So I saw the new GI Joe Rise of Cobra movie and it was… Good? I know I’m as shocked as you are. First and foremost, you have to go into the movie with a few things:
1. An open mind that this isn’t going to be the Marvel comics run of GI Joe.
2. That this is a mindless summer blockbuster movie and you should never anticipate anything other.
3. Realize that this is a movie designed to sell toys (Interestingly the same thing that the damn GI Joe cartoon was made for) and nothing more. So what did I think? Spoilered review continues below…
Look, right off the bat I can nitpick this movie to death. There are so many gaps in plausible logic that you could punch holes through. But you know what? That’s what fantasy is. This movie was never going to be Bridge of River Kwai nor should you expect it to be. Almost instantly the movie throws some huge tech stuff at you. Holograms that are more advanced than the holograms in Star Wars. That’s within the first 5 or 10 minutes. Why do they shove so much tech at you, to basically get you adjusted to the idea that this is the world of GI Joe and anything is possible.
Second, this movie is a tad more sci-fi than I typically like my GI Joe, but it’s certainly no more sci-fi than Joe has ever been. From laser beams to super sonic jets, and those damned Robocop suits, it’s all stuff that we have seen in GI Joe through the years. Be it in a toy or BattleForce 2000, nothing in this movie “crossed the line”…
However, that doesn’t mean the movie is perfect. For one thing the whole film is basically a set up for a sequel. If the box office numbers hold up, I hope we get a sequel because this movie just barely wet my appetite for GI Joe. One of the big things that nerd critics will say is that this is “GI Joe in name only”… No.
In 1998 the American Godzilla movie came out. It was, Godzilla in name only. Godzilla is about a giant atomic death breath breathing dinosaur. The American version was about a giant iguana that laid raptor eggs. It shared nothing in common with the previous Godzilla movies. GI Joe is not like that. This move shares a TON with the vintage GI Joe figures, cartoons, etc.
Certainly a lot has been changed. From the core of the team to the back stories of the characters. Nothing is sacred in that respect. Duke is more of a loner badass than before, but he’s also the poster boy for good soldier. Scarlett is girl genius and ultimate fight chick. Ripcord is black and wants to hook up with Scarlett. Snake Eyes isn’t mute, just silent.
On the Cobra side of things, well, Cobra doesn’t even exist. It’s all about MARS. Again, setting up a sequel. Zartan looks nothing like his vintage counterpart. However, and this is a big caveat… He acts a lot like Zartan. Ruthless, cunning and they even work in some tension between him and Storm Shadow. For the most part Storm Shadow is perfect. The character lacks a lot of depth, but no more so than he did in GI Joe: Resolute and fanboys creamed their panties over that.
Destro is played perfectly, with an always about business approach. He’s not planning to take over the world, just get everyone’s money. Cobra Commander although essentially a Darth Vader clone in most respects, shows some true Cobra Commander traits as he’s scheming the whole movie.
Nothing about this movie is like any other version of GI Joe prior. However that doesn’t make it any less GI Joe in tone. Huge scale battles? All over the place. Intense one on one battles? You got it. This movie feels a lot like a 2 hour version of the old GI Joe cartoon (Again with 95% of the characters changed) but the movie feels like GI Joe. Tons of vehicles, acronyms, amazing technology.
If there are any major flaws with the movie it’d be the Baroness subplot. While most the changes to characters are minor, they really ruin Baroness in the second half of the film. She’s pretty awesome in the first half though. There is a bit too much action and it’s far from a perfect film.
Still it’s enjoyable and they worked in just about every toy that’s currently out for sale right now. Some will cry and complain about that, but if you don’t realize that’s what GI JOE HAS ALWAYS BEEN ABOUT. Seriously, Knowing is half the battle and the other half is selling toys. Watch an old episode of GI Joe. It was never about great storytelling, it was about showing off vehicles and weapons and blowing stuff up to make you buy the toys.
Some random observations: I loved that they worked in every Joe catch phrase, from Kung-Fu Grip to Knowing is Half the Battle. I also loved that Breaker did his bubble gum bit. It’s jammed full of tiny nods to true Joe fans. How awesome was it seeing the Flagg? I feel dirty, but I liked Marlon Wayans! We needed more Destro. They used SHARCs! I need one of those accelerator suits. THIS MOVIE WAS VIOLENT! People were getting gutted, decapitated, blown up, left and right. OMG I can’t believe they did that to Cover Girl! Waaaaaay better deaths than GI Joe Resolute. Yo Joe clearly is no longer their mantra, it’s “Ah Shit!” They must have said that 100 times.
If I would have made the GI Joe movie using this same cast, yes I could have done a better job. Yes I would have changed plenty. A lot of the sort of annoying changes were pointless and didn’t make the story any stronger. We could have done better. But this wasn’t bad. Anyone who says otherwise needs to lighten up. GI Joe has always been about taking the characters and making up your own stories for them and that’s all that Stephen Sommers did.
All in all, GI Joe isn’t a classic. It’s not the kind of movie you’d watch over and over. It’ll never win an Oscar. But it’s a great mindless summer popcorn flick determined to sell toys. Kids are going to eat this up. It made me want to buy many more Joes. It sold me on a bunch of characters. It was VERY pretty. It’s a solid B- from me. Bravo Hasbro. This was way better than Transformers.