Short Version: G.I. Joe is a summer popcorn action movie done right.
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 That is superseded by the more cartoony aspect when that ship lands and the Baroness (Sienna Miller) and a bunch of armored, silver masked antagonists come out and start shooting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)