'G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra' Review

As if the makers of “G.I. Joe” hadn’t mucked up their own publicity enough by immediately politicizing the film with an announcement that all the crass Americanism would be stripped from our favorite action heroes in favor of a more global approach, on Monday director Stephen Sommers decided to polarize audiences even more hectoring we RedStaters not to misinterpret the deep well of subtext put into his creation: “[T]his is not a George Bush movie – it’s an Obama world[.]”

And indeed “G.I. Joe” does remind of an Obama world: It cost too much, doesn’t deliver and we should all get back our cash for this clunker.

While nowhere near as soul-deadening as “Transformers 2” or the latest “Harry Potter,” you still feel like you’re watching someone else play a video game for two hours. The creative imagination spent to produce all-kinds of cool gadgets and weaponry obviously left nothing for plot, character or even a hint of logic. One of the bigger action scenes is a chase through the streets of Paris involving the combined force of a dozen “Joes,” deadly missiles and million-dollar accelerator suits all in pursuit of a Hummer filled with bad guys. Oh sure, there’s sound, fury, car crashes, and explosions galore, but never an explanation for why no one shoots out the Hummer’s tires.

The overall plot’s even dumber. McCullen (Christopher Eccleston), an international weapons manufacturer with a grudge against the French (the film’s only touch of Americanism), has invented a missile that lets loose a gajillion termite-like nano-bots capable of devouring everything they’re exposed to. Even though he’s invented the weapon and has it in his possession, McCullen inexplicably hands it over to the U.S. Military for transport so he can steal it back and have someone else weaponize it. Not only are we expected to buy the idea that an inventor can’t weaponize his own invention, but that an arch-villain with fleets of high-tech submarines and jets at his command would have the weapon driven to its first target in the aforementioned Hummer.

The G.I. Joe squad is run by Hawk (Dennis Quaid), an American General who recruits, trains and makes part of his special-ops team the best and brightest from 23 nations. Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) were part of the military transport ambushed by McCullen and saved by the “Joes.” Hawk’s had his eye on Duke for a while and brings both to his secret facility hidden deep beneath the Egyptian sand. In less time than it takes for, say, a montage set to a remixed pop song and an awkward Brendan Fraser cameo, both men are trained and ready to go.

For an origin story – the rise of Cobra – no one’s motivation makes a lick of sense. Other than revenge against the French (which hardly makes him unsympathetic), McCullen’s endgame is never fully explained and one character’s Darth Vader-ish turn to the darkside comes completely out of nowhere after a look at a real neat-o piece of military hardware.

A number of back stories are told through frequent flashbacks that halt an already lumbering plot to a complete stop. Marginal films have delivered the same information with a line of exposition or a shared look. All of the performances are wooden, there’s no memorable dialogue, and the Will Smith-lite comic relief (yep, Wayans) is more than a little reminiscent of a train wreck called Jar Jar.

There’s no coherent explanation of what the ultimate stakes are and therefore even less suspense or sense of peril. There is a moment at the end that tries to wrap up what it all meant with a big reveal, but by then it’s too late and the promise of a sequel feels like more of a threat.

“G.I. Joe’s” politics are a result of omission, not what’s up on the screen. At first, Paramount Studio’s decision to rip the heart from an American icon and lie about how not doing so would hurt the international box office made me angry. But after sitting through the numbing experience of watching the end-product, I’m now rather grateful. If it wasn’t for resentment I wouldn’t have felt anything.