G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. One of many adaptations fanboys tore to shreds when it first came out. YouTubers everywhere condemned this movie for butchering their childhoods. Film critics weren't very pleased, giving the film a mostly negative critical reception. And yet, I enjoy this movie to this very day.
It's cheesy, over-the-top, and chooses to stay in the realm of the fantastic and unrealistic, but God damn it, it's a hell of a lot of fun. I'm a big fan of the source material and Rise of Cobra was a good film. I know many of you are gonna ask me, "Are you kidding me? This movie sucked!" Well, I'm gonna explain why I enjoy this film.
First, I'm gonna judge this film as an adaptation of the source material, mainly the comics and the cartoon. I liked how the G.I. Joes' base, the Pit, was used. While the location was ever-changing, the Pit was always a well-protected base that was hard to infiltrate and gives you access to several weapons and machines that can help you and your team out.
Even when Cobra infiltrates the Pit, they still have difficulty escaping due to the protection provided by each and every Joe. The Pit is a hidden, underground base because technically, G.I. Joe doesn't exist. Their unit is covert and secretive.
Now, contrary to what you may believe, The Rise of Cobra has this thing Retaliation lacked called character development. All major characters in this film are given a good amount of development. Duke is an army soldier with a troubled past who wants to redeem himself when his past comes back to haunt him. Despite his personal demons and his weaknesses, he will always see each mission through to the best of his abilities regardless.
Ripcord is Duke's best friend who always looks out for him and has his back. He develops a relationship with Scarlett and wants to be an Air Force jet pilot, qualifying when he's on leave. By the end of the movie, he gets his wish.
Scarlett is an intelligent fighter who hates losing, and when she does lose to a fight with the Baroness, she feels as if she doesn't deserve sympathy. This, in fact, leads to a very well-acted, well-written scene with her and Ripcord. When she loses her fight with the Baroness, she feels like a failure because she was brought up from birth to be a fighter and to win, and it takes that fight for her to realize that she can't win all the time no matter how hard she tries. This helps make her identifiable as a character.
Snake Eyes is a dignified assassin who took a vow of silence and swore to avenge the death of his master at the hands of Storm Shadow. Stephen Sommers and the screenwriters actually made Snake Eyes a very complex character, which isn't an easy task considering Snake Eyes is a mute. Other characters like Heavy Duty, Breaker, and General Hawk don't have a lot of development, but they do serve a purpose to the story.
General Hawk recruits Duke and Ripcord, looks out for his team, and provides them with any cover and backup they may need, and even says the infamous G.I. Joe catchphrase: "Knowing is half the battle." Breaker is the team's technological genius who figures out who the true villain is, gets information that the Joes couldn't otherwise retrieve, and manages to find out exactly where Cobra's base is at the end of the movie.
Heavy Duty is the team's ordnance specialist who helps train Duke and Ripcord with Sgt. Stone (Brendan Fraser), issues the weapons, provides cover for the Joes, and leads the assault on the Cobra base at the end, as well as once yelling out the infamous G.I. Joe battle cry: "Yo, Joe!"
Storm Shadow is given a lot of depth and backstory. He regrets killing his master, is incredibly envious of Snake Eyes, and wants to prove that he is the superior. In one scene, he has a flashback and feels genuine remorse for killing his master.
During his epic fight with Snake Eyes at the end of the movie, he even mocks the fact that he killed his master just to get a negative reaction out of Snake Eyes. He's a ruthless master assassin and even though his relationship with Snake Eyes changed, it still made for good drama along the way.
James McCullen, who we come to know as Destro by the end of the movie, has the plan to hijack his own weapons from NATO and launch them at key points throughout the world, so that when the world is in peril, they'll turn to the one with the most power.
The one with the most power is first thought to be McCullen, but at the end, it turns out it was the U.S. President, whom he and Cobra Commander replaced with Zartan, a master of disguise. This is a very well-thought out, incredibly diabolical plan. Even if Destro lost, he'd still have the failsafe of Zartan being the President. I even loved what they did with Cobra Commander by fully fleshing him out and giving him a purpose and an identity.
I didn't particularly care for how they portrayed the Baroness. They got her character right for the most part, but one nitpick I have is her lacking a European accent, which made her much more sexy in the cartoon. Making her Duke's former girlfriend, although giving the story some more depth and conflict, just came off as a tired cliché. These flaws aside, the Baroness wasn't a bad villain, and Sienna Miller did a pretty good job with her performance (not to mention, she looks beyond beautiful in this movie).
