Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Cobra Has Risen

Part of me did not originally have any faith in this movie. G.I.Joe was my favourite childhood toy above Transformers, He-Man and even Lego. Because of this I was very apprehensive about accepting a movie based on this franchise especially in the wake of some pretty good recent adaptations of sacred material like Transformers, Star Trek and Watchmen. Law of averages dictate that we’ll get a dud of something – something which disrespects the source or bears no resemblance to it other than the name – soon enough. Well thankfully there were many sighs of relief that G.I.Joe: Rise Of Cobra is not one of those and it takes its place as a more than adequate adaptation of both an action figure line and a popular comic book [leaving Wolverine as the only true dud this year].

Ideally, with a subtitle like Rise Of Cobra, we could have had the story of a disgruntled Gulf-War vet who through his powers of persuasion as a successful used-car salesman, using the floundering economy as an excuse to win fellow malcontents in the fields of finance, military and politics to form a uniformed KKK/Neo-Nazi-like underground organisation who could build up power both inside the government and the military and become Cobra Commander. But that wouldn’t sell too many action figures to kids, so instead we got a movie that is G.I.Joe vs. Destro with plasma-weapon battles, voice activated aircraft and undersea bases. It’s incredibly silly, but it’s incredible fun and stays true to the very ideals that the franchise was based on.

It’s obvious that both Sommers and his crew had immersed themselves in their source materiel, while the whole plot, character origins and design bear little resemblance to any previous interpretation; there are obvious nods to the action figures, TV show and comic books – and obvious signs that the European incarnation - Action Force - was plundered for some vital aspects including the idea that some of the Joes were of international origin and not just US special operators. There are no doubt people who demand the perfect word-for-word translation and identical characterisation as done with Watchmen, who will be disappointed with Sommers interpretation as they were with Bay’s Transformers. They don’t understand that something with as such sprawling scope and 25 years of history can’t be condensed into one movie maintaining a realistic continuity. Liberties have to be taken and changes have to be made in order to create a credible stand alone adventure.

But it’s not all completely different from G.I.Joe as you know it – the Joes are of course led by General Hawk [Dennis Quaid] who is protective and confident of the abilities of his team. It’s fair to say it’s not Quaid’s juiciest role as he’s only got some expositionary dialog and a few ‘command lines’ like “Good Luck Joes” and “Launch the Sharcs”, but the movie is better for having someone recognisable in the role. Duke is already an experienced operator, played by Channing Tatum who convincingly played a soldier in Stop Loss and repeats his efforts here. Tatum’s Duke is a captain making a bit more realistic sense as opposed to the “real” Duke who remained an NCO despite commanding the unit in the field.

Scarlett is the hot redhead played by Rachel Nichols and she has her trademark [albeit a tad more futuristic] crossbow but I’m stumped why they chose to make her the team’s egghead. Still it’s not as radical a departure as this movie’s Ripcord is. Getting one of the infamous Wayans brothers to play Ripcord was immediately frowned upon and served as a rallying cry for nay-sayers of this movie. But despite having more the personality characteristics of Clutch, Shipwreck or Airtight as opposed to Ripcord, the character works very well in this ensemble although his whole concept of a grunt wanting to fly seems original.

Ray Park is once again denied his voice on screen as he was with Darth Maul as the ever-silent Snake-Eyes, but he makes up for it with his extraordinary acrobatics and swordplay with Byung-hun Lee’s excellent Storm Shadow. Their rivalry has been the stuff of G.I.Joe legend since the beginning and this movie is no different, giving their oft-told origin a new take; suitably explaining how they seem to be so well matched and know each others moves so well.

In these movies, often the bad guys turn out to be the more memorable characters, and although Chris Eccleston delivers a suitably smarmy performance as Destro doing pretty much what you’d expect for the worlds greatest arms manufacturer; it is astonishingly Sienna Miller’s Baroness that steals the whole show as the bespectacled leather clad villainess hands down and without her I’d have dropped a star from this movie altogether.

Hats off to Production Designer Ed Verreaux and the Visual and Special Effects masters who made the whole undersea base and destruction of the Eiffel Tower seem so convincing [man I love to see that thing being destroyed by Hollywood every few years]. Kudos to Maestro Alan Silvestri, who can add his new G.I.Joe theme to his list with Back to the Future, Predator and Delta Force among many others. Deep Rising, The Mummy and Van Helsing [yes I like that] are previous triumphs of Steven Sommers, but it’s this movie that is without a doubt his crowning achievement and will be remembered until the inevitable sequel G.I.Joe: The Mask of Zartan [no I just made that up].
Final Verdict: This isn’t exactly like the G.I.Joe you know, but it’s spirit and ethos is firmly intact. This is hopefully the flagship for a new G.I.Joe vs. Cobra that will propel the legend another 25 years.

Colonel Creedon Rating: ****1/2


Constance said...

Please tell me I am not the only one snickering at the title of this post.

Constance said...

Silence? oh yeah. Like you're so mature, Civilian Overseer!

Constance said...

"Scarlett is the hot redhead played by Rachel Nichols and she has her trademark [albeit a tad more futuristic] crossbow but I’m stumped why they chose to make her the team’s egghead."

In my experience, hot redheads are usually the smart ones. I'm just saying.