Faulty, flawed, occasionally fun film. 2.5 Stars

On one hand there’s a disposable popcorn-fun aspect to the experience of watching G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and I can appreciate the ‘throw it all onscreen’ approach taken by Stephen Sommers, but he can be a much better filmmaker that what we get here. After all these years, watching this first big screen attempt at exploring the G.I. Joe world, its flaws are more apparent, but there is still some fun to be had. It isn’t so much that it’s a bad film, it just isn’t a good film, and there’s far too much potential in the property and the cast and crew for that to be acceptable.

This 4K version doesn’t really offer a compelling overall reason to upgrade, so if you are interested or liked the film and never picked up the Blu, it might be worth grabbing a copy.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Released: 07 Aug 2009
Rated: PG-13
Runtime: 118 min
Director: Stephen Sommers
Genre: Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi
Cast: Dennis Quaid, Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans
Writer(s): Stuart Beattie, David Elliot, Paul Lovett
Plot: An elite military unit comprised of special operatives known as G.I. Joe, operating out of The Pit, takes on an evil organization led by a notorious arms dealer.
IMDB rating: 5.8
MetaScore: 32

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution: 2160p HEVC w/HDR
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Other
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Other
Rating: PG-13
Run Time: 1 Hr. 57 Min.
Package Includes: UHD, Blu-ray, Digital Copy
Case Type: Standard 4k with sleeve
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 07/20/2021
MSRP: $19.99

The Production: 2.5/5

“Technically, G.I. Joe does not exist, but if it did, it’d be comprised of the top men and women from the top military units in the world, the alpha dogs. When all else fails, we don’t.”

A small group of NATO soldiers, led by an American, Duke (Channing Tatum), is transporting new nanomite-technology enhanced warheads produced by a wealthy weapons master (Christopher Eccleston). Their convoy is soon attacked by a military-like team, led by The Baroness (Sienna Miller), former fiancée Duke, and they are packing vastly superior firepower. On the brink of defeat, Duke, and the few remaining survivors, are rescued by members of a secret military force, the G.I. Joes, and it begins a whirlwind adventure to combine forces, recover the stolen warheads, and save the world.

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, directed by Stephen Sommers, has good pieces to play with, a decent premise, and deep bench of intellectual property to take advantage of with Hasbro’s G.I. Joe, but where the film runs off the runway is in the total embrace of the preposterous. The film goes hi-tech and so big and bold entirely too quickly, and so by the time the film is angling for its denouement, it is far too disconnected from reality that there’s nothing to hold on to as a viewer. The cast is okay. Channing Tatum as Duke doesn’t really seem to want to be here, Marlon Wayans as Ripcord is written so flimsily and obviously that he doesn’t work as comic relief. Dennis Quaid as a real highlight General Hawk, Jonathan Pryce quite good as the U.S. President, and Eccleston chewing up the scenery can be fun to watch, but no-one else makes much of an impact. The normally terrific Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Heavy Duty is flat, Rachel Nichol’s as Scarlett is dull, Sienna Miller as the Baroness ineffective, and even Lee Byung-hun as Storm Shadow doesn’t make much impact. Arnold Vosloo’s Zartan, Saïd Taghmaoui’s Breaker, Ray Park’s Snake Eyes, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Rex are, in context, quite good. The cartoonish action sucks all the oxygen out of the room and even that action lacks much inventiveness, though there are a few moments that work well (like the chase through the streets of Paris).

Director Stephen Sommers has fallen out of favor in recent years. A collection of underperformers, inklings that may have started as early as the response to The Mummy Returns, but were cemented by the failure of Van Helsing, and the anchor dropped with the relative muted response to this film. After a 5-year pause, Sommers would direct one of his best films, Odd Thomas, but that film went unnoticed by the world (a real shame). I mention Odd Thomas simply because its an indication of where Sommers works at his best, restrained budgets, modest ambition, and closer attention to character and heart, all of which are absent in this film.

On the plus side, The Rise of Cobra has fun with itself all the way through, upping the action ante and embracing a childlike playfulness amongst the PG-13 violence and onslaught of computer-generated imagery. But that playfulness does come with a hefty price. The action sequences, accomplished as they can be at times, consume the film, and the story climbs a mountain of bigger pieces, more outlandish tech, undersea cities created by the nefarious wealthy madman, and it all spirals out of reality into the absurd. Couple that with generic characters with wafer thin characterization and base motives, robs the film of any earned heart or folk we can get behind. That makes the stakes empty by the time the nuclear bombs are threatening the world. The film was followed by a better sequel, but neither really work as a good movie.

Video: 4/5

3D Rating: NA

Framed at 2.40:1, filmed on 35 mm (using a mix of cameras including ARRIFLEX and Panaflex), Paramount’s release of G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, much like the 4K release of the sequel, is a good, but not significant upgrade over the already solid Blu-ray release from a few years ago. Colors are strong and bright, particularly the greens. Flesh tones are natural-to-warm, and the HDR grading (Dolby Vision and HDR10) helps the black levels deepen and the colors pop a little more. This 4K doesn’t really have much extra resolution to offer so the main advantage is from the HDR grading, and that gives the picture just a little more oomph, but not a distinguishing amount.

Audio: 4.5/5

Paramount didn’t upgrade the audio to Atmos and kept the previous DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 from the prior Blu-ray release. It’s good, but since the video doesn’t offer much by way of upgrades, there’s not much by way of compelling reason to upgrade to 4K. There’s healthy rumble from the subwoofer amidst the onslaught of action sequences, the surrounds have quite a bit to offer, again courtesy of the frequency of action spectacle, and Alan Silvestri’s heroic score comes alive nicely. Dialogue, while not enlightening or clever, is clear and focused mostly in the center channel.

Special Features: 2/5

The 4K disc features the audio commentary by Stephen Sommers and Bob Ducsay with the previous special features packaged on the previously released Blu-ray included with this release.

  • Feature Commentary by Director Stephen Sommers and Producer Bob Ducsay
  • The Big Bang Theory: The Making of G.I. Joe
  • Next-Gen Action: The Amazing Visual FX And Design of G.I. Joe

Overall: 3/5

On one hand there’s a disposable popcorn-fun aspect to the experience of watching G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, and I can appreciate the ‘throw it all onscreen’ approach taken by Stephen Sommers, but he can be a much better filmmaker that what we get here. After all these years, watching this first big screen attempt at exploring the G.I. Joe world, its flaws are more apparent, but there is still some fun to be had. It isn’t so much that it’s a bad film, it just isn’t a good film, and there’s far too much potential in the property and the cast and crew for that to be acceptable.

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Published by

Neil Middlemiss

editor

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Blu_rayfan66

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Stephen Sommers 'can be a much better filmmaker than what we get here'...really? Just had a look at his filmography...it's all rubbish if you ask me.