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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (PG-13)

If you looked solely at box-office receipts, you’d never know we’re in a recession. Transformers 2 has cracked the all-time top 10, and is poised to cross the 400 million dollar mark in US sales. And the new Harry Potter film made nearly 400 million worldwide in its first five days. So Paramount is hoping the trend will continue with G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. But it’s never a good sign when a Hollywood studio opts not to screen a big movie for critics.

After my last few reviews some have questioned my bona fides when it comes to reviewing such-and-such a genre or topic. Fact: I was a big fan of the ‘80s G.I. Joe TV show, comics, and toys. In fact, I still have my Vamp II battle jeep—with driver Clutch—that my 5-year-old loves to play with. Fact: I love action movies, and a few from the last few years were way above average: The Bourne Ultimatum, Casino Royale, Iron Man, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, for example.

So the plot is simple enough: A Scottish billionaire with a grudge named McCullen convinces the UN to fund high-tech nanomachine weaponry, which he then steals back, inserts in rockets, and aims at world capitals. The answer to this problem is the G.I. Joe team—a top-secret group of the best-of-the-best soldiers from around the world. They have to fight this evil organization that McCullen’s aligned with called COBRA, all while making kids want to buy a ton of Hasbro toys. Sounds like fun, right? Well, it’s not as bad as Transformers 2.

The lead Joe is Duke, played by Channing Tatum, who just so happens to have once had a relationship with one of COBRA’s head baddies, the Baroness (Sienna Miller). She’s married a baron who is also a scientist—I deduced it must be a plan to sneakily get his research for her COBRA pals. But when the times comes to get the technology, the Baroness just blasts into the lab with COBRA soldiers and takes what she wants by gunpoint. So why did she go through all that trouble to marry him, again?! Oh, yes…so she can have the moniker Baroness to match the ‘80s cartoon character.

It falls into the same self-made trap of so many of these types of films: They have to have x character or y vehicle or z plotline in order to keep the fanboys happy. But mashing them all into one movie creates a muddy soup that confuses the average viewer and disappoints the fans.

Marlon Wayans plays Ripcord, a soldier who dreams of being a pilot—someone who can “fly anything” you give him. Well we don’t see a shred of this talent until the end of the movie when he gets in a jet he’s never flown before, races at Mach 5 to catch one rocket, destroys it, and then is able to go catch the second rocket halfway across the world! Oh but wait. The jet is voice-controlled, and teammate Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) guesses that it’s been programmed to understand Gaelic—and guess who conveniently know the Gaelic words for “fire” and “eject!” I was chuckling in my seat. I understand the need to suspend disbelief in these types of movies, but when the plot holes start piling up, it eventually becomes too much to bear.

The ’80s franchise was ahead of its time by including not one, but two ninjas to the story—one evil and one good. They’re back, and the fight scenes—both present day and flashback—are well done. (Though I would LOVE for someone to explain to me why SnakeEyes—who has taken a vow of silence—needs a mouth in his mask. It can’t be for breathing, as that could be accomplished without an actual mouth in the suit.)

The film is chock full of CGI effects, and some are cool looking (the nano-bots eating their way through everything), while others look just terrible (Duke and Ripcord “running” in their super-suits…horrible).

The motivations of the bad guys—and what they’re ultimately trying to accomplish—goes out the window. But there are plenty of betrayals, close calls, explosions, and fights to make you forget the lack of details. It’s a really bad movie that will probably rake in cash hand-over-fist—don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Rated PG-13 for strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout.

Discussion Questions:

  • Have you ever been betrayed by someone? Explain.
  • Did you eventually forgive that person? Why or why not?
  • Should we forgive people even if they don’t apologize or ask for forgiveness? Why or why not?
  • Have you sought revenge for being wronged?
  • Did you feel better afterward?
  • What does the Bible say about revenge? Is that realistic? Explain.

Scott Firestone IV is the associate editor for Group Magazine, online editor for, and a huge fan of music and movies.

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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (PG-13)

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