The Red Right Hand

The Rise Of Cobra
When All Else Fails, They Don't

Stephen Sommers

Channing Tatum
Marlon Wayans
Christopher Eccleston
Sienna Miller

I instantly wrote-off the very concept of a G.I. Joe movie, dubbing it pointless, unnecessary and ridiculous. I would like to say that I was wrong. I'll say that again because I am an impartial, unbiased reviewer: I dismissed this movie far too soon and it's actually pretty damn impressive. Now, most of my reviews for geeky action flicks start with some backstory, explaining that I, as a child of the 80's, have familiar knowledge of the series and can as such draw detailed comparisons. However, I am not a Joe fan. As a child, I didn't really care. Naturally, I was aware of the basics but overall, I'm coming at this whole experience with a reasonably fresh approach.

What little plot is detailed in this feature is barely worth mentioning but can be summarised with the following: evil scientist creates metal-consuming swarm that can be harnessed as a weapon, weapon is stolen and elite unit of soldiers are employed to retrieve them. That's pretty much it, the characters and flashbacks are interesting but not exactly deep in any way. Despite this poor description, Joe remains a better adaptation than Transformers - key word being ADAPTATION. And three aspects in particular label it as such; the Joes, the look and the threat.

My brother, Andrew, has a bit of a chip on his shoulder about the US 'we're here to save the day for you' attitude - that sort of 1941 resentment felt by a great deal of allied troops during World War II. To be fair, he's partly right, Joe was always about the 'Real American Hero' and worked as a propaganda toy for the military. Strangely enough, this film manages to completely depart from war-promotion. Curiously enough, it actually achieves what it sets out to, which is to show you an elite group of individuals who fall under no flag or loyalty whose soul mission is stop bad guys and other evil doers that wish to inflict (so called) needless suffering on humanity. Yes, it's still annoying as hell that a supposed collection of the finest soldiers from around the globe are comprised of yanks, bar two foreigners but that's by-the-by. So the Joes themselves with their wacky futuristic technology and alpha male mentalities are actually through-and-through good guys. That's a rarity these days. We've become so attuned to the anti-hero and the flawed hero that we forgot about the cinematic power of people whose drives and ambitions are simply, for lack of a better word, pure. Point two is the look of the film. Yes, some of the CGI is a little ropey but it's so very forgivable and although the technology seems a little absurd it all remains largely plausible. And finally, the threat. Weird one to reference, I know but an important one; possibly the most important. So, we have these perfect warriors and our perfectly evil villains in a not-too-distant-future world. The reason so much of it is credible is the expendability of our world, the very notion of potential loss. I always have a go at these morally confused action flicks that want to talk about saving the world but never really put it in a state of credible disarray. Joe offers more; it provides realism without excess, grounding the more ridiculous elements. To be blunt, bombs go off, people die, blades actually cut flesh and (and I really can't stress this enough) after reeking immense havoc in Paris the entire team get arrested! How beautiful is that!? Rather than welcomed as saviours, the native Parisians are shocked and appalled and solely blame the unit made up of British, American and Moroccan soldiers - genius!

So with the positive elements above, it's easy to quickly immerse yourself in an action-packed world, with consequences and realism but still void of serious characters. Director, Sommers, knows what the drooling public like in action films and without smothering and suffocating audiences (to the extent that Michael Bay did with Transformers 2), he has produced a solid and rather fun action flick. Now, that's not to say it's in any way good (in the Citizen Kane sense of the word), I'm under no illusions that this film is not going to win any awards for acting or writing but as a source of entertainment, it is a rather good example. As such, really stupid moments are given a lot of leeway and the absolute lack of character development and dumb story worked surprisingly well as the two hours passed smoothly. In summation, of all the big action releases this summer, I never thought I would rate G.I. Joe one of the highest.

Release Date:
UK - 7th August 2009
US - 7th August 2009

The Scene To Look Out For:
Difficult to say, really. This film is wall-to-wall action-schlock. I could reference flashbacks but there would be little point as they simply serve to further the action. So, let's pick an action scene. Having explained the nanite warheads to NATO, the precious cases are loaded and escorted by the marine's finest - only to have four armoured support units and however many soldiers wiped-out almost instantaneously by an aggressive force. I'm highlighting it because it was something that Transformers never admitted - Modern Combat 101: in the presence of greater fire-power, military units suffer heavily. Ten minutes in and already so many people dead; not blown to one side or vehicles rolled, utterly destroyed without focusing on immense gore. Reading that back, that sentiment sounds a little mad and Alex-like but it's a point of contention in modern action films that I'm glad certain filmmakers are at least addressing. I also wanted to highlight a scene in which Dennis Quaid said 'knowing is half the battle' but that's more an inside joke... and no, I'm not going into it.

Notable Characters:
The characters are uniformly typically American: all tits and muscles. All the girls are smart, sexy and sassy and all the males are beefed, lightning-reflex crackshots. Having said that, I had little issue with them. Sure, they were hollow and graced with the back-story of chimps in a zoo but who cares? They did their job and that's what matters. More importantly, however, are the bad guys, the 'cobras.' These guys were a truly awesome force to be reckoned with - I was instantly sold on the idea. Essentially, the cobra drones are infused with nanite technology that eats away at elements of their brain, to ensure they feel no fear or pain and heal with immense speed. Which leads me to two head figures of note in the Cobra organisation hierarchy. First we have the Baroness, played by Sienna Miller. I hate Sienna Miller, not sure why, I just haven't been greatly impressed with her effort to date. However, with a black wig and glasses her image worked well and I was extremely entertained. I know that sounds shallow but I have a thing for dark haired women and I really couldn't care less; she managed to sell the badass action femme fatale role and that's not an easy sell with me. Secondly, we have Joseph Gordon-Levitt, an actor whose work I greatly admire. Not only is the acting largely credible, he also plays the origin story of the future/infamous leader of the Cobras excellently. The best analogy I could come up with would be to imagine only one Star Wars prequel in which Darth Vader was a talented underling in an evil organisation, who rose to power out of the ashes of the former operation - a very uniquely handled approach and one I rather enjoyed. Oh, and one final small note. The British person they hired was born in the same area of North London that I grew up in, just thought I'd highlight that largely pointless little piece of trivia.

Highlighted Quote:
"This will only hurt a little. What comes next... more so"

In A Few Words:
"Who would have thought a G.I. Joe film would half-decent, let alone one of the best action releases of the Summer '09 line-up?"

Total Score:

Matthew Stogdon