G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is an action movie that is a lot of fun if you can get your mind into the place of its intended audience: The twelve-year-old boy who just loves smashing up his toys real good. Or, more correctly, smashing up the rest of the house, because the toys themselves rarely take a hit. Seriously, with all the gunfire, high-speed chases and close-quarters fighting in Rise of Cobra, it seemed to me as if people missed far too often, while everything around them was getting completely destroyed.
Purportedly based on Hasbro’s long-running line of action figures, Rise of Cobra is exactly that: An origin story for the bad guys in the G.I. Joe universe. The Joes, as they are called — a team of the best and brightest soldiers from all over the globe — have already been established prior to the film’s opening. They protect the citizens of the world from bad guys, or something of that nature. They seem to exist solely for the plot of this film, and could easily have been on vacation leave prior to its opening events, in which four “nanomite” missiles are almost stolen by some bad guys.
The army was guarding them, and while they failed in their protection, the Joes managed to secure them. For whatever reason, two army men, Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans), are soon recruited into the Joes. Both the Joes and the villains contain too many people to mention. Essentially, though, they do battle a few times, fighting for these nanomites which apparently have the power to level entire cities.
The mastermind behind this plan is the man who created these weapons using NATO money and then attempted to steal them in order to, I dunno, take over the world, I suppose. The opening scene showed a Scottish clan member getting disgraced, so it’s not unreasonable to think that many centuries later, one member still hasn’t put that past him, right? I don’t really know. It ultimately doesn’t matter, because all we need is a villain who has assembled a team, and also acts as a cover for the real villain, whose name I won’t reveal but won’t be too surprising if you’re even paying the smallest amount of attention.
Luckily for you, attention isn’t really required with a movie like this. It works perfectly well as background noise, as something you look up at every now and then as you do something more important. It’s a fantasy movie for the 12-year-old boy who hasn’t been allowed to play the “violent” video games and has to, instead, stick to action figures. It might be too much to take for most people.
However, if you’re totally into the zany energy of a film like this one, it’s going to be a fun ride. Plot? What plot? Characters who are discernible by more than a funny nickname? Who needs those? Action scenes? We got those. We’ve got plenty of those. That is the single thing that matters in a film like this one, and for the most part, they’re pretty fun. There’s some creativity, some pretty strong special effects, and enough sci-fi gadgets to permit some thing you don’t get to see very often in the movies.
Admittedly, with what little plot there is, Rise of Cobra does a good job of tying all of its elements together. Sure, it’ll seem coincidental, but that kind of comes with the territory, doesn’t it? Everything in this type of universe has to connect to something else, right? When you learn the big reveal at the end, it won’t at all be surprising. It would be a bigger surprise if the villain was just some random guy whom we’d never previously met, wouldn’t it? And that would ruin some of the charm, I’m assuming. Remember that this is a movie primarily aimed at those still buying the G.I. Joe toys.
Primarily targeting this audience isn’t an excuse, nor does it make up for all of the film’s flaws. It won’t please many people, and while you can take it as a pure action film and have some fun with it, its shortcomings — primarily in the script and the acting department — are a touch too big to just overlook.
There are too many characters, to follow, too, and unless you know of them all from the toys or the animated series, you’re going to have a hard time keeping track. There are only a few important ones, while others seem to come and go, only having a purpose if their special talent can come into play; if it can’t, they just sit in the background. Most of the actors phone in their performances, and while you’re not looking for deep acting in a film of this nature, charisma can go a long way, and there are few actors in the film who display that here.
Taken as a pure action film, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a fun movie. It’s paced very well, it has some inventive and creative scenes, and it has enough characters to ensure that the fights are rarely the same. However, if you look past the pure “fun” aspect, you’ll notice a severely lacking script, too many characters to pay attention to or develop, actors who don’t seem to care a whole lot, special effects that are sometimes good and sometimes lacking, and a film that works best as background noise while you do something more important with your life.