Wednesday, August 26, 2009

4 Color Cinema: G. I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

My wife and I enjoy going to the movies.  When we were in school together, we used to make the trip to Anderson to hit the Starlight, or make the trek downtown to the Astro Triple.  But as we got older, and costs continued to rise, we started cutting down our trips to the theater, relying more and more on Netflix to catch up on movies.  And now, with our son kicking around, it's hard for us to even get out once or twice a season.  So this summer we decided to split things up -- my wife got to see Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince while I babysat, and in return I got to go see the movie we are talking about today, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

Let me say that I am very happy with the film I chose to make "my" movie for the summer, because as a Joe fan since I was (very) young, I was very satisfied with this big-screen adaption of the venerable Real American Hero crew.

Our story revolves around a new cyber-weapon called nanomites, developed by James McCullen, CEO of Military Arms Research Syndicate (aka MARS), which is being transported to a US military base by an Army convoy.  When the convoy is ambushed by a strangely armed group, sporting insane weaponry and armor, the convoy is decimated and only Maj. Conrad Hauser and Master Sgt. Wallace Weems are left alive.  Into this firefight swoops a highly trained special mission force, who prevent the theft of the nanomites and escort Hauser and Weems back "The Pit," where they meet General Hawk and are introduced to the GI Joe team.

Keep in mind that this summarizes essentially the first twenty minutes or so of the movie, and things only get more breakneck and hectic from there.  Director Stephen Sommers, who is best known for his work on the first two Brandon Fraser Mummy films and the monster mash Van Helsing, seems very well-suited to juggling all the different characters, plotlines, and action sequences.  And there are plenty of characters -- the Joes featured include Scarlett, Snake-Eyes, Breaker, Heavy Duty and Cover Girl, while the Enemy is represented with Destro, The Baroness, Storm Shadow, "the Doctor," and others -- and a nearly non-stop array of action sequences.

Don't be fooled by the TV commercials which only seem to show the absolutely insane chase through the streets of Paris, because this film goes all out with one show-stopping setpiece after another.  By the time the final credits roll began, I thought to myself, 'what the heck can they do to top this?!'  Since a sequel is all but a sure thing, we'll find out sooner or later.

The cast for the most part, sinks their teeth into their roles and bring them admirably to life.  Channing Tatum, who plays Duke, is not the most emotive actor ever, but I think that is kind of the point -- Duke is the top shirt, a professional soldier, and to this end Tatum is very strong.  Sienna Miller may look (as my brother would say) "slammin'" as The Baroness, but she also brings real depth and cruelty to a character who could have been just fetish eye-candy.  Similarly, Christopher Ecclestein takes a role which could have been over-the-top and silly and instead creates a memorable turn as Destro.  Dennis Quaid is darn-near-perfect as General Hawk, and Ray Park as Snake-Eyes is an inspired piece of casting if I ever heard one.  Joseph Gordon Levitt is absolutely inspired as the maniacal Doctor.  Even Marlon Wayans, more known for comedy than action, acquits himself nicely as Ripcord.  Several of Sommers regulars pop up, including Fraser, Arnold Vosloo, and Kevin J. O'Conner, in roles of varying size and importance.

The Rise Of Cobra is not pretending to be anything that it isn't.  This is an unabashedly fun popcorn-muncher of an action movie.  Sitting in a parked, darkened theater with a box of Gobstoppers and a Mountain Dew, this was a perfect way to spend an August afternoon.  As a Joe fan, it was an easy "thumbs up," and now I begin the two fold challenge of 1) waiting for the DVD release and 2) not dropping a few hundred bucks on toys.

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