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 That is superseded by the more cartoony aspect when that ship lands and the Baroness (Sienna Miller) and a bunch of armored, silver masked antagonists come out and start shooting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. “A lot of action”?

    What do you mean by that? A bunch of bad cgi scenes doesn’t mean good action.

    This movie sucks. That’s a fact. The story is stupid, the acting is terrible, the “action” is bad staged and the cgi looks like a direct-to-dvd film.

    Vic you should admit 3.5 its too much this time. You need to see it again.

  2. 3.5 out of 4 was for Tim “cloverfield” not Vic.

  3. @The Critic

    Ah – I think he misinterpreted my score and thought it was out of 5.


    We’ll see if I feel differently when I see it again, but I enjoyed it for what it was.


  4. Vic, I have been reading your reviews for a while now, and each are spot on, especially G.I. joe. The acting may not be Shakespeare but it I serviceable and it does it’s job as a popcorn flick. Now TF 2, on the other hand, poor acting ( Shia Lewhatever looking constipated for 2 hours is not acting) and micheal bay’s rotating camera gives me a headache, but I liked TF 2 because of Optimis Prime and Megan Fox. Overall, G.I. Joe is a superior film, so don’t let these haters get you down Vic!

  5. I saw this with my younger brothers over the weekend. I was pretty on the fence about it but Vic’s reviews as well as those on a few other sites, convinced me to give it a shot.

    I was mildly surprised by it. Very mildly. When I first left the theater I really thought that it wasn’t that bad, maybe a 7. However, after lunch we re-watched the Incredible Hulk and that put it in perspective. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting this to be anywhere as good as Hulk or Iron Man, but I think some of the other posts have been spot-on when they suggest that this year’s weak summer lineup have skewed our expectations. Just because a movie doesn’t suck, doesn’t neccesarily mean it’s good either. That’s what I felt G.I. Joe was. It didn’t suck, but it honestly wasn’t good.

  6. @Mighty Joe Young

    Hey, I agree. Was it a GREAT film? Not even close. Was it an ENTERTAINING film? I say yes, most definitely.


  7. The last half hour was boring as hell. A complete mess. How can you bash transformers last half hour and then like this one?

    It’s the same thing!! They both suck! It seems you are giving the 3.5 comparing this with transformers and not judging this film by itself.

    Startrek and Wall-e just .5 away of GI JOE? I dont get it.

    So in this scale JCVD and GI JOE deserve the same rating? Ouch.

  8. @JM

    Sometimes I think I’d be better off just doing away with the whole rating system and just leave the reviews to stand on their own. I’ve run into this in the past and the answer is that I don’t rate movies on an absolute scale – I rate them according to their genre and/or what they’re trying to accomplish. I had fun at this movie despite the dumb stuff, apparently like tons of people had fun at Transformers 2 despite the problems with that film.

    As to Star Trek, I was probably a bit harsh on that being a Classic Trek fan, holding it up to a higher standard (like you and Matt did for Harry Potter). :-P

    Sometimes I do feel like I was off by half a star up or down on some reviews when I go back and see a movie again, but such is life. I could watch this one again easily and I’ll be picking up Star Trek on Blu-ray, but Transformers I don’t ever have to watch again.


  9. @Vic

    we already know you don’t like transformers 1 or 2 from your ugly review of it but do you have to bash it every single chance you get? It’s obvious you have something against Michael bay or Megan fox or us fans of the franchise.

  10. Hey is it true that G.I Joe broke John Landis’ “The Blues Brothers” record of destroying the most vehicles?? Just wondering :D

  11. I’m positive I won’t see this “movie” because I’ve made a sacred vow not to watch any “movies” based on: remakes, toys, and/or comic books. I’m so sick of them all. I just wanted to see what you had to say about this one. And I’m glad you didn’t like the Tranformers. The whole time I watched the first movie I felt like I was being punished. God-awful acting, silly scrip, cheese through and through. I know I’m old fashion because I don’t buy into all this hyped out garbage that’s made for the teenage male market. But doesn’t Hollywood realize that mature folks have money too? Hey, I like to see end-of-the-world movies where people die and all that, but can they please have a good story and decent actors?

  12. Totally agree 3.5 out of 5 from me. Sienna Miller was very good and I could look at Rachel Nichols all day long. Movie was fun and this could become a very solid franchise.


  13. No “Critic” it’s not “obvious” I have something against Bay or Fox. I just don’t like those two damned movies. Have you ever heard me say anything against Bay’s other films?

    I freaking hate when people try to put words in my mouth.


  14. The movie was a joke. Between this and wolverine, it’s clear people are ok with violence, including exploding arrows in the eye, grenades launched at people pointblank, as there’s no blood it’s fine. But any overt sexual humor is just plain wrong? Get over it and have the talk with kid already. At least TF didn’t have a fraction of the bodycount of this PG13 flick.

    GI Joes script was terrible and the acting from nearly everyone (save 2 or 3), made megan fox look like Maryl Streep. I seriously can’t believe 3.5. What a joke

  15. GI Joe was AWESOME. And I say that as a ‘chick’. It had a lot of action, the acting left something to be desired, but it wasn’t as bad as say…the left behind series movies (ugh!).

    I wasn’t into GI Joe as a kid and went with my hubby to see it and we both loved it.

  16. @vic

    is it just me or did you originally rate this a 3.5 and now it is a 3, either way your review is absolutely spot on, oscar worthy certainly not, but everything that a popcorn flick should be, and what transformers 2 should have been.

  17. YO JOE! This movie was FANTASTIC.

  18. What I liked best about it was the cleverness factor; Cobra’s leadership and its plots were just brilliant about the things they did which will obviously lead to a sequel. I wondered if the director had directed the Mummy due to the large Mummy alumni presence, but I loved the Mummy, so I enjoyed that. Other good things were the fight scenes, even beyond the obligatory Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow ones; a certain fight in the Pitt comes to mind. Baroness was good, Destro was good, the “Doctor” was an annoying let down after a little while. A movie to define Western Civilization as we know it? No. A movie that is enjoyable? Yes.

  19. The only weak factor I took away from the film was Channing as Duke. I think there are many more powerful evocative actors in Hollywood that would have hit the mark for Duke. Channing seems just – asleep in front of the camera, doesn’t he?

  20. whoever liked this movie is easily entertained and has no place being a movie critic/reviewer.

  21. @ joel… You were supposed to review the movie, not the comments. That is hardly fair not leaving your review and lashing out at the reviewers. At least validate your remarks.

  22. My God, this “movie” was just completely awful from start to finish.

  23. Not a bad movie, better adaptation than the Transformers films. Those are absolutely the stupidest piles to hit the big screen. My only real concern is if it is left at a single movie and not a trilogy it will be considered a total waste to me. It has the makings of a decent series, nothing super amazing, but good enough for me to want to watch more.

    I think you rated it fairly. On the Megan Fox, she is a horrible actress, and that whole movie stunk. All M.B. had to do was make the constructicons actually transform to form devastator and it may have been enough, instead he looked like some stupid monkey-insectoid creature. Not to mention since when do humans hurt robots? I can not think of ONE television series for transformers that has that happen(headmasters doesn’t count..)

  24. If transformers is such crap why does every movie get compared to it. Talk about the movie at hand unless you’re a closet transfan.

  25. I’m so glad you liked this movie. I loved it too! I mean of course it’s not Oscar material… but what do you expect? You just go in there to have a fun time at the theater and that’s what you come out with. Any news on a sequel? The end kind of left me hanging… I won’t spoil it.

  26. This movie was a steaming turd, and I’m sure with the benefit of hindsight you now realize that.