on G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

I still remember the event well.  I was about four or five years old.  The year was 1982.  I was with my parents at a local mall and we took a stroll through Sears.  There, in front of me, was my very first exposure to G.I. Joe action figures.  My mom said I could have just one so I had to make the decision count as this guy would eventually be fighting endless battles under beds, on top of dressers and over the rough terrain of living room carpet.  The guy dressed all in black grabbed my attention first.  Snake Eyes would be the first Joe figure I would own. 

When I heard that a movie was going to be released, I was skeptical but excited at the same time.  When I saw Snake Eyes’ costume on the internet last year, I was over the moon about it.  It just looked absolutely bad @$$.  Let me just tell you that when something that meant a lot to you in your childhood comes to fruition on the big screen, it is a pretty exciting and reflective moment.  You can put your handkerchief back, I won’t need it.  It’s not that reflective of a moment.  So August 8, 2009 was the date I got to see my favorite toy line as a kid come to life in the movie theater. 

The first fifteen minutes of the film really had me questioning the quality of what I was watching.  This was due in large part to Channing Tatum’s inability to lose his distant-but still-apparent ghetto accent.  Tatum plays Duke and the Duke I always knew didn’t sound like a fool when he spoke.  He does tone it down and sounds much more intelligent after the initial battle, but it does pop up from time to time.  While on the topic of less than great acting, Sienna Miller doesn’t necessarily impress either.  She looks amazingly hot in the role of Baroness but some of her delivery seems urged and is unconvincing as a result.  Lastly, wrapping up the negative points in the film, purists might get turned off by the alteration of back-story that belongs to some of the characters.  For the inundated though, it shouldn’t have much of an impact. 

After the first fifteen minutes or so passed, I was very much on board with the film.  It is pretty much non-stop action, even more so than Transformers 2 but manages to inject more story than Michael Bay’s robot sequel was able to offer.  There were several complaints on various G.I. Joe message boards regarding character costumes, Destro’s mask, etc.  I thought it all looked pretty convincing and regardless of Snake Eyes’ lips appearing through his mask or people saying the accelerator suits were stolen from the Halo video game, I really did not care.  It all worked out extremely well in the film. 

A big concern of mine was Marlon Wayans as Ripcord.  When I heard he was cast in that role, I was biting my bottom lip in worry of a tainted film.  I need to start learning to give actors more credit in roles I have yet to see them in (I once scratched my head in bewilderment when Heath Ledger was cast as the Joker and look how incredible that turned out).  Wayans tore it up (both literally and figuratively) as the expert pilot and Joe quick-wit.  He really slipped into the role with ease and director Stephen Sommers did well to keep Wayans’ acting in check, preventing any over the top reactions from Ripcord on screen.  As for the best buddy relationship with Duke, it came off pretty convincing as both he and Tatum played well off of one another.

Okay, it was inevitable.  You knew I was going to have to dedicate at least a small portion of the review to Snake Eyes.  Played by martial arts expert Ray Park, whom you’ve also seen as Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I and as the mutant villain Toad in X-Men, the ninja is brought to life on the screen with brilliant acrobatics and sword-slashing abilities that Park delivers.  I just could not get enough of him on the screen.  My only complaint is the fighting between him and sworn enemy Storm Shadow is often blurred.  Maybe I need to go back and watch the movie again (which I certainly plan on doing) but I really wished the camera would back up a bit at times so I could see more of the dynamic fighting sequences in all their glory.  If the studio ever plans on doing an origins movie similar to that of Wolverine’s off-shoot from the X-Men franchise, expect them to start here.  I think it’s safe to say that by far, Snake Eyes has the biggest following of any G.I. Joe character. 

I recently read one review where someone said it was a shame that Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Cobra Commander) wasn’t able to utilize more of his acting ability as he was secluded behind his voice-altering facial appliance, not all that dissimilar from the concept of Darth Vader’s mask.  I couldn’t agree more.  The actor is in a role where he is forced to hide behind his mask and his talent is blanketed as a result.  As for the rest of the actors, including General Hawk played by the accomplished Dennis Quaid, they all do well in presenting their characters but don’t expect any award-winning performances.  There is one very blatant exception, however.  The actress portraying Cover Girl, Karolina Kurkova, comes off very wooden and could pass as a student of the Keanu Reeves School of Acting. 

All in all, the film was cleverly assembled and all the bickering about the accelerator suits is unfounded.  They’re not a mainstay of the film, but rather a tool used to augment an action sequence…and one lengthy and wicked action sequence it is.  There are some very eerie parallels to Star Wars though, even borderline rip-offs.  Then again some may argue that the Lucas series did some ‘borrowing’ of its own back in the day.  Nevertheless, I give G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra two thumbs up and highly recommend it on your summer watch list.  I’m still partial to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen as my favorite flick of 2009 (thus far).  Still, G.I. Joe offers robust action, a few laughs and is just a non-stop thrill ride.  Bring on the second viewing!!  


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