The action sequences are more creative than the ones in Retaliation and utilize several locations, such as Paris, Kyrgyzstan, and the Antarctic. The action also incorporates several styles of fighting, including hand-to-hand combat, swordfighting, and gunplay.
The action sequence in Kyrgyzstan serves a purpose by introducing the G.I. Joes and bringing them down a notch. The G.I. Joes are the alpha dogs of fighting. Having their base broken into, as well as failing to prevent the Nanomite warheads from being stolen, makes them all step up their A-game.
The bad-ass chase scene through Paris has Cobra launch a warhead at the Eiffel Tower, destroying and eating it up, as an homage to the first episode of the cartoon, which features Cobra shooting a laser at the Eiffel Tower, causing it to magically disappear.
Finally, we get a giant climax where the Joes lead a full-on assault on Cobra's base in the Antarctic. The action is nothing groundbreaking, but it's still entertaining and incredibly well-shot. My favorite fight scene would have to be Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow's climactic fight at the end. That scene was a fanboy orgasm of epic proportions.
G.I. Joe fans claim that Rise of Cobra feels nothing like the source, whereas Retaliation feels more like the source. Let's ignore the fact that I facepalm epically every time I hear something like this. How exactly does Rise of Cobra not feel like G.I. Joe?
The Eiffel Tower being destroyed, as I pointed out before, was an homage to that scene from the first episode of the show. The Nanomites came from an early issue of the comics. Destro's company MARS (Military Arms Research Syndicate; a reference to the Roman god Mars) is also taken from the comics. The underwater assault on Cobra was in the show and in the comics.
The Joes' base, the Pit, was in the comics. "Knowing is half the battle" and "Yo, Joe!" were in the show and in the comics. The injections given by Cobra Commander to the Neo-Vipers leaves behind a scar in the shape of the old-school Cobra logo that was in the show and in the comics. Most of the characters we loved in the show and the comics are here in this movie. The scar on Duke's face was a reference to the original G.I. Joe doll.
Now, the accelerator suits used by Duke and Ripcord during the Paris chase scene were just stupid. They weren't needed and were only there to sell toys, although marketing to a new generation of G.I. Joe fans isn't really a bad thing. I wish General Hawk could've been used more. How Destro got his mask at the end of the movie was also pretty stupid and unnecessary. So, yeah, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was faithful to the source, so how is it as a movie on its own? Surprisingly pretty good.
The acting is good for the most part. Channing Tatum does a solid job as Duke and has a decent amount of charisma. Plus, we have the obligatory shirtless Channing Tatum moment for teenage girls to wet their panties over, so there's that.
Marlon Wayans as Ripcord surprisingly did not make me cringe. Many people criticized him as being an annoying comic relief. How is he an annoying comic relief? He only has like two or three one-liners, and this is a two-hour-long movie. Wayans found a good balance between witty and bad-ass.
The gorgeous Rachel Nichols was also pretty solid as Scarlett. Nichols has legitimate acting quality to back up her good looks. Sienna Miller, like I said before, was also decent as the Baroness. Dennis Quaid was entertaining as General Hawk, Christopher Eccleston hams it up marvelously as Destro, Joseph Gordon-Levitt was solid as Cobra Commander, and the other actors were also good in their respective roles.
Stephen Sommers does a decent job directing the film. He frames and sets up his shots competently and knows how to get good performances out of his actors. While the dialogue is average at best, the story is actually pretty comprehensible. Alan Silvestri does an excellent job with his musical score.
Mitchell Amundsen impresses with his lush cinematography. He incorporates shaky-cam here and there in the action scenes, but it's never bludgeoning. The action is largely coherent and you're able to understand what's going on. The special effects are a mixed bag. Sometimes, it looked pretty damn good. Other times, it looked really, really cheesy. Was Industrial Light & Magic unavailable?
Overall, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a fun, over-the-top, big-in-scope action film and a very faithful adaptation of the comics and the cartoon. The action sequences are entertaining, the acting was pretty solid, the cinematography was nice, the characters are very well-developed, the musical score is good, and it's well-directed. It's by no means perfect. This is certainly a flawed film, but nevertheless, I will defend this movie until the day I die.