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Should I Watch..? G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

Updated on August 8, 2017
Poster for "G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra"
Poster for "G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra" | Source

What's the big deal?

G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra is an action sci-fi film released in 2009 and is based on the popular G.I. Joe series of toys produced by Hasbro. It features a large ensemble cast and focuses on two US soldiers who are recruited by G.I. Joe to help retrieve stolen weapons of mass destruction from the villainous COBRA. A number of characters from the toy and comic book series are portrayed here and the film became a surprise hit upon release, despite some strong critical reaction. Nevertheless, the film generated enough interest that a sequel, G.I. Joe: Retaliation (1), was released in 2013 but it remains unclear at this point what the future of the franchise is.

Consigned into Benjamin Cox's Hall Of Shame


1 star for G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra

What's it about?

Sometime in the near future, weapons manufacturer James McCullen develops a nanotech-based missile system which is capable of destroying cities in a matter of minutes. He sells four weapons to NATO but the convoy transporting the missiles is attacked by unknown forces led by The Baroness. The sole survivors, two American soldiers called Duke and Ripcord, are rescued by G.I. Joe and the missiles are taken to The Pit - a top-secret military compound based in Egypt. After claiming that the Baroness is his former girlfriend Ana, Duke finds himself recruited into G.I. Joe along with Ripcord and they immediately set out to discover what exactly she's up to.

But they have bigger problems than they realise. The Baroness is working with both McCullen and a mysterious figure known as The Doctor. Together, they are planning on developing nanotech soldiers to send to war as well as launching the missiles into civilian populations. Can Cobra be stopped, will Duke and Ana's past prevent them from completing their missions and what sacrifices must be made in order to save the world?


Main Cast

Channing Tatum
Duke / Conrad Hauser
Marlon Wayans
Ripcord / Wallace Weems
Sienna Miller
The Baroness / Ana Lewis
Christopher Ecclestone
Destro / Laird James McCullen XXIV
Dennis Quaid
General Hawk / Clayton Abernathy
Ray Park
Snake Eyes
Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Cobra Commander / The Doctor
Rachel Nichols
Shana O'Hara / Scarlett
Lee Byung-hun
Thomas Arashikage / Storm Shadow

Technical Info

Stephen Sommers
Stuart Beattie, David Elliot & Paul Lovett
Running Time
118 minutes
Release Date (UK)
7th August, 2009
Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Razzie Awards
Worst Supporting Actress (Miller)
Razzie Award Nominations
Worst Supporting Actor (Wayans), Worst Director, Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, Worst Remake Rif-Off or Sequel
Channing Tatum (left) and Marlon Wayans, trying to supress giggles.
Channing Tatum (left) and Marlon Wayans, trying to supress giggles. | Source

What's to like?

I have no problem with mindless summer blockbusters like this which bombards you with explosions, fight scenes and CG destruction on an epic scale without the need for thinking. Take Speed (2) as an example - nobody is going to deny that it's a ridiculous film but I don't hear anyone complaining about the spectacle or how great an action film it is. G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra knows its target audience is only going to watch it for the action and seeing as the film is a constant stream of noisy, energetic and baffling action scenes then I suspect they'll appreciate the film for what it is.

Obviously, fans of the toys and comic books will also get considerably more out of this. The film throws many characters at the screen with little to explain who they are, why they are there and why they already have silly names like Ripcord. I confess that I was completely clueless as to the various characters but like I say, the movie knows that the people who watch this are likely to already be familiar with them. A Game Of Thrones movie isn't going to waste time explaining the back-story because viewers should already know it.

Fun Facts

  • Tatum originally wanted no part in the film because he felt it glorified war. He was contractually obliged by Paramount to appear although working with his friend Joseph Gordon-Levitt helped to persuade him.
  • According to Miller, the film was responsible for the destruction of 112 cars during production which was claimed to be a record. The current record holder is Transformers: Dark Of The Moon (3) which destroyed an astonishing 532!
  • Larry Hama, the creator of the comic series Action Force, was hired as a consultant on production after a leaked script angered many fans. He also has a cameo in the NATO briefing room as a general but is only visible in wide shots.

What's not to like?

From the perspective of someone with no prior exposure to G.I. Joe, the film is an absolute mess filled with sequences that make no sense, dialogue which sounds like it was written on the walls of a padded cell and performances that begger belief from experienced actors like Quaid, Ecclestone and Gordon-Levitt. At times, this movie is down-right comical - almost to the point where it feels like a serious attempt at Team America: World Police (4) but without the satire. Tatum and Wayans have zero chemistry and Tatum is too inexperienced at this point to lead a film, even one as dumb as this.

Even with the sort of low expectations I already had, G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra was a staggering disappointment. I honestly tried to watch it with an open mind, ready for a mindless bit of fun. But it was just too much and instead, I became distracted and aghast at the lunacy on screen. The editing is so furious that during any action sequence, I had no idea of who was shooting at who or even which side any given character was on. At least the two ninjas have the decency to dress in opposing colours, which makes it easier.

Unless you're familiar with the characters, you won't have a clue who is supposed to be who
Unless you're familiar with the characters, you won't have a clue who is supposed to be who | Source

Should I watch it?

Unless you're a die-hard G.I. Joe fan, my advice is to avoid this film like an unnecessary prostrate exam. It's stupid, uninteresting, incoherent, poorly performed and woefully directed. It's a relentless cavalcade of noise, explosions and unintentional laughs which I simply cannot forgive. Dumb summer action films don't need to be this insulting which this movie definitely feels like. Why they felt the need for a sequel is beyond me.

Great For: G.I. Joe fans, masochists, eight-year-old boys

Not So Great For: adults, action fans, anyone unfamiliar with G.I. Joe, anyone paying to see this tripe

What else should I watch?

So you want an action movie that doesn't treat you like a moronic pre-teen? Almost anything will be better than this garbage - the iconic Die Hard (5) offers thrilling action with real humour and a decent story, The Matrix (6) revolutionised the action genre with its cutting-edge effects and intelligent script (and inspired a host of wannabe rip-offs) while the aforementioned Speed overcomes the ludicrous nature of the plot with tension, fantastic stunt work, Dennis Hopper acting like a legitimate madman and a unusually charismatic performance from Keanu Reeves in the lead. It even has some genuine laughs amid the explosions.

Already seen those? OK, how about The Terminator (7) and its incredible sequel which redefined the action sci-fi genre with another brilliant story and an unforgettable performance from Schwarzenegger? No? Well how about Sylvester Stallone's action film comeback The Expendables 2 (8) which is the best in the series so far and rounds up every action star it can afford and sends them into battle. Still not good enough? How about Steven Seagal's finest hour, Under Siege (9)? Robert Rodriguez's blood-soaked spaghetti western Desperado (10)? Hyperactive Indonesian martial-arts epic The Raid (11)? Honestly, what more do you want from me?


  1. G.I. Joe: Retaliation
  2. Speed
  3. Transformers: Dark Of The Moon
  4. Team America: World Police
  5. Die Hard
  6. The Matrix
  7. The Terminator
  8. The Expendables 2
  9. Under Siege
  10. Desperado
  11. The Raid

© 2015 Benjamin Cox

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