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G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra (2009)
Rated PG13

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Sienna Miller, and Channing Tatum

Rating:
**1/2
out of
*****

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra is yet another movie franchise based on a Hasbro toy line but it improves on this summer's other toy-related blockbuster, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, by telling a coherent story. Other than that, though, it's about as mindless.

G.I. J.O.E. - which is an acronym for Global Integrated Joint Operating Entity - is a multi-national paramilitary group made up of the world's best soldiers. They have an impossibly large base -- known as "The Pit" -- located under the sands of the Sahara Desert from which they can launch any number of aircraft, tanks, spaceships, and, apparently, submarines. (I'm not quite sure how this is accomplished, but we never see any other ports or naval bases being used.) From The Pit, General Hawk (Dennis Quaid) commands the team to take on "missions that cannot be allowed to fail." Thankfully for humanity, G.I. Joe are the good guys.

The mission the team is given in the film is to stop an arms dealer named McCullen (Christopher Eccleston) from using four warheads that his company has developed. These warheads contain nanomites, which are microscopic robot organisms that can devour anything. McCullen attempted to sell the weapons to NATO, steal them back, and then use them on a major city so he could blame NATO for the eventual destruction they'd cause. This -- in typical movie villain logic -- would cause millions of people to allow themselves to be subjugated under his command. When the actual process of stealing the weapons back from NATO is thwarted by the G.I. Joe team, so begins a back-and-forth battle for control of the warheads.

One of the problems with a film like G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, which is based on a collection of characters of which most people have their favorites, is how to feature the most popular of those characters and maintain some semblance of a storyline that people will care about. Director Stephen Sommers does a good job of focusing on just a few main storylines while keeping many characters in supporting roles. It keeps things from getting too confusing and, truthfully, is the reason I didn't hate the movie.

G.I. Joe is meant to be mindless and action-packed. Its sole function is to feature stuff that blows up real good. That's the only thing it had to do correctly and it still would have made millions at the box office. But it's apparent that those who put it together had some affinity for the source material. Being a casual fan of the 1980s cartoon series that was based on the toy line, I could see that there were many references to the show. Hardcore fans and nitpickers will probably have a field day with inconsistencies but I didn't notice or care about them. The movie's overall mood was very similar to that of the original series whether or not the situations are exactly the same. And, yes, there is a lot of action. Most of it is done with CGI and most of it is over-the-top. However, it never becomes as ridiculous as the Transformers sequel. One sequence, involving a chase in Paris, is particularly fun and handled extremely well.

I would never mistake G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra as great cinema, but it does what Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen failed to do: Entertain me.

Trivia: To prepare for her role as the Baroness, Sienna Miller spent four months in weight training and boxing, gaining five pounds of muscle, and also learned to fire live ammunition. (Source: The Internet Movie Database)

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