The Austin Chronicle

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

Rated PG-13, 118 min. Directed by Stephen Sommers. Starring Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Eccleston, Rachel Nichols, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ray Park, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Arnold Vosloo, Saïd Taghmaoui, Byung-hun Lee, Jonathan Pryce.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Aug. 14, 2009

When I was a kid I really wanted a pair of PF Flyers (preferably red). The ads promised I would run faster and jump higher. In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, it appears that the military issues high tech armored suits to their elite squads which also allow the wearers to run faster and jump higher and be generally invulnerable. Unlike the advertising promises of my childhood sneakers, these full-body suits really work, and that’s good, because the elite multinational squad, known as the G.I. Joes, has to do battle with nanomites, the secret weapon that can destroy everything in its path and is dispatched by an evil scientist/entrepreneur (Eccleston) who steals it back from the people he sold it to. (His simmering vendetta has something to do with a 400-year-old Scottish affront.) The G.I. Joes have come a long way from their start as all-American Hasbro action figures. They are now multinational (as is so much of the box office for this type of loud, relatively plotless, CGI-action-dominated picture) and coed (as Scarlett, Nichols’ body-hugging rubber suit is every bit the match for the rubber fetishwear Miller wears as the story’s evil-doing Baroness). Lots of stuff blows up and explodes, some faces are disfigured, but actual blood and death are rarely displayed. The Eiffel Tower topples, and between this film and this summer’s Transformers 2, it seems more than a little evident that Paramount and Hasbro have a grudge against the French. Scorn for the impotency of the U.S. government is also displayed in the casting of Welshman Pryce as the sitting president, whose ineffectuality is underscored in a biting coda. Quaid manages to land a few square-jawed, old-style American platitudes as the commander of the G.I. Joes, and his biceps still look good enough bulging through his army fatigues that it makes you long for his next Far From Heaven. Gordon-Levitt’s interesting film career thus far turns a bit hyperbolic as G.I. Joe’s answer to Darth Vader, but it’s mostly contained to a single outburst. G.I. Joe was not screened for critics, but that’s not because of its mindless action and nonsensical plot. It’s because G.I. Joe is the kind of movie that bludgeons the viewer into submission with its loud and constant barrage of sound and fury. Much like the motto of the military unit it portrays – “When all else fails, we don’t” – G.I. Joe is expert at annihilating all resistance.

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