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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Genre Action
Year: 2009

At this moment in time, it's sad but true... Stephen Sommers is a poor man's Michael Bay. He directed two fun-filled fantasy adventures in the shadow of Spielberg's Indiana Jones saga with The Mummy and The Mummy Returns and then gave us a whirlwind tour of horror classics with Van Helsing.

What made these adventures epic was the hero, whether it was the clean-cut Brendan Fraser or the dapper Hugh Jackman. However, it doesn't seem that anyone's willing (or able) to fulfill the role of the main protagonist with any gusto in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Can you blame them? Trying to get inside the head of a plastic soldier to find out what makes him tick... could take a while.

After the success of Transformers under Michael Bay's direction, it seemed only natural for another popular '80s toy/cartoon series to be revisited with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. Sommers was given a massive budget, a cast of recognisable up-and-coming stars in Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sienna Miller, and Marlon Wayans with Dennis Quaid and Jonathan Pryce for credibility. The G.I. Joe redux followed suite (or suits) with X-Men, as the majority of the characters got a Star Trek makeover. The Rise of Cobra looked great on-screen and on paper, so where did it all go wrong?

Well, we've already covered the lack of a strong lead and hero, so the second biggest flaw is that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a compost heap for better movies like: Stop-Loss, The Rock, National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets, X2, Guyver, The Mummy, James Bond and Star Wars. There are probably a whole lot more, but these are some of the most obvious rip-offs.

Channing Tatum and Joseph Gordon-Levitt have been lifted off the celluloid from Stop-Loss with an Iraq war scene and relationship replicating this dynamic. The green bio-chemical warheads, military/special ops team, US vs. US and city under threat themes are all threads from Michael Bay's The Rock with a carbon-copy funeral scene. The Parisian car chase and national monument focus are in direct parallel with National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets. The new slipstream suits, super technology and underground team vs. team showdown contrast sharply with X-Men 2 with an emphasis on Wolverine's invincibility and the quest for a super soldier.

The full-body strength/speed armour suits are like having two Guyvers in a similar chase to the mummified pharaohs "miss the bus" scene in The Mummy Returns. The bio-chemical weaponry effects echo the all-consuming evils of The Mummy (never mind Arnold Vosloo and Brendan Fraser's cameos). The villains would make a great cesspool for a Bond film, and the elaborate lairs could be the set for a James Bond movie. Then the most ridiculous scene is a rendition of Skywalker's assault on the Death Star, but get this - underwater.

These parallels aren't a tip of the hat, but an attempt to create an original piece with bigger, better set pieces. To this end, it fails miserably. The familiarity with these other films is disturbing with more movie references than Scary Movie 3. The script is weak with a blender of subplots involving romance and revenge that could have been the subtext for their own movies. The dialogue is stuffy and redundant enough to oil the plot with most of the story being told through the imagery. The characters just seem stupid and have less depth or emotional range than the puppets in Team America.

The CGI is abused in the cluttered action sequences with virtually impossible 360 degree camera pans destroying any suspense of disbelief for the sake of a cool shot. The intermittent flashbacks seem like an add-on to make the characters seem less plastic and are distracting and cheesy. The light comedy is not proportional with the cheese factor, which makes this serious attempt at futuristic military warfare seem utterly ridiculous.

All in all, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is like G-Force for adults... drop the guinea pigs, add in a few up-and-coming talents, make their mouths move, throw in some cool CGI and dumb one-liners and you've got a match. G.I. Joe and G-Force are all about the style and action and if you look any further down the rabbit hole you'll find a hollow vessel waiting to be filled with your money.

The action overload is comparable to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, except G.I. Joe doesn't have the original's quality to fall back on. If you're a die hard G.I. Joe fan, then by all means... see it. If you need an adrenalin boost of action and an escape from reality... or from watching G-Force, see it. Just know that you have been warned. I should have taken Dennis Quaid's secret word of advice when General Hawk uttered: "If any of you decide to leave now, I will not hold it against you". Now I'm not sure which Cobra he was making reference to, but two yawns and five minutes later... I did.

The bottom line: Plastic.

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