Theatrical review: G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

The biggest money grab since the gold rush.


Released: Out now
Certificate: 12A
Director: Stephen Sommers
Screenwriter: Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett
Cast: Channing Tatum, Sienna Miller, Ray Park
Distributor: Paramount
Running Time: 118 mins

Every summer there are one or two films that set out from the off to market themselves as brainless actioners, features that have no pretense to intelligence or competence but instead rely on audiences to forgive these assumedly inconsequential aspects of cinema in order to deliver lots of flashing lights and loud noises, accompanied by a gratuitous display of abs and breasts. G.I. Joe is the epitome of this peculiar sub-genre of cinema, one that attempts to bypass all coherency in storytelling or development of character with a series of blistering set pieces designed to wrong-foot the audience and keep their attention on the whiz-bang for its (lengthy) running time.

The story starts with the development of nanotechnology-based weaponry capable of destroying entire cities in the time it takes you to make your way through a bucket of popcorn. After two Special Forces soldiers are assigned to protect it and their convoy comes under attack, they end up joining an elite multinational force named in a very American fashion, and must save the world. That’s pretty much all you need to know about the plot, because aside from a number of highly irritating flashbacks that aim to add some turgidity to the otherwise flaccid characterisation, it’s more or less irrelevant. Director Stephen Sommers wants you to sit back and enjoy the sword fights and rampantly self-indulgent chase scenes that litter the film in five-minute blocks. In this, at least, he shows off his best work during the fights between Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow, where unlike another purely adrenal film this summer, you can actually see who’s fighting who. Unfortunately he’s let down by the decidedly ropey CGI that permeates the entire presentation, and a permanent sense of disbelief that mostly any of the characters could hold their own against a wet paper bag.

G.I. Joe isn’t just a bad film, it’s a bad film with absolutely no intention of ever trying to be good. It’s filled with the kind of one-liners that would make Uwe Boll cringe, and a startling lack of personality which, ironically, was what gave the toy line its popularity in the first place. The appallingly dismal performances from everyone involved serve to hammer the final nail in this film’s grossly opulent coffin. Don’t be suckered into thinking that this is just a mindless distraction from intellectual films, it’s just not very enjoyable, and the cast and crew have no one to blame but themselves for that.

G.I. Joe lacks structure, believability, decent characters, competent actors and the helmsman has clearly abandoned ship. Save yourself a headache and don’t bother with this one.