G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

We’ve had comic book movies, superhero movies, and video game movies; but G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra is something new. Call it action figure filmmaking, a movie poured straight from the same mold as the ones used to create Hasbro’s legendary toys. A story ripped straight off the back of a G.I. Joe package and plopped down in front of you. The heroes are fully posable, the bad guys are as stiff and contorted as they are evil. You can feel it in every frame of Stephen Sommers’ film. It’s as if were you to remove the clothing from the movie’s characters, you’d see nothing but anatomically incorrect plastic and crudely put together ball and socket joints. I’m not complaining. Sometimes it’s awkward, more often than not it’s ridiculous, yet it’s also a whole lot of fun.

It starts with a couple of soldiers. Duke and Ripcord are their handles, if they have real names I missed them, and they’re not important. They’re hijacked by terrorists with weapons beyond their ability to defeat, and then simultaneously saved by friendly forces with equally badass, over the top weapons. Intrigued they tag along with the new good guys, members of a secret force of specially trained soldiers. They call themselves G.I. Joe.

The terrorists are run by a weapons manufacturer named McCullen and in his lair he has a strange assortment of hired killers, horribly scarred scientists, super-ninjas and of course a brunette bombshell named Anna (but it’s really a lot more fun to call her Baroness). McCullen is out to take over the world or blow it up or something, it really doesn’t matter. Maybe he just thinks that if it’s not Scottish it’s crap. Whatever his reasons, he gets his hands on a super weapon and G.I. Joe is the only force with the firepower to stop him. This is really just an excuse to send our heroes rocketing through a variety of different landscapes in a never ending assortment of specially designed, gleefully utilized vehicles which blow stuff up really good. The good guys have a ninja too, only theirs is cooler because he never talks. They have guns, they have a saucy redhead, they seem to have a lot of fun. The movie quickly becomes a flurry of kung fu fighting and accelerator suits and rocket-submarines and you’ll be too busy simply smiling to notice some of the bad dialogue or the weird way Joseph Gordon-Levitt never seems to move his neck.

If you grew up in the eighties you probably remember the old commercials for G.I. Joe action figures. They pushed those dolls down our throats like they were mana from heaven. Every commercial promised insane action, bravery, and wild shoot-em up spectacle if only you’d convince your parents to buy this useless piece of plastic. Then you got that useless piece of plastic and discovered a reality which never lived up to the dreams fired in your imagination by those commercials and really, the best way to enjoy an action figure was to strap fireworks to its head.

But imagine for a moment if all the grand adventures promised in those commercials actually happened when you tore open your first action figure package. Imagine Duke leaping out of his cardboard container and charging off into a nonsensical adventure full of the kind of cheesy romance only kids can envision and save the day moments no adult could ever believe in. That’s what Stephen Sommers has delivered. His movie is as flawed, imperfect, and utterly fun as the universe of heroic fighters imagined by every kid who ever walked through KB Toys, stared at the shelves, and simply imagined. You’ll either imagine right along with it, or you’ll wander off to the dinosaur aisle and wish for something else. Personally, I’m happy with my action figure. Sure I could have bought an EZ Bake Oven instead, but I consider this money well spent.

Josh Tyler