Written by: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett
Starring: Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Dennis Quaid, Rachel Nichols
You just know Hollywood is starved for content when they look at a property made famous by toys and decide they’ll try to make it a franchise. Hey, things have taken off from less, just look at the successes coming from films inspired by theme park rides. The ceiling is literally the floor and yet with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, they fail to even do the bare minimum in establishing a universe for this to possibly expand in the future.
With a newly released nanotechnology that can eat away any substance purchased by NATO, soldiers, Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) get ambushed while trying to deliver. They get saved by covert operatives with G.I. Joe. As they join this team they learn more about the adversaries called Cobra, as their intentions for this nanotechnology show serious signs of evil.
My intention is not to be flippant about G.I. Joe as property because many folks grew up with it but man this film was always destined to fail. Without having much of a foothold on popular culture with its property, it needed to do plenty of heavy lifting to convince people of its staying power, and unfortunately through some truly horrendous acting and dodgy dialogue it never amounts to anything but loud dreck. This kind of material had the potential for me to even see as a guilty pleasure, but the action within it is subpar and really has nothing to enjoy other than perhaps minimal tension between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow.
This film’s first failure comes with its lack of interesting characters. They attempt to charm us with the good looks of Channing Tatum and the comedic chops of Marlon Wayans but they cannot do much with the horrendous dialogue they have to deliver. However, the double jeopardy came with Tatum’s acting. Early in his career, granted, but it was certainly a struggle for Tatum to get out these lines with any sense of confidence that it became difficult to watch at times. The man has certainly gotten better by leaps and bounds but I’m sure his work here will probably not go in his highlight reel. So now we’re lacking strong protagonists, what about the villains? Perhaps they can save the day.
Well, that does not necessarily work either. The main baddie is a descendant of a man who did evil things and wore a mask, so he must also continue and do bad things because…reasons. Now he leads a syndicate where he creates nanotechnology, sells it to NATO only to try and steal it back just for the sake of money. He then wants to have world domination by inflicting fear in others of the weaponry he has at his disposal. I would not put it past the governments of the world to be in direct business with the very people inflicting their demise. However, the mustache-twirling happening here leaves much to be desired.
The main intrigue comes with the fighting between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, both established as the best fighters within both teams, their face-off comes with emotional background, which gets played out in a fairly lackluster fashion. If the fight scenes show some semblance of excellence then it would all be worth it. Well was it? No, the fight scenes were captured in such a pedestrian manner and there was no payoff to whatever emotional setup they attempted to achieve with the flashbacks held between them. Perhaps they are saving this big emotional climax between them for a future sequel but it mostly feels flat amongst a story with no other strong connections. That also does not include a very dumb reveal that I just could not fathom its stupidity. It’s just quite terrible if I’m being honest.
With nothing of substance to glean on, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra falls down like a complete failure. It does not receive any outright derision from me where I would give it a lower score but most of it just feels like a commercial set up for more movies without taking the time to do an initial strong film to start things up. Sounds familiar in Hollywood’s track record with thinking 15 movies down the line in a potential franchise rather than getting the first one right for starters. Another cautionary tale here.