G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Review

Published 6 years ago by , Updated August 19th, 2009 at 4:16 pm,

Short Version: G.I. Joe is a summer popcorn action movie done right.

gi joe reviews G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra Review
Screen Rant reviews G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

I’ll start right off by saying that G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra is what the Transformers franchise should be.

Following months of trailers and clips that frankly, made this movie look like it was going to be awful, imagine my surprise when I actually ended up enjoying it. I don’t recall ever seeing a marketing campaign that so made me NOT want to see a movie that turned out to be decent.

G.I Joe starts out unexpectedly centuries ago with a man named McCullen about to be punished for some heinous crime. He goes on about how his ancestors will avenge him and whatnot and it’s pretty overdramatic – from this scene I wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as the tone of the film.

From there it jumps to “not too far in the future” and we see Christopher Eccleston giving a commanding presentation to the heads of NATO – he’s converted nanotechnology developed to help save lives into a weapon. In missile form it can disintegrate anything it touches within seconds and will keep on devouring everything in its path until it is deactivated. It is a formidable weapon.

A purchase is made and an elite team of soldiers which includes Duke (Channing Tatum) and “Ripcord” (Marlan Wayans) is tasked with delivering four of these small projectiles to some location – of course they never make it there. On the way the first battle/action sequence of the movie takes place and it was pretty impressive. We get our first look at future tech with the ship the bad guys use to attack the convoy.

Up until this point the film actually looks like your standard, straight up action film. That is superseded by the more cartoony aspect when that ship lands and the Baroness (Sienna Miller) and a bunch of armored, silver masked antagonists come out and start shooting up the place with cool beam weapons.

It turns out there is history between Duke and the Baroness, causing the mission to go awry. This event also leads to Duke and Ripcord being taken to G.I. Joe headquarters, invited by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). We see the massive “Joe” headquarters and soon our boys are put through training and become a part of the team. Along the way we meet Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and brainy Scarlett O’Hara (Rachel Nichols).

Of course the bad guys want to acquire the nano-missiles and the plot revolves around their acquisition and the how and why of their use in the goal of (naturally) world domination.

Now we’ve been talking about G.I Joe here for months, and not exactly in a positive light. Frankly the footage shown has made the film look awful in that cheesy “Transformers” kind of way. Well I’m here to tell you that no one is more surprised than me that I actually thought it was pretty good – maybe even more than just pretty good. Don’t get me wrong – it’s good, but summer action movie good, so keep that in mind.

One of the screenwriters, Stuart Beattie co-wrote all three Pirates of the Caribbean movies and 30 Days of Night (how’s that for variety?) and director Stephen Sommers brought us The Mummy, The Mummy Returns and Van Helsing (but don’t hold that one against him).

What was good? Every damned scene with Snake Eyes in it for one thing. Ray Park ROCKED as the mute character (who left me wondering how he could breath with that facemask on). The sword fight scenes were fantastic, and I loved that he wasn’t strict about only using martial arts weapons – he did not hesitate to pull out a gun if he deemed it the most effective weapon of the moment.

My first reaction to the “accelerator suits” in the trailer was an eye-roll, but they turned out to be one of the coolest things in the movie. They were used in a Paris car chase sequence that was awesome and included Scarlett doing some wild motorcycle riding through Paris traffic in addition to Duke and Ripcord tearing through streets chasing the bad guys.

Another thing that was unexpected was the inclusion of “serious” scenes in the film – in particular a flashback to Duke in the Middle East in a war zone and him at a a military funeral afterwards almost seemed like they came out of a dramatic film. Actually the overall tone of the film was that they approached it fairly straight-faced. There wasn’t much of the feeling that director Stephen Sommers was actively trying to make this a movie based on a toy, animated series and comic book – the film took itself fairly seriously, and that worked.

Oh, and there was a little unexpected cameo by an actor who is usually pretty goofy in films, but wasn’t here, and I enjoyed seeing him this way.

Finally, I liked the fact that there was humor in the film, but it was (with one or two exceptions) very deftly done – not like the “yuk yuk” in your face Transformers humor. It was here and there, but didn’t seem inserted just because “hey, we need a big laugh here.” Oh, and there were nods to the original toy ads, mentioning “life like hair” and “kung fu grip.”

