Awfully Good: G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Last Updated on August 5, 2021

In case you were considering watching the first G.I. JOE movie before RETALIATION…

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)

Director: Stephen Sommers
Stars: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

A really weird mix of soldiers are the only ones who can stop a really weird mix of bad guys.

In some ways, G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA is the perfect toy adaptation. It’s the movie equivalent of giving a child something to play with and seeing what happens. “Okay, this guy goes here. And this goes BOOM! And this car flies over here. And then the ninja shoots the other ninja! PWEW! PWEW! PWEW!” There’s not really a plot, a story or even characters in this thing—just whatever the hell Stephen Sommers feels like throwing in there, regardless of whether or not it makes sense. Occasionally it’s ridiculous in a fun way, but overall, it’s just dumb beyond legally permissible levels.

Who should replace Arnold in TERMINATOR 5?

I should admit that I never was a huge G.I. Joe fan growing up. (I preferred the vastly superior Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos.) So I don’t particularly take fanboy offense to any changes in canon that Sommers and screenwriter Stuart Beattie made here. I do get offended, however, by lazy scripts built upon narrative convenience. For example, did you know that Duke and The Baroness used to be engaged and his best friend was Ripcord and her brother was Cobra Commander? And they hung out all the time and were BFFs? What about the fact that Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were kids at the same ninja clan and hated each other back then too? There’s this massive story taking place on an international scale and everybody just happens to have gone to the same high school together.

The production could only afford to pay half of Dennis Quaid‘s salary and it showed.

Other stupid things:
-Why does the movie need to have prologue set in medieval France with Destro’s ancestors? Just to show that he has a genetic predisposition to being an asshole and wearing a mask?
– A solid 40 minutes of this film are pointless flashbacks, because apparently that’s the easiest way to build character. When Storm Shadow first fights with Snake Eyes and he says, “Hello, brother!” we can infer that 2) they used to know each other and b) don’t like each other now. We don’t need five flashbacks confirming that. (Though it is fun to see that even in preschool they still called him Storm Shadow.)
– I’ll give you one or two JOE catchphrases like “real American heroes” and “knowing is half the battle.” But a “kung fu grip” reference is crossing the line.

This is what Brendan Fraser looks like when he wakes up in the morning.

As you can surmise, GI JOE is so bad it plays like a comedy starring people who are not funny. Channing Tatum has proven himself recently, but here he’s dead weight as the most uninteresting action hero since ever. Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols exist solely for the sake of form fitting leather and running on a treadmill. (And Marlon Wayans exists just to ogle them.) Dennis Quaid is about as dimensional as his hologram, while his field commander Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Mr. Eko!) gets to test out a poorly chosen southern accent. Heck, even Brendan Fraser shows up for one scene to make weird faces and then disappear forever. The only person that totally gets what movie he’s in is Joseph Gordon-Levitt. His voice and mannerisms are straight out of the cartoon. Too bad they changed his Cobra Commander from this to this:

“Make something that makes Sam Raimi‘s Green Goblin mask seem subtle and natural.”

Since Stephen Sommers clearly gives zero shits about G.I. Joe, it’s most likely he just made this movie as an exercise in technology porn. There’s no other excuse for the overload of gadgets and high-tech f*ckery in every frame of this flick. There are holograms galore, invisible camouflage suits, robot fish, dead person memory sticks, sonic guns and—my favorite—voice-activated jets that only responds to verbal commands in Gaelic. And of course there’s the nanomites, which is scientific speak for “Yippee, we can do whatever the f*ck we want!” The nanomites can eat metal and destroy entire cities, change people’s appearances, turn regular joes in to super soldiers… whatever the script needs them to do. They can also control minds, which is convenient since [SPOILERS!] it turns out The Baroness isn’t really evil—her head is just filled with nanomites! But even the power of nanotechnology is no match for her love for Channing Tatum.

Need your hand pierced? There’s an app for that.

And then there’s the accelerator suits. You may remember a couple months back we featured Sommers’ fun and underrated DEEP RISING. If there are any flashes of that same filmmaker here, it’s with these super suits that give Tatum and Wayans impossible abilities. It’s completely ridiculous and a big eff you to physics, but you can pretty much hear the director giggling off camera during the entire sequence.
I’ll admit it’s fun seeing our heroes literally run through Paris—plowing in to buildings and trains at super speed, destroying cars with a single tap and dodging missiles with ballet-like grace—like watching a live action cartoon. (Just think about how many people died in automobile accidents and collateral damage during this chase.) It’s an undeniably dumb, fun sequence, and the best part of the movie, but it’s still not G.I. Joe

Arnold Vosloo had a bad habit of yelling “Anck-su-Namun!” and creeping up on women.

I wonder how many takes it took for Dennis Quaid to yell “Deploy the sharks!” with a straight face. Also, a good sample of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s cartoony voice.

The loud, dumb and fun accelerator suit chase.

No nudity, but there is this catfight between Sienna Miller and Rachel Nichols.

Okay, maybe this movie isn’t so bad…

Don’t know if you should buy this movie? You’ve already lost half the battle!

Take a shot or drink every time:

  • There’s a flashback to something
  • Someone whistles
  • Someone’s face gets weird
  • The movie looks like a video game cut scene

Double shot if:

  • A car gets damaged (just kidding)

Seen a movie that should be featured on this column? Shoot Jason an email or follow him on Twitter and give him an excuse to drink.


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