Having sat through G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I emerged the cinema in a state of minor panic. Reviewing a film is, when all is said and done, a rather rote task: you hope that your smug prejudices do half of the work for you.
Weapons expert James McCullen (Christopher Eccleston), descendant of the Scottish traitor who sold weaponry to both the Scots and the French in 1641, has developed a new form of weaponry powered by ‘nanomites’, which could, once unleashed to their full capacity, destroy an entire city. MARS, the company for which he works, sell four warheads to NATO, which are to be delivered under the care of the US Army; specifically, by our heroes Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans). As they are escorting the warheads, they are ambushed by the Baroness (Sienna Miller) and her mysterious but deadly team of operatives, who nearly manage to seize the warheads for themselves until Duke and Ripcord receive some unexpected last-minute aid from the G.I. Joe team: Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), Snake Eyes (Ray Park) and Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). They reluctantly agree to take the warheads back to the Joes’ base (‘The Pit’) where they are met by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid), the head of the G.I. Joe who, upon discovering that Duke has a past with the elusive Baroness, agrees to give the two friends a shot at joining the elite team and to help uncover what is behind the whole commotion surrounding the warheads.
Two of the film’s largest stumbling blocks are the cheap CGI and cheaper acting. With regards to the latter, not much can be done: how, exactly, does one emote an action figure? Still, some fare better than others, and the fact that they are based on action figures could arguably be even more reason to make an effort. Tatum is completely off: there doesn’t seem to be a single line in the script that he can’t stop himself from inexplicably fracturing and draining of all life. Wayans barely manages to rescue their camaraderie by essentially playing himself, which is good enough in this case, and which also works well when offset with Nichols’ Scarlett, on whom he develops an initially unreciprocated crush. It is Nichols who truly manages to make something out of her character. As the tough as nails, super-genius rationalist, she exudes a genuine charisma that would have been very welcome with the rest of her team mates. The only other female character of note is, of course, Miller’s Baroness (supermodel Karolina Kurkova makes a negligible appearance as Hawk’s assistant). Miller claimed that she took the role because it didn’t involve “having a breakdown, or being addicted to heroin, or dying at the end” and her relish in the role is evident, though not as annoyingly obvious as Eccleston’s, whose cod-Scottish accent makes you hate the megalomaniac for all the wrong reasons. But why are we even discussing the characters? This isn’t a showcase for thespians, nor is it a probing ensemble piece. As a no-brainer actioner, it works. The chase sequence through France, excessive and preposterous as it may be, is paced rather well and is largely comprehensible: which seems to be a luxury these days, what with the CGI-clutter of the Transformers ilk. And the myriad of twists that pile with reckless abandon towards the end point to just one thing: Sommers knows his pulp, and this is a prime example of it.