The original G.I. Joe was a boys’ toy, so why shouldn’t the movie follow suit?
What’s funny about The Rise Of Cobra is how closely it resembles an actual 12-year-old: never standing still, constantly getting into fights, infatuated with gadgets, loud bangs and fantasy girls who know kung fu and dress like hookers.
Stephen Sommers marshals the mayhem with the same hectic enthusiasm as his previous live-action cartoons (The Mummy 1 and 2, Van Helsing).
Laughably, this one’s pitched closer to reality – a notion shot down the second a katana-flashing ninja bungee-jumps out of a moving plane onto the field of battle.
Still, for a modern explode-a-thon the plot’s passably coherent: G.I. Joe is a unit (not a bloke) composed of extra-special operatives whose mission impossible is to take out megalomaniac arms dealer Destro (Christopher Eccleston, slicing the ham thick).
Alas, Sommers and subtlety remain strangers. Whenever he takes a breather from the woodpecker pace, you wish he hadn’t; toes will curl when goodies Scarlett (Rachel Nichols) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) share a would-be tender moment.
Riffing on reams of comic-book/TV ‘toon backstory, efforts are made to flesh out the characters – old grudges, family connections, romantic tangles… But without a zingy script or mounting sense of jeopardy, they remain plastic figures.
Yet when all else fails, the second unit doesn’t. Ironically, the set-piece most reminiscent of Team America – the Paris orgy of destruction – is also the best, breaking out Sommers’ coolest plaything: accelerator suits that turn wearers into a combination of Road Runner, Spider-Man and Jason Statham.
A sneak attack on the Joes’ HQ is also a rush (mega-drills, jet-packs, catfight). Together with a genuinely strange performance from mad doc Joseph Gordon-Levitt – creeping round the set like an old Universal monster – the first-half action banks enough goodwill to let Sommers off the hook for turning his climactic Thunderball tribute into an Xbox demo.
Sommers bucks the bad buzz with a throwaway blast of solid, stupid fun. You laugh at it rather than with it, but a sequel would be worth it just for more of Gordon-Levitt’s one-eyed dramatics.