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G. I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA
Blu-ray Edition

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Christopher Eccleston, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Byung-hun Lee, Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, Ray Park, Jonathan Pryce, Said Taghmaoui, Channing Tatum, Arnold Vosloo, Marlon Wayans, Dennis Quaid
Director: Stephen Sommers
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.40:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 117 Minutes
Release Date: November 3, 2009

“Standing in front of you are Delta 6 accelerator suits.”

“What’s it accelerate?”

“You.”

Film ***

If someone had told me at the beginning of the summer movie season that G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra was going to be better than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I would’ve responded with my jaw hitting the floor, followed by an urge to punch the person, but then resisting and simply saying, “you’ve gotta be out of your frickin’ mind.” And the comparison is necessary in this case, since both movies are adaptations of the two biggest toy lines in the history of Hasbro.

Well, I saw both movies theatrically and, as shocked as I am to be admitting this, the Joes beat out the Autobots this year in terms of overall quality, even though it never had a chance in hell of beating Transformers 2 at the box office. For me, the end result had a lot to do with expectations, as I was expecting Transformers 2 to be the best of the popcorn summer movies, while just about everyone was expecting G.I. Joe to be a mega disaster, due to the endless bad buzz that had been generated during the movie’s production.

G.I. Joe was a huge part of my childhood just as much as Transformers was. I grew up with the 80s cartoon and enjoyed a monster collection of action figures, so naturally I was hoping for the best. And as it turns out, The Rise of Cobra is about as perfect a G.I. Joe movie as there could possibly be in that it is nothing but brainless, intense, nonstop action-packed fun just like the cartoon was.

Right from the opening scene, this movie gets it across that this movie is all fun and nothing else. Director Stephen Sommers, who helmed The Mummy, proves to have just the right touch when it comes to mindless action, which is exactly what G.I. Joe is all about. Had this movie been made when I was 10 years old, I would’ve hailed it as the greatest movie I ever saw…and while it’s definitely nowhere near a great movie, it definitely entertained me as if I were ten years old again.

I hesitate even bringing up the plot, because it’s both ridiculous and not very important. In the not too distant future, an arms dealer named McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) has designed a weapon known as the nanomites, which are capable of destroying entire cities much like a warhead. McCullen has crafted four nanomites, and has a military unit headed by Duke (Channing Tatum) and Ripcord (Marlon Wayans) transport them to NATO.

However, an enemy force known as Cobra invades the transport and hijacks the weapons case out of their hands, but until after their aircraft unleashes the most brutal assault in the history of brutal assaults. Duke instantly recognizes one of Cobra’s ringleaders, the super sexy Baroness (Sienna Miller) as a woman from his past. Before long, an elite unit pops up out of nowhere to kick some Cobra ass.

Though the enemy gets away, Duke and Ripcord find themselves recruited by General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) to join the super elite unit known as G.I. Joe. Other members of this team include  the always armed Heavy Duty (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje), beautiful but tough redhead Scarlett (Rachel Nichols), the tech-savvy Breaker (Said Taghmaoui) and, most importantly, the silent but awesomely deadly ninja known as Snake Eyes (Ray Park). After passing several field exercises, Duke and Ripcord join the team.

As it turns out, McCullen is working with Cobra and orchestrated the hijacking of the nanomites, and is ready to launch them on a major city somewhere on the globe. In addition to Baroness, Cobra’s team includes master of disguise Zartan (Arnold Vosloo), and Storm Shadow (Byung-hun Lee), a deadly ninja himself who happens to have a personal vendetta against Snake Eyes. And lastly, there is Cobra Commander (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who is overseeing an experiment that, if successful, will lead to Cobra taking over the world!

For me, the highlight of this movie is quite simply one of the best action set pieces I’ve seen this year or any year. It involves Duke and Ripcord suiting up in these armored suits known as Delta 6 Accelerators, which make you run faster and jump higher than humanly possible, and dodge all sorts of missiles. They chase down Cobra through the streets of Paris while running in these suits, and after watching this movie I wanted nothing more in life than to have a Delta 6 suit for myself, though they’d have to cost somewhere in the billions.

And there’s also a climactic battle that takes place underwater. The Joes engage in a full on assault on Cobra’s headquarters under the sea. It might sound ridiculous, but I got a real Star Wars vibe from this attack sequence.

Bottom line, this is escapist fun of the highest order. Do not approach G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra expecting any sort of thought provoking material, because that is simply doesn’t exist here. All that is provided is nonstop action, a few jokes that range from corny to purposefully corny, and basically a movie that any guy like me who grew up with G.I. Joe as a kid will thoroughly appreciate.

BONUS: Look quickly for Brendan Fraser who appears briefly during a training montage.

Video ****

My response to the picture quality on this Paramount Blu-ray release can only be summed up in two words; HOLY CRAP! This is already high on the list of the best video presentations of the year. How great is it? Well, once again, it even manages to rival the awesome quality of Transformers 2. This movie is pure eye candy, and the 1080p does a damn fine job of making sure all of it pops on the screen in super pristine form. The outlandish action looks spectacular, and the over-the-top color and visual effects really shine as well.

Audio ****

My response to the audio quality can only be summed up in three words: HOLY FRICKIN CRAP! Lately, we’ve reviewed some awesome sounding discs, and just when we think we’ve heard the best sounding release of the year, along comes another presentation to make us rethink our final choice. The DTS HD mix pretty much turns your living room into a war zone for the entire 117 minutes. The chase sequence in Paris provides one of the best moments I’ve ever heard on any Blu-ray release. Action, explosions, music score, dialogue delivery all get equal and fantastic treatment on the reference quality release!

Features **1/2

Since this is a 2-Disc release, I was expecting some grand extras on the scale of what we got on the Transformers 2 disc. Not so much the case, this time around. On Disc One, we get a commentary with director Stephen Sommers and producer Bob Duscay.

On Disc Two, there are two featurettes, “The Big Bang Theory: The Making of G.I. Joe” and “Next-Gen Action: The Amazing Visual F/X and Design of G.I. Joe”. Also included is a Digital Copy version.

Summary:

YO JOE indeed! G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is, for my money, a successful transition from the cartoon to the big screen. It’s as brainless as it gets, but it’s entertaining as hell through and through. And on Blu-ray, it’s nothing short of a fantastic experience!

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