Seeing a void left by Mattel, Hasbro introduced a line of toys as the boys' counterpoint to Barbie. G.I. Joe was a military-themed line of dolls, designed to let boys have adventures with them. However, reaction to US involvement in Vietnam resulted in reduced sales of a doll in army fatigues. An attempt to revive Joe as an adventurer with kung-fu grip in the 70s didn't pan out as well as expected, and the toy went back to the drawing board. In 1982, though, Hasbro saw the success that Kenner had with its Star Wars line of action figures and relaunched G.I. Joe as its own line, turning the doll into a secret organization fighting the likes of Cobra, a terrorist organization out to rule the world. The action figures were coupled with an animated series, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.
In 2009, G.I. Joe The Rise of Cobra came out during a summer filled with reboots, remakes, and adaptations. The movie did not fare well critically. Or well at all. The movie showed the fight between the G.I. Joe organization, now a multinational special operations team made up of the best of the best of member nations' military forces, and Cobra, an unknown group headed by weapons magnate James McCullen (played by Christopher Eccleston). The movie started decently enough, giving some background to McCullen and his ancestor who was caught selling weapons to both the English and the french in the 1640s. It then went on to show the current generation of McCullen making a speech to NATO about his new weapon, nanomites – miniature robots that can be programmed to eat just about anything. (Also known as nanites.) The opening action sequence introducing Duke (played by Channing Tatum), Ripcord (played by Marlon Wayans) and the audience to G.I. Joe racheted up the tension, showing Cobra's capabilities and weapon technology far outclassing the US Army's. Only the timely intervention of Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), and Snake Eyes (Ray Park) managed to protect one of the four nanamite warheads, Duke, and Ripcord.
The movie broke down the moment the nanamites were weaponized. Naturally, to weaponize tiny, nanoscopic robots, one takes them to a particle accelerator lab to be spun. (I guess making the nanamites dizzy gets them upset.) The bounds of the suspension of disbelief shattered. The scene may have looked good on screen, but the average person could have thought of something more credible, like reprogramming them or introducing a computer virus. After all, nanamites are robots. Even switching the Good/Evil switch to the Evil setting would have been acceptable. The action sequence following, the chase where the above mentioned Joes go after the Baroness (Sienna Miller), Storm Shadow (Byung-Hun Lee), two disposable Cobra super-soldiers, and the nanamite missiles, carried on the problem. The CGI was noticeable. Sure, the accelerator suits (which, for a super-heroic-style movie weren't too farfetched) required CGI, since no human can run at highway speeds. Scarlett on a motorcycle and most of the traffic also appeared to be CGI animation, adding a disconnect.
From then on, the movie fell into a series of background flashbacks and action sequences that felt… borrowed. The big raid on the Empire'sCobra's Death Star underwater Arctic base by the RebelsJoes in their X-WingsSHARC attack subs felt familiar somehow. Worse, the ending left room, a lot of room, for a sequel.
What happened? At some point, scriptwriters started forgetting what they wrote earlier. The Eiffel Tower, McCullen's first target to show off the power of Cobra, was supposed to be evacuated according to the info Breaker received during the chase. Yet, when the heroes get there, there's nary an official there despite the throngs of tourists still there. Likewise, in Eccleston's first scene, McCullen specifically mentions that the nanamites can be programmed to eat anything, including metal. So why the spinning? Did the writers forget that the nanamites are programmable?
Not everything was a loss. Some of the action sequences and the training montage were well done. Bits of decent in a movie that discovered gravity on a slippery slope. Christopher Eccleston, like Raul Julia, seemed to know what sort of movie he was in and let loose his inner ham. (Mind, the villains seemed to get the better lines in this type of movie.) The Snake Eyes/Storm Shadow subplot held its own; Snake Eyes, for a character with no lines, had a strong presence on-screen. And, surprisingly, the presence of a Wayans brother didn't cause problems.
Still, the movie is, at best, forgettable. The plot was thin, and for a movie that seemed to be trying to set up a series, couldn't hold its own past the opening scenes.
Next time, adaptation is coming…