Friday, 7 August 2009

Film review: GI Joe: The Rise Of The Cobra (***)

Where did they get all those wonderful toys?

Accelerator suits. Nanomite warheads. Laser crossbows. Robot fish. Secret bases under the polar ice cap and the Egyptian desert.

Oh yeah, that's right, they are toys.

After months of terrible press, rumours of edit room battles and studio interference, as well as the recent bickering of the "you-screened-it-for-them-but-not-for-us" variety, GI Joe: The Rise Of The Cobra arrives in cinemas and you know what, it's actually not bad. No, I'll go further. It's really rather fun. And noisy. And absurd. And cheesy. But it's so much better and more palatable an experience than Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen. I paid my money and left satisfied. Sometimes it's good to have low expectations.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't a great film. It's not even a particularly good one. What it is, however, is hugely entertaining, a daft, unpretentious, brash blockbuster, full of ridiculous spectacle, loud explosions, and impossible action. Sommers evidently likes blowing things up as much as Michael Bay but doesn't feel the need to beat the audience into submission. The flimsy if passable plot revolves around a crack team of super elite soldiers (the Joes) and their battle against Christopher Eccleston's sneering villain McCullen, throws in some okay gags and a few too many flashbacks, but skips along like a stone on water, never pausing for breathe or logic. And yet for some reason I didn't mind in the way I did with, say, Star Trek. Maybe because they weren't characters I knew or cared about. Sure, I'd played with Action Man as a kid but I know next to nothing about the Hasbro toyline or the GI Joe mythology as laid out in Marvel Comics.

To be honest, I'd been looking forward to this one from the very first trailer despite my aversion to director Stephen Sommers' usual CGI-bloated output. Perhaps it was the presence of Sienna Miller (as the Baroness) and Rachel Nichols (as Scarlett) in tight black leather outfits that helped tip the scale, but it was more than that. The movie tapped into my inner seven-year-old (all those cool toys) and I was swept up in the ludicrous heroics and pre-teen mayhem and would happily watch another one should this be a big enough hit.

That said, the Team America analogies are spot-on, Eccleston's Scottish accent was surprisingly variable, and some of the CGI looked rushed and unfinished.

The ending paves the way for a sequel. And for once that idea doesn't fill me with dread...

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