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GI Joe: The Rise of COBRA
Tonight's Feature Presentation


Starring: Channing Tatum, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rachel Nichols, Sienna Miller

Written By: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett Directed By: Stephen Sommers

The Short Version

The action goes as far as possible while still staying PG-13, and doesn’t assault the eyes.

There’s always eye candy, even when things aren’t going “boom.”

Little details make it all the better.

This is easily one of my favorite action movies of the 2000s.

Forget the naysayers; GI Joe: The Rise of COBRA is fun!

The Long Version

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Breaded, bite-sized balls of Monterey Jack and Jalapeno Pepper heated up to snacking perfection.

Pairs Well With...


The Joes went international; so can the beer.  Good beer that’s not too heavy and has universal appeal.

“If you’re going to shoot at something, kill it.  Otherwise, take up knitting.”

Remember why you watch these movies in the first place? You know, the action flicks that aspire to no Oscar that doesn't involve sound or visual effects?

Oh, right: fun! Well, folks, here ya go.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA is easily one of my favorite action movies of the 2000s.  I admit being uncertain when I walked into the theatre; after all, Transformers had been something of a letdown.  This movie, though, blew me away, and continues to do so every time I watch it.

It’s got everything.  Let’s start with the action that even the naysayers can’t ignore.    Whatever you want, G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA has it.  Combat in the air?  Check, including a nod to one of the best movies of the Cold War era (Firefox) in the process.  Gun battles on the ground?  Check.  Car and foot chases?  How about an exciting romp through the streets of Paris that combines the best of both, plus a motorcycle?  Sea battles?  Check, and if you follow some of the choreography, you’ll see another nod to a classic (the space battle in Return of the Jedi).  Cool weapons?  Oh, hell, yeah.  The concussion pistols and cannons are used to great effect, and Scarlett’s crossbow will be making a lot of action enthusiasts cry out, “I’ve gotta get me one of these!”  Other gadgets?  Check out those suits during the aforementioned footrace.  (Director Stephen Sommers wasn’t kidding when he said he was trying to keep it at least near future plausible, by the way; the US military is actually developing those things.  And the camo cloak?  Professor in Japan.)  Hand to hand fighting?  Oh, there’s plenty.  Whether any of that’s really Rachel Nichols and Sienna Miller or if it’s stunt doubles, I don’t care; their fights look great.  (And the fact that any doubles that may have been used aren’t obvious is a huge point in favor, too.)  And the ninjas?  Ray Park – a man who needs no stunt double to fight – is always a joy to watch on screen, and his work here as Snake Eyes certainly doesn’t disappoint.  And the beat goes on and on and on.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA has about as much action set to about as much intensity as possible while still allowing for a PG-13 rating.  (This is one of the rare movies I can understand that rating being a bar for.)  Even more importantly, though, G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA depicts that action at a pace that the viewer is still able to follow and enjoy, unlike a certain other franchise.  When something goes “boom”, you know who’s doing the shooting.  It’s action that doesn’t actively assault the eyes and ears of the viewer.  I’m not saying that it’s slow – not by any means – but rather, I’m saying that it’s comprehensible, and therefore, enjoyable.  This is a very welcome thing, and not enough big-budget filmmakers these days seem to understand that.

And while we’re talking about the things that go “boom”, this is probably a good time to suggest that if at all possible, you watch G.I. Joe: the Rise of COBRA in full 1080 HD and with a really good sound system.  This is one movie that definitely takes full advantage of the technology.

Not that it’s just the stuff going “boom” that makes that level of AV tech worth using, mind.  Everything about the look of G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA plays at the senses.  The locations and sets are fabulous and wonderfully detailed.  The lighting’s perfect, bringing out details and nuances that didn’t have to be there but which make the movie all that much more of a feast to watch.  Not one visual or auditory detail can be called anything but polished.  And the editing… the editing is simply amazing.  The best example is during the final battle sequence; that’s just top notch work right there.

Of course, all of that’s for nothing without a fun story to frame it around, and here again, G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA delivers.  As action/adventure plots that involve threatening major global chaos and destruction, this one works very well.  Sure, it jumps the occasional shark (as though Blofeld never did?), but those sharks are actually pretty small in number for the type of movie this is.  The steps it takes to flesh out the actual rise of COBRA are very well thought out, and in the end are more satisfying than just having the organization “show up” in full form at the beginning. There are also some nice nods to the history of the “G.I. Joe” name (the attack on Paris, “You’ve got some real lifelike hair and a kung fu grip!”, et.al.), but uninitiated viewers are never left feeling like they missed out on something, either. 

Director Stephen Sommers also adds his own bits of fun, including an uncredited cameo by his old friend Brendan Fraser as a combat instructor.

But how about that credited cast and the characters they play?

A movie like this is only as good as its villains, and G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA delivers.  Christopher Eccleston (The Others) plays the calculating, professional-in-a-tailored-suit megalomaniac to a just slightly over the top tee, which is the same as saying that he hits a home run.  Similarly, Joseph Gordon-Levitt (Inception) plays his own character – whose final identity I’m sure you can figure out – of the completely insane mad scientist megalomaniac even further over the top, which again is exactly what that character type demands and therefore counts as a home run.  Rarely can these two archetypes exist in the same script, especially not without one totally swallowing up the other, but here, thanks to good writing and excellent acting, that balance plays.

It’s cheap and easy to look at Sienna Miller (Stardust) and Rachel Nichols (Conan the Barbarian) and say that they’re just there to look great in their costumes, but if you stop there, you’re completely missing the boat.  Miller plays the Baroness with style and devilishly contained glee, and Nichols brings a sense of joie de vivre to a character written as the “brains.”  I could actually point to Scarlett and say “I know people like that!”  How often do you get that out of one of these flicks?

There’s also the not-so-small matter of chemistry.  Every member of this ensemble works well together; each person’s performance compliments the rest.  It’s easy to believe that these characters are all part of a team, because the actors themselves act like a team.  At no time does one disbelieve the connections the characters are supposed to have.  With an ensemble this big, that’s extraordinary.

It’s also very much worth noting that when all is said and done, after the final explosion and last shot of the team getting ready to save the world again, G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA feels like a movie that was first and foremost made to entertain an audience.  What it doesn’t feel like is a commercial to sell something else.  Considering that really this is a movie based on classic toys, that was a refreshing surprise to me.  Now of course new toys were made – let’s be real – but the point is that the movie doesn’t feel like its sole or even close to primary purpose is to sell them (unlike a certain cinematic cousin it has).  This is a movie for the adults who remember the old stuff to come to and have fun with, and bring their friends.  It’s also a movie for over the top action fans of all types to have a good time with.  It’s a Bond movie minus Bond.  G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA is just plain entertaining.

Is all of this to say that G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA is perfect?  Of course not.  But, when approached as a fun action movie, it’s actually pretty damn close.  No matter how many times I watch this movie, it never ceases to be a blast.  It’s well paced, the action’s great, the actors play their parts very well, and the effects are dazzling without actively assaulting the viewer in the process.  Seriously, folks, what’s not to like here?

Bottom line, G.I. Joe: The Rise of COBRA is one of my favorite action movies of the 2000s, and is a whole lot of fun even after several viewings.  Forget the naysayers and give it a chance.  If you like action movies to begin with, you won’t be sorry.

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- Reviewed by Ziggy Berkeley, September, 2011

More From The Bar! | BloodRayne | Doomsday | Total Recall | G.I. Joe: Retaliation |

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