2009 | Director: Stephen Sommers (“The Jungle Book,” “Deep Rising”) | Writers: Stuart Beattie (“Collateral,” “Australia”), David Elliot, and Paul Lovett
As the second Hasbro franchise to take flight this summer, “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra” should be at least as good as either of the “Transformers” films; after all, one product concerns itself with the plights of two opposing fighting forces made up of relatable, flesh-and-blood humans, while the other is about alien robots who turn into dump trucks and punch each other. But instead of leveling the toy-based playing field, the unbelievably terrible “Joe” reminds one more of 1994’s miserable “Street Fighter,” which starred Jean-Claude Van Damme as a man trying to commit career suicide by acting in “Street Fighter.” I can say without exaggeration that I’d rather watch that ridiculous film than “Joe,” though it pains me to denounce the remnants of my childhood in such a way.
The movie breaks down like this: Channing “The Worst Actor in the World” Tatum plays Duke, a Special Forces dude who, along with friend Ripcord (Marlon Wayans, “Little Man”), gets caught up in the thick of things when weapons made of neon green nanotechnology are saved from the clutches of the Baroness (renowned strumpet Sienna Miller) by the secretive NATO force G.I. Joe, made up of gunner Heavy-Duty, hot chick Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), electronics expert Breaker, mute ninja Snake Eyes (Ray Park), plenty of killable extras, and led by terse, three-word-phrase-barking General Hawk (Dennis Quaid). Duke’s all, “Sign me up for this secret army, Bro!” and Hawk’s like, “No! Well, OK.”
The Baroness turns out to be working for double-crossing weapons dealer James McCullen, whose second-in-command “The Doctor” (a seriously slumming Joseph Gordon-Levitt) may or may not secretly be planning to become Cobra Commander and double-cross McCullen, aka Destro. Also, fan favorite Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun) is along for the ride so that there can be an evil Asian ninja to fight against Snake Eyes’ good white ninja. Also, The Baroness may have strong enough feelings for former flame Duke to want to double-cross Destro. Also, stuff about the nano-weapons…Cyborg suits…Kissing…Sword-fights…Zzzz…
The acting in “Joe” is circus-grade, and director Stephen Sommers (“Van Helsing”) probably huffed tons of glue while shooting. But they’re currently roping off the biggest part of Movie Heck for the studio execs who greenlit this malfeasance against mankind. Yes, this may very well be an adequate G.I. Joe adaptation for hardcore fans—catchphrases and tips of the hat abound, down to the super-secret under-the-ocean base Cobra calls home—but hardcore fans aren’t the general moviegoing public, so why foist “Joe” upon everyone else? Besides, for every wink to knowing viewers, the film bastardizes two more hallowed characters’ back-stories. Now second-generation G.I. Joe fans will grow up thinking that mortal enemies Duke and Cobra Commander started out as boot camp roommates.
Admittedly, the whole reason “Joe” exists is to sell toys, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for a film this bad. Making something better wouldn’t have been hard, with a vast world and interesting characters created by the franchise’s cartoon series and comic books at the writers’ disposal; though it might have alienated some of the more fervent followers, weren’t the filmmakers duty-bound to create and display the best product they could? That magical G.I. Joe movie, sadly, exists only as a pipe dream, leaving this “Joe” as cold as a corpse, riddled with holes in the shape of dollar signs. As a bit of G.I. Joe media it’s passable kitsch, with names and tone intact, but as a movie it’s artless, dangerously stupid, and an utter disappointment.
Rating: One and a Half of Five Stars