Two years ago, there wasn’t much to be said about a film that was only based off of a toy line. Then a dude named Michael Bay came along and changed all that, making over a zillion dollars with two films about robots that change into other things. The movies weren’t exactly rich with story or character development, but they did the source material justice, which is all most fans wanted. One would think that a movie about a secret squad of soldiers would be more believable, but sadly, this wasn’t the case.
There is more than enough source material to play with, given the G.I. Joe toys, comics, and many incarnations of the TV show and Director Stephen Sommers’ other projects including Van Helsing and The Mummy have a decent story and are both relatively entertaining. For this film, however, it felt like Sommers left the passion and creativity he had for his previous films at home when reporting to the set of Joe — which is pretty evident in the first five minutes of the film.
It’s easy to pick on G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra for its poor dialogue or predictable story because when you force lines like “he’s a real American hero” into a scene, it warrants ridicule. When it comes to the story, it’s predictable because it is a blatant ripoff of another film, when the main villain brainwashes his victims to do his bidding, identified by a small lesion on the neck. It’s also funny how you can call this movie The Rise of . . . when the entire film is lacking in any rising action.
When all else fails in an action adventure film, as it does here, the most important thing to get right becomes the special effects. How were they in this film? The term “Gumby-like” comes to mind, especially during the “robot suit” sequences. This is unfortunate since the last time anyone used that term was years ago about Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man. There are plenty of scenes in need of cool special effects to save them, but the effects barely achieve the level of your average episode of Heroes.
Sommers and cast members have been defending the film to the press, stating that it doesn’t take itself seriously. This isn’t exactly true. If it were to mock the fact that everybody had names like “Snake Eyes”, “Zartan”, and “Dr. Mindbender” (a personal favorite), that would be the right amount of humor. Instead, the humor is degraded to a character that mixes up idioms like “Harder to find than a needle in a coalmine.” Hilarious.
The acting is an interesting thing to watch, and we’re talking “car crash” interesting. Each actor seemed to be working on a different film. Dennis Quaid’s Hawk was pretty good, doing the stoic, fatherly figure. Channing Tatum (aka “Marky Mark-lite”) was pretty generic and could have easily been replaced by a number of actors from Generation Kill. The best actor of the cast was easily former Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, who managed to stick to a pretty rough Scottish accent from beginning to end, which was quite impressive.
The big “secret” that Sommers and the cast wanted to hide until the film’s release was 3rd Rock From the Sun’s Joseph Gordon Levitt playing Cobra Commander, and it’s pretty clear why. The character really does nothing for the audience or the movie other than have a voice that was A) dark and menacing and B) clearly not his own. His character later changes into a sleep apnea mask that A) allows him to do a good evil laugh and B) is also not his own. Also, casting Jonathan Pryce, a well-known British actor, as the President of the United States was just unnecessary.
Overall, the film was lacking in any creativity or independence that helped Transformers to become a multimillion dollar franchise, and that’s saying something. CG metal masks aside, the one positive about the film were the costumes. There are plenty of cool looking costumes in the movie, which is good, because that was one of the best parts of the cartoons too. The film also ends on a cliffhanger, but don’t expect any closure on that one. There are plenty of moments for die-hard fans looking for their Duke and Destro fix, but beyond that, there isn’t anything of substance worth paying ten bucks (or more) for.