For The Love Of Film – G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

For The Love Of Film is a weekly column from film nerd and lover of all movies Justin Proper. Sometimes you need some help to figure out how to enjoy movies, and we are here to help! No longer will you need to fear movie night because your friends have no taste in film. With this column you will be able to love even the worst gems to ever grace the silver screen.


This week’s For The Love Of Film written by What The Film!? writer Dane Sager!

Alright guys, I have a movie for you to think about: 2009’s G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra. How does that make you feel? I remember the first time I saw the trailer, I was cringing. “Another movie based on a toy?” I exclaimed loudly to myself in the theater because apparently I’m that asshole. Not only did the trailer make the movie look really stupid, it made it look almost exactly like the Transformers franchise. I suppose that’s redundant, considering the Transformers movies are basically a parody. Transformers is a satire on how people will watch the dumbest possible thing if there are enough explosions. 

If you haven’t seen Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen, you should know that there is a scene where the human lead dies and goes to robot heaven before coming back to life. The amount I’ve spent bitching about this movie is the reason What The Film!? exists.

Everything that was leading into this movie made it look like another mess like another Transformers. We don’t need another Transformers, although 2012’s Battleship made over three hundred million dollars, so I may be in the minority here.

The day that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra came out, I was out getting Coney Food with my dad and a few friends. Since the small diner was next to the movie theater, we decided to see a movie on a whim. We ultimately decided on G.I. Joe for the same reason my girlfriend bought me an X-Files book she found at a yard sale. Either it would surprise us and be a fun time or we could dissect it and spend hours talking about what it did wrong.

What if I told you that G.I. Joe: The Rise Of Cobra was a good movie? Would you believe me? What if I told you that it was a serious movie filled with allusions to classic literature, dialogue that made you laugh, characters you cared about, and Marlon Wayans was only cast in the movie after the director saw his range in Requiem for a Dream? Does that sound believable? Some of it should, because the only part I was joking about was caring about the characters and that the movie taking itself seriously. Let’s get this out of the way right now, this movie never makes any attempt at pretending it isn’t a silly movie based on action figures. Here’s another secret: and it absolutely works for it.

And Ray Park plays Snake-Eyes, a mute ninja who communicates through his body language. The role he was born to play.

“Dane” you ask out loud, (because I like to assume that some people don’t tweet me because they talk to the computer) “How on Earth could a movie based on an action figure have any literary allusions?”. It’s easy! There are actually several direct and not-so-direct references to 1847 novel The Vicomte of Bragelonne by the French author Alexandre Dumas and countless obvious references to Ian Flemming’s James Bond novels (yes, I’m counting that as classic literature). There are some smaller references to Dumas’ other works such as The Count of Monte Cristo that may be subtle enough that I just assumed they were continuing on with his work.

That sounds too serious, doesn’t it? It isn’t. I promise you. The majority of the references feel like homages to cliches, plays on different genres, and for the most part the three d’Artagnan books have been ingrained into pop culture for almost two hundred years now. The entire movie is so incredibly tongue-in-cheek that it almost feels like a parody of what action movies have slowly evolved into. G.I. Joe knows it’s silly and runs with it and it never feels wrong or out of place. When Dennis Quaid says “-and knowing is half the battle!”, it doesn’t feel forced like how the Terminator franchise struggles to fit in some variation of “I’ll be back” in every movie. It feels natural to the setting and tone and makes you feel at home. While Transformers tries to play its ridiculous premise up as serious, G.I. Joe takes the other end of the spectrum. If there were more toy movies made like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, I wouldn’t cringe every time I see a trailer before a movie. This movie is silly. This movie is just fun.

Also there is a scene where Joseph Gordon Levitt runs inside of a building and it immediately explodes. If you’re telling me that scene wasn’t edited to be hilarious, then I’m probably wrong about this movie. I still like it and am anxious to see the long delayed sequel G.I. Joe: Retaliation.

The guy who made Doctor Who cool again after a sixteen year hiatus plays the bad guy. I’m not even a Doctor Who fan and I think that’s cool

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