What wasn’t so great? Well, not much, really. Despite the movie taking itself seriously overall, there was enough in the film to remind you that it was indeed a summer action flick based on a toy. The Baroness in the arctic circle with a coat open to expose her deep cleavage, “The Doctor” speaking in an over the top, gravelly melodramatic voice and a few other bits like that. I also felt the movie ran a little long and could have been trimmed down by 15 minutes or so.

The movie is rated PG-13 for action violence and a few scenes of burned/deformed faces – but unlike Transformers 2 there was very little foul language or sexual references. If you bring your 10 year old to this, you won’t be squirming in your seat, but you might have them look away at some of the facial stuff. As to the whole “G.I. Joe isn’t American in the movie” issue – it really wasn’t one. The movie opens with regular Army soldiers and a couple of them end up on the team in pivotal roles. Tempest in a teacup is what that turned out to be as far as I’m concerned.

So if you’re looking for a final action movie this summer that you can bring the kids to, I would recommend G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

(Feel free to discuss the movie WITHOUT spoilers below – if you want to talk about it freely WITH spoilers please go to our G.I. Joe spoiler discussion page)

Our Rating:

3 out of 5

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  1. I saw the movie at midnight. The theater was surprisingly empty for a big budget summer opening. For Transformers and Potter, all 18 theaters were booked. Even Bruno had 3 or 4 screens. G.I. Joe was only on 2, and they could have held a lot more people.

    I have to say, I wasn’t as impressed with the movie. I understand where you’re coming from though. After seeing Transformers, it is nice to see a film that is less crude and just does its job instead of meandering. But it was hardly a movie. I think you could remove all dialogue from teh film and it would be roughly the same experience. I can’t remember seeing more action in a movie. It’s constant. The dramatic stuff basically feels like its lifted from Top Gun to me…almost exactly.

    I’m not a hater of summer movies, but I think they can be done better than this. I feel we’re rewarding Joe for being watchable more than being understandable or a good film.

    P.S. I thought Gordon-Levitt was pretty good as The Doctor. It felt very campy, but he was having a good time.

  2. I forgot to add, I think a lot of people seem to think Joe is great, simply because it’s not as bad as they thought it would be because of the previews. I’m not saying you succumbed to that, but it’s something to note. It’s interesting how hype affects our views on a movie.

  3. @JeffreyVC

    Sure, I get what you’re saying – but I still thought it was entertaining enough and for movies like this that’s the angle I take when reviewing. Some of my outlook could be attributed to the the disappointing summer films this year, so this looked good in comparison.

    BTW, do NOT miss District 9 when it comes out next week!!!


  4. @Vic
    I also think that this was a particularly rotten summer for movies. Do you think the writer’s strike ruined this year’s crop of movies?


  6. @JM357

    I don’t believe it was based on political correctness more so than further establishing that times have changed. not sure why u are angry about it anyway.

  7. @ JM357

    Actually, in most incarnations of the story, Scarlett loves SNAKE EYES, not DUKE…and I agree with SIN187UM that the filmers were not being PC; they simply were trying to create a relationship between two characters who allow for the old “opposites attract” dynamic. This didn’t detract from the film for me…I enjoyed the movie quite a bit :)

  8. @Vic

    I wasn’t looking forward to District 9 until I started seeing some updated previews for it. It’s at the top of my list now. Have you seen it? I’ll have to check your archive.

    It has definitely been a disappointing summer season so far. Definitely makes Joe look good by comparison. As I said, I didn’t like it, but I trend toward being okay with it more than loathing like I did Transformers.

  9. Thank you, Vic, for your review. When I first saw the trailer, I wasn’t disappointed like most people here. It is good to know that the movie is as good as I had hoped it would be (knew it wouldn’t be epic). Me and the boys will definitely be seeing this.

  10. And, as usual, I will ask: Should we stay after the final credits roll?

  11. @kahless
    you shouldn’t even see it. It was as corny as transformers even though I liked transformers. The flashbacks were horrible and the one-liners were outright dumb.

  12. I went and saw it with my son and I to was very pleased with the film. It was what a action flick should be…good story, good looking women, stuff blowing up, high tech gadgets everywhere…more stuff blowing up. Go see it.

