G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA Blu-ray Review

     December 1, 2009

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The original toy line hit shelves in the early 1960’s, intended to be for boys what the Barbie doll was for girls. And now, G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA has come out, based on a true toy line. It’s fascinating to see how times have changed so much that source material, toys, can inspire a movie, which itself spawns new merchandising like more toys. Is this for men what G.I. Joe is for boys? My full review is after the jump.

We have never faced a threat like this… A team is being assembled… They are the best operatives in the world… When all else fails, we don’t!

snake_eyes_gi_joe_movie_image.jpgWhen weapons manufacturer James McCullen, to evolve eventually into Destro, attempts to steal his own weapons featuring nanomite technology while being transferred by NATO forces, an elite classified group is suited up: G.I. Joe. A military caravan encompasses the NATO transfer, led by military personnel Duke and Ripcord. While en route it’s attacked by the Baroness, her gang and the latest in terrorist aviation only to then be interrupted by the sudden appearance of the good boys and girls: Scarlett, Heavy Duty, Snake Eyes and Breaker. Eventually, because of their familiarity with Baroness’ original identity, Duke and Ripcord are allowed to tag along on a provisional basis with the G.I. Joe’s to retrieve the warheads of nanotechnology as Destro, Baroness, Storm Shadow don’t waste much time in using to try to take over the world.

You’ll know Stephen Sommers from his work on the first two installments of the The Mummy franchise and Van Helsing. He seems to get more and more engulfed with visual effects as he moves from one movie to the next and G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra is not an exception. It’s the visuals that drive C.G.I. Joe in every aspect from how the characters look, how the equipment they operate work, the weapons they fire and even the damage of those very weapons. Just as when designing a toy line and each character figure is thought of individually, so was the deal with this movie. No character seemed to be simply tossed in amongst the rest because everything needed to correlate. There is plenty of bad dialogue that such awesome characters didn’t deserve, though some credit has to go to the story and director for making it all still fun.

G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra movie image (3).jpgThe cast are relatively unknowns to the broad public and you should be able to pick out some actors from past Sommers films, if you’re the kind of person that likes that that is. But with so many characters in the G.I. Joe world, if you were to cast one A-lister, you’d have to cast a bunch more. Besides, truth be told, an A-list may have completely made this movie trash, overshadowing it with seriousness. The actors do a decent job for the most part. There are moments of bad acting, but then there are those too that excel and are highlighted by the character performances and feel of Christopher Eccleston as James McCullen, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Heavy Duty, Sienna Miller as The Baroness and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s voice performance of the The Doctor is quite eerie and maybe one of his best. Besides being awesome for the roles, they looked cool too. Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow are any kid’s favorites but mostly just because they look cool when they fight. That’s this entire movies purpose, to look cool.

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra is only terrible if you take it seriously and maybe aren’t a guy. It is a series of developed, high-tech and exaggerated action sequences and any breaks from adrenaline are very short. It does not waste any time. It’s an elongated mix between cartoon action and live-action actors. The action sequences are intense and long, yet it’s quite enjoyable to follow. There’s so much going on and even with flaws, it’s just thrilling, like something that’s not good for you but still delicious.

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For all the explosions and non-stop movement it’s surprising to see this movie had any story at all. But for the visuals it delivers, the story itself isn’t bad. Admirable is the movie’s attempt to setup the villainous Cobra organization rather than jumpstart into it within the first few minutes of the movie. If anything, this film has quite a few plots going on. You have the introduction to the audience of G.I. Joe, the attempt to dominate the world by a madman and Cobra slowing preparing throughout to emerge in the sequel. G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra gives also a little mythology to add to the story of James McCullen, unneeded but not necessarily unwanted. It actually cleverly fuses various angles into the plot and they all fit together seamlessly. My favorite bit was the use of flashbacks of The Baroness, Duke, Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, and it is in these minor memories and connections that actual characters with emotions and motivations begin to take shape. It did get me invested in the characters themselves to want to pay attention. What likable about the story is that it wasn’t just a stereotypical single chase to stop a rocket. It actually built from things before it and by the end when most movies would stop this one actually went a little further to lead into a sequel. I guess that’ll come next Saturday morning. Rest assured, your kids will love it and it’s basically a big toy for big boys too. You just have to enjoy the ride and not pick at the details.

G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra movie image (10).jpgThe 2-Disc Digital Copy Edition comes with a digital copy of the film for you to put on your iPod or Windows Media device. The package includes the feature film along with some extras including: Commentary by Director Stephen Sommers and Producer Bob Ducsay, The Big Bang Theory: The Making Of G.I. Joe and Next-Gen Action: The Amazing Visual FX and Design of G.I. Joe. The Big Bang Theory, a behind-the-scenes featurette does a great job of summarizing what the production process was like. There’s plenty to see of what happened for the film’s choreography and CGI, which includes a ton of pre-visualization scenes in motion. The Making Of G.I. Joe specifically focuses on the special effects throughout the film, and you’ll see plenty of major sequences being built from their wire-frame computer designs right up to the final products ultimately seen on film. I was a little surprised to see that such a big-budget movie had a relatively small list of special features on the Blu-ray. Maybe some games would have been nice, a comic, a toy line encyclopedia or even some pioneering online extras. You’d think a movie, designed all around high-tech things would capitalize or innovate on the newest home video format. Perhaps Cobra made the Blu-ray. Then again, I have forgotten one little feature that’s started to really emerge this year. That would be the augmented reality where you visit a website, aim your Blu-ray packaging at your webcam and fight as Snake Eyes or Storm Shadow. But the experience expires November 3, 2010. How cruel it is.

So, “Yo Joe,” gear-up to experience, not drama or romantic-comedy, but the action figure genre with G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra, on Blu-ray.

Film Rating: 3/5

Special Features: 3/5

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