Growing up, GI JOE was always my #2 favorite action figure (sometimes lower than that) behind Transformers. I'm not sure how to explain that, except that Transformers were cool giant robots and GI JOEs were just little dudes with tiny weapons that were always getting lost--and half the time the rubber bands holding the JOEs together would break. (Seriously, my brother and I had a whole bag full of dismembered JOES.) Anyway, this pattern repeats itself in that I didn't really like GI JOE: The Rise of COBRA as much as "Transformers" in 2007. Though I did like it better than "Transformers 2" because it's shorter and doesn't have all the dumb gross-out gags and as bad of racist stereotypes.
The movie begins with a prologue showing that the MacCullen clan in Scotland has a long tradition of selling weapons to both sides of a conflict and that one of the clan was the Man in the Iron Mask. James MacCullen keeps the tradition alive by running MARS, which makes 70% of the world's weapons systems. His latest triumph are missiles loaded with tiny robots that devour metal called nanomites.
Transporting a load of nanomites from the factory in a former Soviet republic to a NATO base is the job of Duke, Rip Cord, and a team of NATO troops. Unfortunately the NATO team is ambushed and everyone except Duke (Channing Tatum) and Rip Cord (Marlon Wayans) killed by the Baroness (Sienna Miller), an old flame of Duke's. They're saved by an elite ultra-secret unit known as GI JOE. Like a military Dream Team, GI JOE is made up of the best soldiers from every country. Charter members include British weapons specialist Heavy Duty, Moroccan communications expert Breaker, American intelligence officer Scarlet, and Japanese ninja Snake Eyes. They're lead by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) who invites Duke and Rip Cord to audition for the team.
After the bad guys infiltrate JOE headquarters in the Egyptian desert to steal the warheads, it becomes a chase to get the warheads back before they destroy the world. This leads Duke and the gang to Paris and other places. In the process, Duke finds out what happened to the Baroness and her brother Rex (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) during a mission in Africa four years earlier.
I really wanted to dislike this movie, but I couldn't. It delivers exactly what it promises in pretty much non-stop action. The story is paper-thin and doesn't always make a lot of sense, but only the most uptight critic would expect anything more. Really, when it's made by the guy who did the first two Brendan Fraser "Mummy" movies and "Van Helsing" what can you expect?
Still, there were a couple of things I couldn't ignore. First, Channing Tatum sucks. he mumbles his way through the movie and with as much emotion or charisma as a WWE star. Really, couldn't they have gotten John Cena or one of those guys for the role? Also, why does Snake Eyes have a mouth on his suit? He doesn't talk! Not ever! A mouth on his costume is as superfluous as nipples on the Batsuit.
Also, from a pure JOE fanboy point of view, the Baroness isn't supposed to have a heart of gold. We didn't need an origin story for COBRA Commander or Snake Eyes, though it is kind of fun watching 8 year olds whaling on each other. And JOEs don't have robotic Iron Man suits--that's for Transformers. Though you have to appreciate them working in the "Knowing is Half the Battle" line from the old PSAs after each episode.
But really, if you want a popcorn movie filled with a lot of action, then GI JOE gives you exactly that--and not much more.
And now you know; and knowing is half the battle.
My score: 50/100 (2 stars)Metacritic score: 32/100 (1 star)