  13. Ouch Vic, i think this movie is horrible in so many levels.

    The acting is totally ridiculous, even for this kind of movie. The effects look too cartonish and at one point, it looks like a videogame with the disavantage you dont have the controller to turn it off.

    3.5 is too much for this crap.

    Did you notice the incredible amount of flashbacks in the middle of the action?

    Awful movie, vic i think you must reconsider this, seriously.

  14. @Doug

    Good story? You are kidding right?

    Stuff blowing up? Do you mean “pixels blowing up” right?

  15. @Jeffrey VC

    I’ve seen D9 but haven’t reviewed it yet.


    I didn’t stay through the end of the credits, so no idea.

    @The Critic

    Too, too funny – you thought Transformers 2 was better than this? Oy.


  16. @cj

    Because we don’t like when directors insult our intelligence.

  17. @Vic
    what needs to be done right with an action movie like GI Joe? You need an average script at best for it to be enjoyable and the special effects need to be done right. GI Joe had neither. The dialogue was horrible. The CGI was extremely poor for a movie that had so much action. The power suits or whatever they’re called were taken straight out of a video game called Crysis. The jet/plane from terminator. Street scene jumping over missiles from transformers. Pyramids – transformers. They couldn’t even get the characters right and the stories have already been written for decades now and they still couldn’t produce something worthwhile. I wanted to like it but no luck.

  18. I liked it

  19. @The Critic

    And you think Transformers 2 had a decent script??? LMAO! There was NO STORY. There were HUGE plot holes.

    Take away the amazing VFX from that film and you’re left with crap.

    I at least enjoyed G.I. Joe as it was.


  20. I liked it better than Wolverine Origins…I thought it was an excellent popcorn movie.

  21. I liked it as much as I liked Trans 2 they both were pretty good my boys LOVED them I think I’ll buy some hasbro stock LOL the toys should be cool

  22. We were pretty suprised. Good Summer film fair. Much better than Trans. 2. Vic once again nails it with a solid 3.5 out of 4. I mean you cannot take it seriously and the trailers were really mis-leading. GO JOES! Baroness bloody rocked!

  23. 3.5 out of 4 for gi Joe is like saying police academy 5 was 9 out of 10.

    gi Joe is transformers 2 without the great special effects. The fx weren’t even average. To give gi Joe a 3.5 and then bashing transformers says a ton about your ability to not be honest with your reviews. They were essentially the same movie. Just ask hasbro.

  24. I actually didn’t hate it, didn’t much like it either. I think they nailed Destro, Cobra Commander(though he should wear the F-ing hood in the next film), Snake Eyes, Storm Shadow and their backstory, Scarlett and Gen. Hawk. The best character to me was Zartan.
    The wanna be black rapper guy playing Duke was putrid and charmless. If they wanted to go suburban white boy butchering ubonics they could have at least chosen John Cena who has a certain white trash charm. I thought we were behind the whole subtly rascist suburban white boy making a game out of the plight of a certain segment of the poor african americans who don’t grow up with the same privilaged educations, by mimicking their speech patterns.
    The costumes were awful, too much Batman and Robin screaming queen latex nipple suits and Mr. Freeze shiney chromey stuff.
    Story was pretty GI Joe-ish
    If they do another some jingoist patriotism would be welcome.
    so-so, but Duke and the costumes nearly made it unwatchable

  25. WTF is ubonics, and why does the GI Joe post seem to uproot misplaced racial comments.

  26. Just saw it and thought it was pretty good. I’ve been watching movies longer than most of the poster here and I put it in perspective.
    I have to wonder what the haters were expecting. No, It’s not Citizen Kane nor is it Plan 9, It’s a fun summer movie with passible story and decent effects and lots of action.
    Get over yourselves. Relax and enjoy the show.

  27. Actually I gave this 3.5/5.

    And to The Critic – I’m honest with my reviews. Just because you disagree with my opinion doesn’t make me a liar.

    Rotten Tomatoes:

    Transformers 2 20% positive reviews

    G.I. Joe 39% positive reviews

    Granted, not exactly glowing for G.I. Joe, but there must be a lot of “dishonest” reviewers there as well.