G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a summer, popcorn film better than its promotional materials would lead the viewer to believe. Compared to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the film has far better dialog (and less unnecessary segments), the fight sense are more violent (not the CGI mess found in Van Helsing), and it has better written characters.
When it comes to popcorn, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a resident of that chewy genre, imbued with surface real world seriousness in the wake of The Bat and his Dark Knight escapades. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is not a film meant to be taken serious, at least not this incarnation, though you will find one unexpectedly good performance. That character, The Doctor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), and his performance could be transferred and housed in a realistic war, terrorist film with the G.I. Joe moniker attached like John McClane was spliced into the Simon Says script, resulting in Die Hard with a Vengeance. From his first moments on screen, The Doctor is one of the most intriguing characters to look at and to listen to. He is not fake smart, you believe in his intelligence because of the way he is portrayed by Gordon-Levitt and how he speaks. The viewer wants to know what happened to his face and why he wears the breath mask. These conundrums are answered through satisfactory methods during G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which can not be said about other aspects of the film. James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) is the normal bad guy the viewer has seen a thousand times before, Zartan (Arnold Vosloo) is as well but it is evident that Vosloo is having fun playing him as he reads “American Governors, Senators, Politicians” and other analogous books for some reason.
The only characters, keeping the aforementioned in mind, give any semblance of development are Shana M. O’Hara / Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), who graduated from college at twelve years old. The only explanation for someone so vastly intelligent putting themselves in a combat situation, unlike the conscripted soldiers of the United Nations Exploratory Force (UNEF) found in Forever War, is that she wanted a physical challenge now that all mental ones had been satiated. If this is the case, one wonders if she petitioned for S.E.A.L. or Special Forces’ training since the rigors of these military units are so demanding women are currently not allowed undergo them. That would have been a true physical and G.I. Jane like challenge for her. If she had successfully completed either training program, The Baroness (Sienna Miller) would have had her hands full and then some during their physical altercation.
Scarlett, in what amounts to the pinnacle female form ogle scene (in a tank top on a treadmill) in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, reads The Aufbau Principle, formulated by Danish physicist Neils Bohr and Austrian theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli. The Principle is used to determine the electron configuration of an atom, molecule or ion and was an early application of quantum mechanics to the properties of electrons. Because of Scarlett’s supposed intelligence, the book is appropriate and would be child’s play to her like Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant was to pretend moron Lorelei Ambrosia in Superman III. Scarlett is reading The Aufbau Principle to give a foundation to her emotionless, analytical reply to Ripcord (Marlon Wayans)’s amorous advances towards her yet many will just think its a “smart” book being read by a smart girl.
Everybody else and their relationships to each in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra are inconsequential except for the one between Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Thomas Arashikage / Storm Shadow (Lee Byung-hun). Their flashbacks, along with the others throughout G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, could have used some fine tuning, like many aspects of the film, but they served their purpose.
Speaking of fine tuning, the CGI erected vehicles in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra were wholly unnecessary since real world military equivalents could have been utilized in their stead. Also, the CGI environments in the film were far too ambitious for the special effects budget producers had available to them. Real structures should have been used, like in the original Star Wars trilogy, instead of billion dollar, military fantasy playpens.
Since G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is a fantasy military film, realism goes right on the window but there were three staggering inconsistencies within the G.I. Joe team that may bother the careful observer. The first is that the G.I. Joe team is supposed to have been recruited from the best: “When all else fails, we don’t.” The G.I. Joe team failed in almost everything during the film: they failed to stop property destruction in France, including the Eiffel Tower (off screen fatalities resulted during its collapse), they let their units’ presence become known to the world when they were captured by local French and Washington authorities, and they failed to stop the President of the United States from being murdered and replaced by an impostor. They never even uncover that plot, though it is cleverly hinted at by McCullen and others numerous times during G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra: “and when that happens, they will turn to the most powerful man in the world.”
The second inconsistency in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is that G.I. Joe is incapable of keeping their own base clandestine, a total lack of appropriate internal security measures, and when their base is easily breached, they are barely able to repel the small cadre of McCullen operatives. Multiple G.I. Joe soldiers and security personal get killed during this break in, including General Clayton Abernathy / Hawk (Dennis Quaid)’s aide-de-camp Courtney A. Kreiger / Cover Girl (Karolina Kurkova), and Scarlett gets bludgeoned PG-13 bloody and beaten silly.
The third inconsistency in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is born of the second. Conrad Hauser / Duke (Channing Tatum) gets wounded 4 years in the past and carries that scar to present day yet Scarlett gets bloody and scrapped in one scene, then in the space of two present day scenes, all the scratches and bleed marks are not only completely healed, there is no trace they were ever there. Either Scarlett has an extraordinary amount of white blood cells in her body, is related to the Creed Family, or Fox executives wanted to keep their starlet, I mean Scarlett, unbruised, cleavagey (I am not complaining mind you), and attractive to the masses.
Stephen Sommers’ G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, when is all is said and done, is not the cinematic, concession stand, emergency excretion touted by its visual promotional materials. It is entertaining, it is eye candy (loved the fleeting the Ghost in the Shell moment), and it has one great performance. It is a summer film, a film with a pedigree to only do well during school out months and with a PG-13 rating.