DIR: Stephen Sommers • WRI: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett • PRO Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Bob Ducsay, Stephen Sommers • DOP: Mitchell Amundsen • ED: Bob Ducsay, Jim May • DES: Ed Verreaux • CAST: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans
Perhaps the timing was off. Had the film incarnation of Hasbro’s popular G.I. Joe cartoon series/action figures emerged during the dying years of George W. Bush’s presidency, perhaps there would have been a perverse irony to G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra – an American-led outfit fighting terrorism and evil around the world. Indeed, despite the ample room for some tongue-in-cheek politics this ostensible kids’ movie holds, Stephen Sommers (The Mummy,Van Helsing) and his writing team have opted for a hodge-podge collection of strange casting choices, poor CGI and, surprisingly for a film based on a children’s cartoon, an overly-complicated plot. The young viewers I heard in the theatre were at times impressed, but not all that often.
From the start, Sommers is keen to emphasise that the G.I. Joe we encounter, that is the elite, secret Army Unit run by General Hawk (Denis Quaid almost phoning in his performance) is an international grouping with members from all around the globe. Thus we are introduced to the likes of French-Moroccan gadget expert, Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui) and buff cockney Heavy Duty (played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). Both, it goes without saying, sport ridiculous, overblown accents. They, however, are the lucky ones in a feature that preys on poor choices. Christopher Eccleston, playing McCullen, the evil Scottish arms dealer of the piece, is underused and crucially miscast as a villain who appears largely bored and uninterested. Indeed, the rather farcical linking of his role with the film’s opening scene, where we are shown the torturing of a treacherous arms dealer (McCullen’s ancestor it turns out) in 17th century France is as incongruous as Brendan Fraser’s one-minute appearance as an army instructor. Channing Tatum (Step Up, Stop-Loss) as the film’s lead Duke, no doubt looks the part of an all-American US marine, but on this showing Tatum may soon end up being the actor’s equivalent of Katie Holmes: a pretty face, two facial expressions and little else. Indeed, Jonathan Pryce (Tomorrow Never Dies, Pirates of the Caribbean) is the strangest casting decision of all – he plays the US President, with a noticeable English accent in tow.
Acting skills, however, are not what viewers, or parents of viewers for that matter, of G.I. Joe … are paying out for. Yet when it comes to explosions and impressive gadgetry, whilst there are some impressive action sequences, Sommers manages to thoroughly suck the energy out of scenes that should have seemed rudimentary on paper. If ever there was a time that Jerry Bruckheimer was needed, this is it. Not even the collapsing of the Eiffel Tower can make up for consistently shoddy CGI and altogether dull fighting sequences. It probably doesn’t help that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is littered with flashbacks that not only slow the action, but are often completely needless and forced upon the viewer. Did Sommers forget his intended audience was teenage boys? It appears so.
What should have been a relatively simple outing in a possible franchise turns into an ill-fitting, altogether strangely structured film that will neither overawe kids nor entertain parents. G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra is an average action movie with a cast largely running on autopilot. When Marlon Wayans (as Duke’s best friend ‘Ripcord’) is your only comic relief, you know things are bad. Will there be a sequel? The ending certainly implies it. Let’s hope it goes straight to DVD.
(See biog here)