One of the most vivid memories of my childhood is how, every other Saturday morning, my little brother and I spent hours playing with our G.I. Joe action figures, turning the living room into a war zone and making up epic tales of good versus evil. We also watched the cartoon, and I remember having a few issues of the comic books lying around the house. I even had a friend whose nickname was Duke!
So basically, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” brought back some fun memories to me, especially since director Stephen Sommers had the good sense of being true to the source material, no matter how silly the results. Instead of trying to ground it into a more realistic setting, he just jumps right into this world of colourful heroes and villains fighting it out around the world with all kinds of crazy technology. Sure, there’s some pseudo-scientific exposition that’s supposed to explain how all the gizmos work, but it’s pretty much just babbling nonsense and all the hi-tech weapons and vehicles look like toys anyway, fittingly enough.
I was particularly tickled by the two ridiculously huge secret bases: G.I. Joe’s, which is buried into the Egyptian desert, and Cobra’s, which is built deep underwater, somewhere around the Arctic. And of course, each base is packed with guys working out and practice shooting, which made me think of that classic Wayne Campbell line: “I just always wanted to open a door to a bunch of guys who are getting trained like in James Bond movies.”
There’s some kind of plot in there, which has young U.S. soldier Duke (Channing Tatum) and funny-black-guy sidekick Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) joining General Hawk (Dennis Quaid)’s covert special forces unit in order to retrieve some extremely powerful warheads that were stolen by the Baroness (Sienna Miller), who works for a terrorist organisation led by the international arms dealer who’ll eventually become the iron-faced Destro (Christopher Eccleston). And then there are these two ninjas (Ray Park and Byung-hun Lee) who’ve been fighting each other to the death since they were little kids, Arnold Vosloo being his usual creepy self, this totally hot redhead played by Rachel Nichols, a disfigured mad scientist who we’re not supposed to be able to tell is Joseph Gordon-Levitt…
There’s a bunch of silly drama and flashbacks connecting all these people together, but it’s really all about them punching, kicking, cutting, shooting and eventually killing each other (maybe). The action scenes are loud, fast and explosive, if not particularly well staged, but at times, like during the insane chase through Paris, the mayhem gets so over the top that it’s hard not to have a big grin on your face.
The big FX-filled Hollywood blockbusters haven’t been very good this summer, and neither is “G.I. Joe”, but it’s at least better than “Wolverine” and “Transformers 2”, if only for the giddy, childlike enthusiasm displayed by Sommers.