25th Mar2013

Rewind: ‘G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Rachel Nichols, Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Christopher Ecclestone | Written by Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett | Directed by Stephen Sommers

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With the eagerly-anticipated (at least by me) sequel set to hit cinemas this Wednesday I thought – as part of our <<REWIND strand – I’d go back and re-watch G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the original live action adaptation of the 80′s cartoon series and long-running action figure line, directed by Stephen Sommers.

Set in the not too distant future, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra opens with Army buddies Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) transporting a deadly nanomite weapon that’s been manufactured by Scottish arms magnate McCullen (Christopher Eccleston). However McCullen, who is also a member of terrorist organisation Cobra, is playing both sides and plans to steal his own device back and unleash the nanomites on an unsuspecting world. In the ensuing battle for the weapon, Duke and Ripcord are rescued by members of G.I. Joe. They’re transported to a facility (The Pit) deep below the Sahara desert, where they are put through their paces before being accepted into General Hawk’s (Dennis Quaid). elite G.I. Joe team. When Cobra members Storm Shadow (South Korean superstar Byung-Hun Lee) and the Baroness (Sienna Miller) successfully mount an assault on the pit and retrieve the nanomite warheads, the G.I. Joe team must track them down before Cobra wreak havoc on the world. What ensues is an action filled sci-fi blockbuster of epic proportions…

There’s some nice touches in the film for the long-standing Joe fans, the script contains numerous quotes from the cartoon and the old TV ads, but where the film differs from the 80′s cartoon is in it’s more adult themes – unlike the cartoon the dead stay dead and they die in vicious ways: head explosions, eyeball stabbings, face melting and more. There’s also some quite gratuitous flesh pedalling on display, for the ladies there’s a buff Channing Tatum pumping iron without a shirt on and for the men… oh… for the men there’s a 10 minute sequence with Rachel Nichols on a treadmill talking to Wayans’ Ripcord – don’t ask me what Ripcord said as I, like everyone else I saw the film with, was too hypnotised by Nichols’ bouncing assets… The fanboy in me really got excited whenever Snake Eyes was in action. Ray Park, although he does not say a word throughout the movie, really shines as Snake and for me his performance was note-perfect. Byun-Hun Lee, as Storm Shadow, was the perfect foil for Park’s Snake Eyes – there final face-to-face was everything I wanted out of a meeting between these two iconic characters, the only thing that could top their fight would be them teaming up as they did in the Marvel comics.

G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra is in some ways everything you’d expect from a summer action blockbuster – explosions, tons of gunfire, high speed car (and motorbike) chases, with more quips and James Bond-esque gadgetry than you can imagine. But, and this is where it gets interesting, G.I.Joe is also a blockbusting futuristic sci-fi adventure, something you wouldn’t grasp the extent of from the trailers alone. Think Star Wars meets Jules Verne and you’ll be on the right track. By setting the film “in the near future” it allows for a whole new angle on the G.I. Joe universe – replete with acceleration suits, nano technology, undersea bases and evil mad scientists. The film is a huge homage to the original Star Wars trilogy – the undersea battle and the attack on the pulse cannon are reflections on the death star trench run in Star Wars, whilst the Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow final battle takes place in a setting eerily similar to the Vader/Luke battle at the end of The Empire Strikes Back. It felt like this was a definite concerted effort at a homage rather than a rip-off of Lucas’ ideas. The ending of Rise of Cobra does set up the forthcoming sequel perfectly. For me it’s definitely a Yo! for Joe.

****½  (4.5/5)

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