The Rise of CobraIf you are like me you rushed home from school every day to watch Duke, Hawk, Scarlet and Snake Eyes do battle against the greatest of enemies: Cobra.  Now nearly twenty years later we are treated to the same team of elite terrorism fighters on the big screen in their first live-action film.   That being said you should keep something in mind: The classic cartoon has its own (loose) continuity, the comic books had their own structure, and earlier this year the web based animated featurette GI Joe Resolute was it’s own interpretation of the franchise.  So, the best way to enjoy this movie is to forget the details of your current knowledge of GI Joe.

The movie opens with a historical perspective on James McCullen as he is fitted with the trademark iron mask of Destro for selling arms to both sides of a war in 1641. That leads directly into the opening sequence and the near future where a present day decedent of McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) is demonstrating his latest military hardware to a group NATO Representatives. The weapon is a nanomite warhead that when released will eat any and all technology in it’s blast radius. Taking notice is General Clayton “Hawk” Abernathy (Dennis Quaid).

The weapon is about to be transported by a pair of soldiers who do not lack in personality: Conrad “Duke” Hauser (Channing Tatum) and Wallace “Ripcord” Weems (Marlon Wayans).   Tatum is passable as Duke and is there more for his looks than his acting abilitly.  However, I have yet to meet an enlisted man on duty with a goatee.  Wayans does quite well as the comic relief.  His timing is very good and he even pulls off the heroics when he has to.  The humor helps break up the action.

Rounding out the good guys are Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) Breaker (Saïd Taghmaoui) and Snake-Eyes (Ray Park).  You may recognize some international actors here and that is because this rendition of GI Joe is an international force for good and not just a group of Real American Heroes. This was done primarily for the international release where GI Joe is known under different names such as Action Force in England.

The Joes spend much of the movie globetrotting after the Baroness (Sienna Miller) and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee) while Destro and his scientific partner (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) mastermind a plot to bring terror to the world.

Where the long time Joe fan will find departure from their beloved characters is in their long-established origin stories.  If this is enough to keep you out of the theatre ask yourself this: how upset were you that Bumblebee was a Camero instead of a VW Bug in Transformers? Okay that is a pretty benign example but let me reiterate: as different as the previous incarnations of GI Joe have been from each other this is just another one of those.

After the set up with Destro describing his new weapon, the movie kicks into high gear and only pauses for any one of Marlon Wayans many Will Smith-esque one-liners.  The pace of the movie is fast, which is just a little too fast to catch all the plot holes which will be discussed by fans on internet chat sites endlessly until the sequel comes around.

But this is not a movie made for plot seekers. The plot is just a reason for lots of action sequences.  These scenes, while exciting, tend to be too full of close up shots and on the big screen can cause eye fatigue as you try to focus on too much up close fast-paced movement. These scenes seriously lack some establishing long shots of the action.  Despite all the violence of these epic battles there is surprisingly little blood; much like The Phantom Menace.  Given all the harsh language, Director Stephen Sommers could have added in some blood to match his PG-13 rating. But the Parisian chase scene, while a little too sci-fi-ish for some fans, is a great action packed car chase and works much better on the big screen than it’s youtube leak.

But there is good news.  The one thing that absolutely must be in any big-budget GI Joe production: Snake Eyes vs Stormshadow. These ninja battles happen frequently and are great martial arts fight scenes.

To make comparisons to the other big action-packed blockbuster produced by Hasbro this summer: GI Joe provides more entertainment value than Transformers 2. It is faster paced and does not drag on thirty minutes too long.  At just under two hours GI Joe is the right length for a movie of this nature, and you don’t even need to sit through the credits for a bonus scene.

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